Visiting Burney Falls: One of the Most Spectacular Waterfalls in California
Updated: Sep 1, 2020
For some reason, I always figured Burney Falls was one of those waterfalls that looks prettier in photographs than it does in real life (as so many waterfalls do). However, upon visiting Burney Falls for the first time this past October, I realized just how was mistaken I was. This waterfall blew me away. In fact, I would go so far as to call it one of the most spectacular waterfalls in California. If you are visiting Northern California, then Burney Falls is a waterfall you don't want to miss.
Burney Falls is a 129 ft high and 250 ft wide waterfall located in McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park in Shasta County, California. Unlike other waterfalls which dry up during certain seasons, Burney falls has a constant flow rate of 100 gallons of water per day. So no matter what time of year you choose to visit, the falls will be abundantly flowing.
Getting to Burney Falls
McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park is located right off Highway 89 in the town of Burney, California. It's about:
45 minutes northeast of Redding
4.5 hours northeast of San Francisco
8.5 hours northeast of Los Angeles
3.5 hours northwest of Lake Tahoe
There is a $10 entrance fee.
Tip: Bring Cash! The park only accepts cash payment between September-May. Also, the the park rangers are not always around to collect payment, so you'll have to pay-by-envelope at the entrance kiosk (or risk a fine).
Hiking Burney Falls
Part of what makes Burney Falls such an amazing waterfall is how easily accessible it is. Here are your options for viewing the falls:
Burney Falls Overlook: A super quick walk from the parking lot, this viewpoint overlooks the falls and the creek bed it flows from.
Base of the Falls: Once you've taken in the views from Burney Falls Overlook, continue down the 0.3 mile paved trail which leads down to the base of the falls. This is where most of the photos of Burney Falls are taken from. You can get as close to falls as you would like, but swimming is not permitted, although people seem to do it anyway.
Burney Falls Loop Trail: The 1.2 miles loop takes you to the base of the falls and then up around the backside before looping back to the parking lot.
Best time to visit Burney Falls
Burney Falls is busiest between April and October and is especially packed on weekends during the summer months.
I visited Burney Falls mid-week in late October. I got there around 9am and had the waterfall all to myself for about two hours. Visitors eventually started trickling in by mid-morning, but they were few and far between. In addition to the lack of tourists, there's plenty of fall color surrounding the falls and throughout the park. I would highly recommend visiting Burney Falls at this time.
For a more definitive seasonal guide on when to visit Burney Falls click here.
Things to do at Burney Falls
Aside from hiking and photographing Burney Falls, other popular activities within McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park include fly-fishing, boating, and camping.
When you've finished exploring Burney Falls, you can head on to McCloud Falls. McCloud Falls is a 3 section waterfall about 45 minutes north of Burney Falls right off Highway 89.
For more information on McCloud Falls click here.
Photographing Burney Falls
The trail leading down to the base of Burney Falls provides for some excellent photo opportunities. If you're feeling a little more adventurous you can veer off the trail and walk across the boulders to get a closer view. However, if you're going to do this, use caution as the rocks are very slippery from the mist.
Speaking of mist, there's plenty of it. Be sure to bring a cloth to wipe your lens in-between shots.
It's pretty hard to take a bad photo of Burney Falls, but if you want to step it up notch and capture a few dreamy long exposure shots, then you'll need a tripod and a neutral density filter.
And last but not least, you're probably going to want to grab a few shots of yourself next to this stunning waterfall. If so, it's a good idea to wear colors that pop, so you don't blend into the background. Red is my go-to color but yellow works too!
Where to Stay
If you're like me and you're big on budget travel, then two great options are Shasta Pines Motel and Green Gables Motel and Suites. Both motels are located right in the town of Burney and are about a 12-minute drive from Burney Falls.
Here's a short video I made during my visit to Burney Falls:
Have you visited Burney Falls yet? What's your favorite waterfall in California? Please share in the comments!
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Please enjoy Burney Falls responsibly...
Always practice the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace.