The Boulder Creek Trails reopens Friday, April 1st, 2022, for the first time since the Carr Fire of 2018.
Strenuous from South Shore Drive. Three stream crossings.
Moderate from top of Mill Creek Road.
Suitable for hikers, bicyclists and equestrians.
Trail is gravel and dirt and approximately 10 feet wide.
5.5 miles roundtrip via South Shore Drive (2.7 miles one way).
2.2 miles roundtrip via the top of Mill Creek Road (1.1 miles one way).
1,000 feet (1,270 to 2,250 feet) via South Shore Drive.
150 feet (22,170 to 2,250 feet from top of Mill Creek Road.
Be Safe & Enter at your own risk
The Carr Fire burned through 97% of the park’s forested lands in the summer of 2018. Be aware of hazards created by the fire, including falling trees and limbs, burned out stump holes, abandoned mine features, and loose rocks. Watch the weather and do not hike if rain or wind is forecast. Stay on established roads and trails and report hazards to park dispatch, (530) 242-3431.
At minimum, carry water and bring a fully charged cell phone with you on the trail.
Wet and slippery stones can make stream crossings hazardous. Never take long strides or leaps. It is advisable to find a shallow spot and wade across.
SOUTH SHORE DRIVE ACCESS: Starting at the Whiskeytown Visitor Center, drive 7 miles west on Highway 299. Turn left at Carr Powerhouse, and follow the road all the way past the powerhouse itself. When the paved road ends take a sharp left onto South Shore Drive. Continue 2.7 miles down this narrow, winding, gravel roadway to the trailhead. The trailhead is located on the right side of the road and is identified by a small brown sign. Park across the road, parallel to the road, as close to the edge of the road as possible. The same trailhead can also be approached from Kennedy Memorial Drive. From the Clair A. Hill Whiskeytown Dam, drive west 4.3 miles. Just before the gate at Dry Creek Group Campground, turn left. Follow South Shore Drive 2.7 miles to the trailhead. Remember to display your entrance pass on your rear view mirror or purchase your pass online. Also be sure and lock your vehicle and carry all valuables with you.
MILL CREEK ROAD ACCESS: From the Visitor Center, take Highway 299 west for seven miles to the Carr Powerhouse turnoff on the left. Take Carr Powerhouse Road to Mill Creek Road, located on the right ½ mile from the highway. Mill Creek Road is a narrow, winding, steep, gravel road that may be closed after the first winter storms and reopened in late spring. At the road crossing just past the big tank, stay to the right. You will follow Mill Creek Road steadily uphill for 1.3 miles until you reach the trailhead. At the end of the road, you will see a wide spot for parking and the path. Remember to display your entrance pass on your rear view mirror or purchase your pass online. Also be sure and lock your vehicle and carry all valuables with you.
Boulder Creek Trail (from South Shore Drive)
The first mile of the trail follows a wide, exposed logging road through a thicket of white leaf manzanita, knobcone pine, redbud, wild grape and poison oak. Near the creek this brushland transitions into a forest of ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, and canyon live oak. While most of the trees and shrubs were killed during the Carr Fire of 2018, notice the substantial amounts of regrowth.
Look for ladybugs in a clearing just before the first creek crossing. Thousands have been seen next to the side of the trail here on sunny days in fall, winter and early spring. The trail follows the creek for the next half mile, crossing Boulder Creek two more time. Bracken and sword ferns abound along the creek. Just past the third crossing, on both sides of the trail, are the deteriorating foundations of a residence last occupied in the 1960s.
A little farther on, the trail forks; take the right fork. You will come to a nice stand of big leaf maples as you approach the final crossing. Approaching the falls, the trail drops down into a cool watershed. The creek leading from the falls is visible, crossing the road. The sign for the short side trail to Boulder Creek Falls will be on your left. Follow the steps up the hill to the base of the waterfall. Relax and enjoy the view!
Boulder Creek Falls is 81 feet tall with an additional 28 feet of cataracts above it. Plants that flourish in this riparian habitat are tiger lily, solomon seal and chain fern.
When ready, head back down the trail the way you came.
Boulder Creek Trail (from top of Mill Creek Road)
This trail is substantially easier than the trail from South Shore Drive. From the parking area, after a short initial climb, the trail evens out and is a fairly level walk. The trail follows an old logging road. Notice the immense amount of regrowth since the Carr Fire, particularly ponderosa pines. After fording Boulder Creek at the one mile mark, turn right for the final approach to Boulder Creek Falls. Enjoy the view of this waterfall spanning 81 feet.
Boulder Creek cuts through Copley greenstone, a Devonian metamorphic rock of near-shore oceanic origin formed about 400 million years ago. It ranges in color from dull orange and light brown (weathered) to dark blue-green. Along the trail and in the creek bed you will see numerous areas where the greenstone is capped with granitic boulders. These are debris flows from the Shasta Bally batholith (Cretaceous, 133 million years) that from time to time have washed down the mountain into the creek valley. Several hundred yards above the falls, a particularly good example of this formation may be seen. Across Mill Creek Road at the upper trailhead is a ravine that follows the Hoadley fault through much of the park. The Hoadley is an inactive extensional fault, slightly older than the Shasta Bally Batholith.