Here’s The Perfect Weekend Itinerary If You Love Exploring Northern California’s Waterfalls

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“Choose only one master—nature.”

— Rembrandt

Northern California is a spectacular place for a lot of things, but when it comes to road trips and waterfalls, there’s no other place that can top it. Here’s what happens when you put two and two together: the ultimate waterfall road trip! In just about four hours of driving time, you can explore nine – count ’em – nine different falls. Add in a few hours here and there for walking to the falls, stopping for breakfast and lunch, and you’ll have a grand old time on this trip! You’ll love these incredible natural wonders in Northern California for sure.

This road trip is located in the area just east of Shasta Lake and Mount Shasta.

1. Faery Falls

Not only does this destination feature these incredible falls, it also is the location of historical ruins, so the history buff in you will be happy to check it out. Along the 1.5 mile round-trip walk to the base of Faery Falls, you will pass what remains of Ney Springs Resort. Fascinating!

Address: Faery Falls, California 96067, USA

2. Potem Creek

Located in the Shasta Trinity National Forest, Potem Falls is just a quarter-mile from the trailhead. You’ll drive along a country road a bit to find it, but the reward for this particular detour is a spectacular and less-trafficked 70-foot waterfall that will take your breath away.

Address: Potum Creek, California 96057

3. McCloud Falls: Upper

McCloud Falls is a three-tiered waterfall with separate sections. You’ll come to the Upper Falls first. You’ll be able to park here and walk about five minutes to see the falls from above. It’s a breathtaking sight that is pure NorCal.

Address: McCloud Falls – Upper Fall, Upper Fall Rd, McCloud, CA 96057, USA

4. McCloud Falls: Middle

The Middle McCloud Falls is about five minutes from the upper falls if you hop back in your car. You can also see this cascade from above after just a short walk, but if you feel like stretching your legs after being in the car this is a great place to walk a little further to the base. If you asked “where to find waterfalls near me in Northern California”, this one might have appeared toward the top of the list. We love it.

Address: McCloud River – Middle Falls, McCloud, CA 96057, USA

5. McCloud Falls: Lower

The Lower McCloud Falls is an extremely popular swimming hole, and for good reason! There’s even a platform to jump off of into the pool below the falls. If you arrive on a summer day, you will be itching to cool off in this pristine and chilly water.

Address: Lower Falls, McCloud River, McCloud River, McCloud, CA 96057, USA

6. White Mountain Cafe

Wow, are you hungry yet? If you are like we are, then all this walking, waterfall viewing, and driving has worked up an appetite. As you drive through the cute town of McCloud, stop in at the White Mountain Cafe for a cup of coffee, a little brunch, and maybe even some healthy, hearty snacks to go. 

Address: 241 Main St, McCloud, CA 96057, USA

7. Mossbrae Falls

Mossbrae Falls isn’t the biggest waterfall you will see on this trip, but it’s definitely one of the most unique. The narrow streams of water cascade over green flora, making for an incredibly beautiful little spot to visit. It’s about 50 feet high and 150 feet wide.

Address: Mossbrae Falls, California 96025, USA

8. Burney Falls

Next up: Burney Falls. This stop was once hailed as “the Eighth Wonder of the World” by President Theodore Roosevelt. It’s an official National Natural Landmark, and even though you might see more people here than at the other stops, it’s truly worth braving the crowds to see with your own eyes.

Address: Burney Falls, California 96013, USA

9. Alpine Drive Inn

Are you ready for some good-old American fast food at this point in the drive? If so, make sure you grab a burger and tater tots from Alpine Drive Inn in Burney. The Billy is a one-and-a-half-pound burger that we suggest trying with fried mushrooms. Yum!

Address: 37148 CA-299, Burney, CA 96013, USA

10. Lion Slide Falls

You’ll love stopping by Lion Slide Falls as you make your way back to I-5 and on home. It’s another popular spot both for swimming and cliff jumping. The falls are divided right in the middle by a massive, dead tree trunk, which serves as a fun natural staircase that you can climb up and jump in all over again.

Address: Lion Slide Falls, California 96065, USA

11. Montgomery Creek Falls

Montgomery Creek Falls is another waterfall with multiple stunning tiers. The bigger, lower tier is located right under the bridge below Montgomery Creek Road, so you don’t even have to get out of the car to sneak a peek! The upper is immediately upstream of the bridge. This is the last waterfall on this itinerary. From here, you are welcome to find a place to camp for the night near Shasta Lake, get a hotel room in Redding, or drive home for the evening: whatever floats your boat and fits in best with your travel plans!

Address: Montgomery Creek, CA 96065, USA