James K. Carr Trail to Whiskeytown Falls

Whiskeytown Falls
View of Whiskeytown Falls in winter.

Difficulty level

Strenuous! Steep!
Hiking only. No bicycles or pack animals.
Dogs are required to be on leash.
Dirt path with rocks and roots the final 0.2 miles.
Trail width from four to twelve feet.

Length

3.4 miles round trip

Elevation

2200 to 2900 feet

Enter at your own risk

The Carr Fire burned through 97% of the park 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 is forecast. Rainstorms present the possibility of flash flooding, landslides and debris flows in the fire area. Stay on established roads and trails and report hazards to park dispatch, (530) 242-3431.

Directions

Starting at the Visitor Center, drive west 9 miles along Highway 299 to Crystal Creek Road. Turn left onto Crystal Creek Road and drive for 4 miles until you reach the small, paved parking lot on the left. A vault toilet is located at the trailhead.

Trail Description

The steep, strenuous, and scenic James K. Carr Trail uses mostly former logging roads to get the the tallest waterfall in the park, Whiskeytown Falls, a three-tiered cascade of 220 feet. The trail starts out heading downhill. After crossing over the west fork of Crystal Creek on a small footbridge, the trail begins to climb, sometimes very steeply. Just 0.2 miles before the waterfall is a small picnic area. The trail's final stretch to Whiskeytown Falls is through a narrow canyon. Notice the cooler, shadier climate here. At the base of the falls, feel free to take the stairsteps to the left to the middle falls viewing platform - be sure and use the metal handrails for safety. After relaxing and perhaps having a snack or lunch, return the way you came.

History

Before becoming Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, this area of the park was privately owned by Arthur Coggins, whose logging company selectively removed Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, sugar pine and incense cedar during the 1950s. At this time, the loggers were generally the only people who knew about the falls. Park rangers initially learned about the waterfall in 1967 but kept it quiet. At that time, the park did not have the staff to protect this treasure or the money to construct a trail to the falls. Eventually, these rangers moved on and others who knew about the site passed away. Knowledge of the falls was generally forgotten and only a few residents visited the falls over the years. It was in 2004 that park natural resource managers Russ Weatherbee and Brian Rasmussen found the falls again. Under the leadership of park superintendent Jim Milestone, funding was secured and the formal trail to Whiskeytown Falls was constructed. It formally opened to the public in 2006. The James K. Carr Trail to Whiskeytown Falls is by far the most popular trail in the national recreation area, enjoyed by thousands of visitors each year.

The James K. Carr Trail area burned lightly to moderately during the Carr Fire and the trail was temporarily closed for visitor safety. Both footbridges were replaced and trail repair work was conducted. The trail was reopened on Valentine's Day of 2020.

The trail is named after James K. Carr, a native of Shasta County who was instrumental in the establishment of Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. Carr was a reclamation engineer with an interest in landscape conservation and outdoor recreation. He became Undersecretary of the Interior during the Kennedy administration. Carr, Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, U.S. Senator Thomas Kuchel (R-Ca), and others were supportive of park establishment, as were the vast majority of locals within Shasta County. Carr helped push the park concept through Congress as well as locally and on November 8, 1965, the 42,000 acre Whiskeytown National Recreation Area bill was signed into law by U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnson.


Last updated: September 7, 2021

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 188
Whiskeytown , CA 96095

Phone:

(530) 242-3400

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