Crystal Creek Falls


A Short Walk To Amazing Beauty

I write a lot of posts about places and sights in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. That’s because it is basically in my backyard. It takes me about 20 minutes to get to the park entrance from my house. So, it’s no surprise that this post will be about one of those beautiful places in the park. That place is Crystal Creek Falls.

Crystal Creek Falls is actually one of the more popular waterfalls in the park. During the summer months, you can find a decent number of visitors swimming and wading in the pools at the base of the two falls. One of the many great things about these falls is that they are very easily reached on foot. The path to the lower falls is nicely paved, whereas reaching the upper falls requires an extremely short but steep and technical climb.

lower crystal creek falls
Lower Crystal Creek Falls. Photo by Trevor Sowder Photography.

Lower Crystal Creek Falls

Once you’ve parked your car at the trailhead you’ll see the paved path that leads to the lower falls. This path is less than a quarter mile long (it’s 1/3 of a mile actually) and is wide which helps with the people traffic flow in the busier months. At the end of the path, you will see the lower falls (pictured above) as well as a couple of picnic benches and small bbq grills. This is a great spot to stop and cook up some burgers and hot dogs if you’ve brought the right ingredients. Oh, and of course you’ll need to bring your own charcoal as well. The lower falls are the only “man-made” falls in the park. They were created in 1920 to aid in the redirection of water flow from the Trinity Dam tunnel to the Carr Powerhouse, which is another feature to see in the park.

At the base of the lower falls, there is a deep and chilly pool where visitors like to take a dip to cool off during the summer months. The water exits this pool to the left (when facing the waterfall) and begins it’s long journey down Crystal Creek to the Sacramento River. Photographers, painters, and sketch artists can be seen crafting their masterpieces here when the weather is good. I have photographed both falls multiple times in the 15 years I’ve been coming to the park.

Upper Crystal Creek Falls

After taking in the sights at the lower falls, the more adventurous visitor may want to consider the short uphill climb to the upper falls. To get there, simply walk to the end of the paved trail to the right of the lower waterfall. You will see a large water redirection structure. Walk around the back of it and follow the dirt trail up the boulder stack to the top of the hill in front of you. Take your time on this climb though as there are several tricky spots that require grabbing onto trees and boulders to pull yourself up to the top.

Once at the top, walk towards the creek (and the roar of the upper falls). Getting down next to the water here is a bit tricky so use caution. The boulders can be very slick when wet, especially in the rainier months. As with the lower falls, there is a large pool at the base of this fall where people have been known to swim to cool off. The creek flows out of this pool and down the creek for 60-70 feet before plunging over the edge of the lower falls.

upper crystal creek falls
Upper Crystal Creek Falls. Photo by Trevor Sowder Photography.

Getting there

From Redding, head west on CA-299 W until you come to Crystal Creek Road. You will pass the visitor center as well as the lake before you come to the road. Turn left onto Crystal Creek Road and follow it for approximately 2 miles until you see the large gravel parking lot on your left. There will also be a sign here for Crystal Creek Falls. You can drive past this gravel lot to the paved parking lot and restroom if desired. Begin walking the paved path on the other side of the yellow gate. You will reach the falls in about 1/3 mile. Enjoy the beautiful scenery and have fun!

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