• Gabriella Viola

My Solo Road Trip Chasing Waterfalls in Northern Califonia and Oregon

Updated: Sep 16, 2021


Chasing waterfalls in northern california and oregon

There have been quite a few waterfalls in Northern California and Oregon that have been on my bucket list for the last several years. So, this past May, I decided to take a solo road trip dedicated to chasing as many waterfalls as I could throughout Northern California and Central Oregon. The road trip lasted 9 days, and the amount of natural beauty I saw blew me away!


In this post, I'll be sharing my road trip itinerary, including which waterfalls I visited, where I stayed, and any tips I picked up along the way!


*When exploring the outdoors, please keep it beautiful by Leaving No Trace*

 

ITINERARY

Views of Mt Shasta from HWY 89 in Shasta California
Views of Mt Shasta from HWY 89

Itinerary and Where To Stay:


For this particular road trip, I only did some light planning. I had a pretty good idea of which waterfalls I wanted to see, but I wasn't sure how many days I wanted to spend at each spot. So, I decided to just book the hotels along the way-something I never do 😬. I usually like to have everything planned out and prebooked. But, doing it this way made the road trip feel even more adventurous! And luckily for me, there were quite a few budget-friendly hotel options along my route that I was able to book last minute.


Here's how my itinerary turned out, starting from South Lake Tahoe California (where I live):


Burney Falls: Burney, California (1 night)

McCloud Falls: Mt. Shasta, California (1 night)

Toketee, Watson & Clearwater Falls: Umpqua National Forest, Southern Oregon (2 nights)

Sahalie & Koosah Falls: Willamette National Forest, Central Oregon (2 nights)

Silver Falls State Park: Silverton, Oregon (1 night)

➝ Mt. Shasta, California (1 night)

➝ Back to South Lake Tahoe, California


I have included links to the hotels I stayed at in each section.

 

BURNEY FALLS

Burney, California

Catching a rainbow at Burney Falls in Burney California
Catching a rainbow at Burney Falls
Burney Falls in McArthur-Burney Memorial State Park in Burney California
Views from the base of Burney Falls

Coming from South Lake Tahoe, Burney Falls was the first stop on my trip. It's the only waterfall on this list that I have been to before, once in October 2019 and once in June 2020. Even though I've seen Burney Falls before, I still wanted to include it in the trip because 1. It's so friggin beautiful, and 2. It was on the way!


Not only is Burney Falls drop-dead gorgeous, but it's also easily accessible. The falls overlook is steps from the parking area, and the hike leading down to the base of the falls is only 0.3 miles.

I wrote a more in-depth blog post on Burney Falls from a previous visit. You can read more about it here.


Where I stayed: Charm Motel & Suites in Burney, California

 

MCCLOUD FALLS

Mt. Shasta, California

Middle McCloud Falls in Mt Shasta California
Middle McCloud Falls
Lower McCloud Falls in Mt Shasta California
Lower McCloud Falls
Middle McCloud Falls in Mt Shasta California

After spending the morning at Burney Falls, I headed an hour north along HWY 89 to McCloud Falls in Mt. Shasta, California. McCloud Falls is made up of three tiers: Upper Falls, Middle Falls, and Lower Falls.


You can either hike the falls via the McCloud River Falls Trail or, you can drive right up to each section. I chose the easier route and drove to each tier. While at Middle McCloud Falls, I did the short hike down to the base of the falls, which I highly recommend!


Tip: If you only have time to visit one section of McCloud Falls, Middle Falls is the most impressive out of the three. For more information on McCloud Falls click here.


Where I stayed: Cold Creek Inn in Mt. Shasta California


Here's the video from my visit to Burney and McCloud Falls:


 

TOKETEE, WATSON, AND CLEARWATER FALLS

Umpqua National Forest, Oregon

Watson Falls in Umpqua National Forest Oregon
Watson Falls in Umpqua National Forest

After spending the night in Mt. Shasta, I drove to Crescent, Oregon, and spent the night before hitting up the next set of waterfalls early in the morning.


Located along HWY 138 in Umpqua National Forest, Toketee Falls, Watson Falls, and Clearwater Falls are minutes from each other, so you can visit all of them in one day. In addition to these falls, there are several other waterfalls along HWY 138 as well as the Umpqua Hot Springs, which were closed when I visited.


TOKETEE FALLS

Toketee Falls from the viewing platform

Toketee Falls is hands down one of the most beautiful and unique-looking waterfalls in Oregon. The hike to the viewing platform is short and easy, and the view from here is spectacular. Hiking down to the base of Toketee falls is another story.


Before visiting, I read that the hike to the base of the falls is very steep and sketchy. I also read that the rope that is usually there to help you on the way down was removed. Despite this, I decided to give the hike a shot when I got there (as yes the rope was gone!).


Well, I didn't get very far, the hike was indeed very sketchy and I did not feel comfortable doing it alone. I climbed back up to the viewing platform, feeling bummed that I didn't make it to the base. Even though I was bummed out, I do not regret the decision to turn back. I would give it another go the next time I visit, just not by myself.


WATSON FALLS

watson falls in oregon

watson falls in oregon

Watson Falls was my favorite out of the three waterfalls I visited in Umpqua National Forest. At 272 feet, it's the third-largest waterfall in Oregon. It's framed by an amphitheater of carved stone and lush vegetation, making the whole scene quite dramatic. Also, expect to get misted on, even from a distance as Watson Falls is one very powerful waterfall.


The hike to the falls is scenic and short at only .4 miles. It ends right above the base of the falls. There's a small area with a bench that you can view the falls from, or you can find a rock to sit or stand on as I did.


CLEARWATER FALLS

Cleawater Falls

I have to say, Clearwater Falls was pretty underwhelming compared to the other waterfalls I visited, but I wanted to add it because it's so close to Toketee Falls and Watson Falls. Don't get me wrong, it is a beautiful waterfall, and it's right across from the parking area so it's very accessible. It's worth checking out if you have some time to spare.


Where I stayed: Crescent Moon Motel in Crescent, Oregon

 

SAHALIE & KOOSAH FALLS

Willamette National Forest, Oregon

Sahalie Falls in Willamette National Forest Oregon
Sahalie Falls in the spring
Sahalie Falls in Willamette National Forest
The top of Sahalie Falls
Koosah Falls in Willamette National Park
Koosah Falls

After checking out the waterfalls in Umpqua National Forest, I headed on towards Willamette National Forest.


Sahalie Falls and Koosah Falls caught my eye while researching waterfalls to see in Oregon, and they were both even more spectacular in person. Located in Willamette National Forest, Sahalie and Koosah Falls are along the same trail and within easy hiking distance of each other. You will also get to enjoy the brilliantly blue McKenzie River that runs alongside the trail. My only regret is not hiking the 3 miles to the Tamolitch Blue Pool. I guess I'll have to do that next time.


Tip: Make sure to check out the top of Sahalie Falls. The trail leading to the top viewpoint is very short but can be easy to miss.


Where I stayed: Cascade Lodge in Bend, Oregon


Here's the video from my visit to Sahalie and Koosah Falls:


 

SILVER FALLS STATE PARK

Silverton, Oregon

South Falls at Silver Falls State Park
South Falls at Silver Falls State Park
Lower South Falls at Silver Falls State Park
Lower South Falls at Silver Falls State Park
Lower South Falls in Silver Falls State Park, Silverton Oregon
Lower South Falls
Rim Trail in Silver Falls State Park, Silverton Oregon
Rim Trail in Silver Falls State Park

After spending three nights in Bend, I headed almost 3 hours north to Silver Falls State Park. I almost didn't add Silver Falls to the road trip because I thought it was too far. But I'm so happy I did. The extra driving was so worth it!


I started from South Falls and set out to do the Trail of Ten Falls, the 7.5-mile hike that loops you past 10 waterfalls. However, I couldn't find that trail, so I settled for part of the Canyon Trail and part of the Rim Trail.


I didn't make it to all the waterfalls in the park because I got extremely hungry along the trail and didn't pack any food. Big mistake! I did make it to South Falls, Lower South Falls, Winter Falls (I would skip this one next time, very underwhelming), North Falls, and Upper North Falls. Out of the waterfalls I saw, Lower South Falls was my absolute favorite, followed closely by South Falls.


Where I stayed: Pheonix Inn Suites in Salem, Oregon

 

CIRCLING BACK TO MT. SHASTA CALIFORNIA

Mt Shasta from HWY 89 in Shasta Caliornia
Mt Shasta from HWY 89
Lake Siskiyou in Mt Shasta California
Mt Shasta from Lake Siskiyou

Rather than drive the 9 hours back to South Lake Tahoe from Salem Oregon, I decided to stay in Mt. Shasta for a night on my way back from the road trip. While there, I checked out Lake Siskiyou, a peaceful lake with prime views of Mt Shasta in the background. And then in the morning, I did another hike down to Middle McCloud Falls before heading back to Lake Tahoe.


Where I stayed: Swiss Holiday Lodge in Mt. Shasta, California

 

TIPS:


A few of these tips might seem obvious, but it's always good to have a reminder!

➝ Bring food or at least a few snacks with you on the trail. Hiking without any food in my backpack was a mistake I made a few times on this road trip! On one particular hike in Silver Falls State Park, I underestimated the length of time I would be on the trail and had to turn back because I was so hungry and didn't pack any food.

➝ Pack sunblock or put it on before the start of a hike, even if it looks like an overcast day.


➝ Have an extra change of clothes. You will more than likely get wet and/or muddy as some of the waterfalls can be very misty.

➝ Waterfalls are often located in remote locations where service can be spotty. It's helpful to GPS your destination while you still have service


➝ Bring a tripod! You'll need it for those dreamy long exposure waterfall shots, and to grab some epic selfies next to the waterfalls.


➝ Get there early. If you can make it to the trail by 9 am, you will more than likely have the waterfalls to yourself for a bit. Also, parking fills up quickly.


➝ I did this road trip in May, and would recommend it as a great time to visit all the waterfalls on this list!

 

I hope this Northern California and Oregon waterfall guide provided a little road trip inspiration and some helpful information. I know I missed a lot of waterfalls on this trip (there are so many!). Let me know some good ones I missed in the comments!


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You can check out more adventures on Instagram and Youtube!



 

You Might Also Enjoy:


McCloud Falls: Visiting Northern California's Gorgeous Three-Tiered Waterfall


Driving Through Northern California's Avenue of the Giants (And Tips For Photographing It!)


Visiting Burney Falls: One of the Most Spectacular Waterfalls in California



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About Gabriella Viola

ABOUT

Gabriella Viola is a photographer and outdoor enthusiast currently living in Lake Tahoe, California. 

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