Monday, September 19, 2011

Kings Creek Falls - Lassen National Park

Kings Creek Falls

          At 9am when we pulled up to the Kings Creek Falls trailhead we were the only car in the lot. At the trailhead was a sign indicating the Cascade Trail section was currently closed and to instead use the Horse Trail to reach the falls.
          A small stone stairwell led us down from the road to the beginning of the trail. Paralleling Kings Creek the trail leads slightly downhill over gentle terrain before coming to a wide open meadow. Kings Creek snakes away from the trail at this point and winds through the heart of the meadow. Now on level ground the trail travels back into the trees where small drifts of snow still resided in shady pockets. Soon we came to the junction with the Horse Trail and the Cascade Trail. There was a chain link fence blocking the entrance to the Cascade Trail as it is considered too dangerous for use. Although I traveled the Cascade Trail without incident the day before we decided to take the Horse Trail this time. I must say the horse trail does not seem all that horse friendly at all. The footing consists of baseball sized rocks which I like to call ankle breakers. The grade is steep as the trail descends back toward the creek and with the uneven trail surface the knees take a beating. The whole way down this section of trail I was telling Sarah how preferred the Cascade route is in comparison and that we should take it on our return hike. The trail led us to the creek where there was a sign indicating the falls were another .2 miles downstream. We hiked a short distance further to what looked like it could have been the falls. These falls, however, were not that big and we both felt a bit of disappointment. Again, doubts rose in our minds as to whether these were the falls or not. I had not seen any pictures of the falls so I didn’t know quite what to expect. We concluded that because the park service boasts Kings Creek Falls as the best in Lassen, what we were looking at could not possibly suffice. We continued down creek and came to another sign that said .2 miles to Kings Creek Falls. Now that's confusing!
          Shortly thereafter we came to the brink of the now unmistakable Kings Creek Falls. A steel cable lines the edge of the lookout area for protection but there are areas where one could easily slip through so if you have kids you’ll want to keep a close eye on them.
          A precarious path leads down to the base of the falls and without hesitation I started to descend using all fours at times for stability. At the bottom a brisk mist saturated the area as well as me. I took my shoes off and waded out a short distance into the strong current being absolutely sure of each step so as to avoid catastrophe. I set up the tripod but was unable to get any proper shots as the mist was overbearing.

Kings Creek Falls

          The rocky cliffs lining Kings Creek are just as spectacular as the Falls themselves with their pockmarks and sporadic patches of vibrant chartreuse lichen.
          I climbed back up to the brink of the Falls where Sarah and I enjoyed the view a little longer.

Sarah Overlooking Kings Creek Falls

          We left the falls and started hiking back up the creek when we came across a confused looking hiker. It just so happens that he was at the smaller waterfall we had stopped at earlier and he too was wondering it was Kings Creek Falls. We explained to him that we had the same confusion ourselves and that he need only to walk a little further to reach the actual Falls. If you find yourself on this hike and run into the same problem I will say this: When you come to the falls you won’t have any question about it. There is a tell tale steel cable and overlook.
          When we arrived at the junction with the Horse Trail and Cascade Trail we decided to cross the chain link fence and hike alongside the cascade. We hiked carefully so as not to add to erosion problems as well as to insure our own safety. Sarah spotted a cave in the Cliffside that went unnoticed by me the day before. I set my pack down and climbed on up to check it out. It was a small circular depression in the rock just big enough for me to crawl into and turn around to look out.

Myself Peering out of a Cave

From Within the Cave

          We continued to the top of the Cascade where we reconnected with the official trail. Retracing our steps we walked back through the open meadow and up along Kings Creek back to the trailhead and our car.
          Although vastly different from the towering waterfalls of Yosemite, Kings Creek Falls is special in its own right.

(Click HERE for a link to Lassen Hiking Association and a Trail Map for this hike)

(Click HERE to continue reading about Day 3 of our Lassen Trip)

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