When Is the Best Time
The McArthur Burney Falls are a great destination throughout the year. The Memorial State Park was named after the McArthur Family, who donated the falls and the surrounding area to the state in 1922, and Samuel Burney, an early settler in the 1850s.
Usually, waterfalls have a changing water level; the highest amount at the snow melt in spring and the lowest after the dry summer. This makes Burney Falls so special it has a constant flow of one hundred million gallons daily throughout the year. Why? This is caused by a spring and lava layers from former volcanic eruptions. So, if you ask yourself if Burney Falls are flowing now, yes, they do throughout the year and do not dry out.
Burney Falls is located 40 miles north of Lassen Volcanic and 50 miles southeast of Mount Shasta, another volcano. The river flows underground, leaving the creek a mile upstream dry in the summer and cascading through the rocks at McArthur Burney Falls Memorial State Park. The canyon walls of Burney show the volcanic history on the descending loop trail into Burney Canyon.
Read on for my detailed guide about the falls, the hikes, a bird species which uses the falls as an important nesting site, the campgrounds and the best time and seasons for your visit in the north of California. Check out my Table of Contents for a quick overview.
Best Time to Visit Burney Falls
The best time to visit Burney Falls, regarding crowds and weather, is from May to late June and September after Labour Day and October. If you wish to visit Burney in the busy summer months, try to come here during the week. For the winter, I recommend spikes in the trunk of your car in case the trail is icy and slippery down to the bottom of the falls.
The best daytime is the morning when the state parks open.
Opening Hours Burney Falls
- 8 am until sunset - Check out the sunset times before your visit Choose the month and click GO.
Entrance Fee to Burney
The entrance fee is $ 10 per day and vehicle. If you plan to camp or stay in a cabin the entrance fee is included after check-in time at 2 pm. In case the machine is not working, and there isn't a ranger at the entrance-kiosk bring the exact amount of $10 and put the fee in an envelope for self-registration. I recommend an annual pass for all California State Parks for $195. Entrance-kiosk is staffed during the busiest time from mid-May until mid-September, and usually, you are able to pay by credit card.
Avoiding Crowds at Burney Falls
If you do not visit in the winter, it is almost impossible to avoid crowds. The state park and parking don't have the capacity for the high visitation number from April until October. Please, no shoulder parking outside the park on highway 89. If you do so, you get towed and highly fined. Therefore, I highly recommend visiting mid-week and in the morning.
Season Guide Burney Falls
Burney Falls is located on a higher elevation, on average, around 3000 ft/ 900 m, in the north of California. The summer is hot and busy, and in the winter,, the state park usually experiences a high amount of snow and solitude. However, the temperature at the base of the falls and pool is always cooler due to the spray of the falls.
March is the time of transition from winter to spring. Temperatures rise to the high 50s/ 14°C, but it frequently rains. Decreasing rainfall and temps are above 60°F/ 16°C in April, but crowds start to increase, especially at Easter. May is a pleasant month topping 70°F/ 21°C, and more visitors come to enjoy the blooming season along Burney Creek, which flows into Lake Britton. We visited the park in late May, and it felt more like a hot summer month.
Regarding the temperatures in the high 80s/ around 30°C, it feels like having four months of summer at Burney. The summer is also the driest time it almost does not rain at Burney Falls. July and August are the most crowded months therefore, I highly recommend an early arrival when the park opens at xx or in the late afternoon. The pool at the base of the falls looks inviting, but it is prohibited to swim here, and honestly, too cold! The spray of the falls is already great for cooling down on a scorching day. For those who are brave and would like to swim, visit the nearby Lake Britton or rent a boat here, what we did.
October, with its fall foliage, is a great month with temps reaching 70°F/ 21°C. The crowds thin out a little. Increasing rainfall and unpleasant temps in the low 50s/ 12°C in November, therefore, less busy. Although weekends are, as usual, busier, it is a good time to visit Burney.
Burney in the winter can be a magical time if you are wearing the perfect warm clothes and transporting spikes in the trunk of your car in case the trails are icy and slippery. If you wear spikes and use the handrails to get down to the falls, you are relatively safe. During this time of the year, you can enjoy the memorial state park in its full beauty because so quiet. I have lived in the alps for more than three years already and have learnt my lessons. Don't let the weather and temperature spoil your experience. Wear proper warm boots, a beany, gloves, and a down jacket, and you may have an even better experience than in the summer. The park experiences snow, and the falls with icicles look like a winter wonderland. The highest chance for snow at Burney is in January.
Can You Swim at Burney Falls?
No, it is not permitted to swim in the pool of the falls, although this clean and pure water looks so inviting. Besides this, the water temperature is cold as hell, around 42°F/ 6°C because fed by springs.
3 Easy and Popular Walks and Hikes in Burney
All trails offer spectacular views of Burney Falls and the pool. The trails are well-maintained and marked, though can be slippery in sections from the spray of the falls.
- Burney Falls Overlook - A short stroll of 150 ft
- Base and Pool of Burney Falls - Short and little step walk of 0,3 mi/ 500 m
- Burney Falls Loop Trail - This is a 1,2 mi/ 2 km long trail descending to the bottom of the falls. From here, the trail leads along the creek until Rainbow Footbridge, where you cross the creek and turn back. Now the track ascends in switchbacks. To get back to the parking, you cross the creek again on Fisherman's Bridge.
How Hard is the Hike to Burney Falls?
It is an easy walk to the overlook and to the bottom of the falls if you are wearing proper hiking shoes with traction.
There is an accessible overlook to Burney near the parking lot that offers a great view of the falls from above. A trail called the Headwaters follows Burney Creek upstream of the falls for a 1,4 mi/ 2.3 km return way, and it has an accessible fishing pier along the path. Unfortunately, the steep trail to the bottom of the falls is not accessible. However, the park has accessible restrooms, campsites, and picnic areas.
Can You Bring Your Dog to Burney Falls?
It is not permitted to bring your dog on one of the trails you can only bring it to the picnic area. Unfortunately, it is better to leave them at home.
Picnic Area Close to Burney Falls
There is a huge picnic area at Lake Britton with space for a maximum of one hundred visitors but 12 picnic tables only, so the reality is that you usually don't get a table around midday and afternoon. There is also a large BBQ area and restrooms. You can get here easily by car. Location Picnic Area Burney Creek Pier Google Maps
There are additional picnic tables at the General Store.
General Store at Burney Falls
The store is an important outpost for hikers on the PCT. It offers a bit of almost everything you need for a great day in the woods, on a demanding hike or for camping, like milk and eggs. The store is open from 9 am - 6 pm. The store offers free Wi-Fi.
Nesting Site for the Black Swift
McArthur Burney Falls is one of the most important nesting sites in the US for the black swift. These birds use the surrounding lichens, ferns, and moss to build their nest in April. They raise their chicks protected behind the waterfalls and leave Burney to migrate to South America in autumn before the spray of the falls starts to freeze. So take your time and watch the falls, and you may spot these birds classified as vulnerable but not far from being endangered. The population declined by around 90% from the 70s to today.
This is a popular activity here and permitted from the last Saturday in April until November 15. There are different species of trout, and to protect the population, a limit of 2 trout per day per person is allowed.
5 Facts for McArthur Burney Falls
- The Burney Falls are 129 ft/ 39 m high and 250 ft 76 m wide
- A constant flow of 100 million gallons daily - On rare occasions, like in 2017, the flow is higher after the snow melts.
- Water temp between 42°F-48°F/ 6°C-9°C because fed by a spring
- Depth of Pool 22 ft
- Plenty of openings at the wall of the falls in the cliff where the water bursts out and plunges into the pool below.
Burney Falls Leaflet and Map
Download the leaflet and map before your visit and save a tree 😊
Honestly. I cannot recommend a good hotel within a radius of more than 50 km around the McArthur Burney Falls Memorial State Park. If you wish to stay nearby, book a campsite or cabin or continue driving to the northwest to Mount Shasta.
A wonderful accommodation and excellent rated is the Mount Shasta Ranch Bed and Breakfast.
Camping and Cabin Reservation
- Camping: There are two campgrounds, Rim and Pioneer, with an excellent location within the park; 102 available campsites for tents, trailers and RV's below 32 ft.
Price: $ 35, one vehicle included
- Cabins: basic 24 cabins with bunk beds and propane heat are available. No electricity, bathrooms and restrooms are shared and nearby the campground.
Price: $ 85-105 depending on your group size
You can call the general store for booking but I highly recommend booking far in advance because of the high demand. Create an account if you do not have any already at Reserve California for campground and cabin booking. Reservations can be made 6 months in advance. A State Park fee of $ 10 per day is included in the camping and cabin fee. Check-in time after 2 pm.
Best Months to Visit
Location and Tips
The McArthur Burney Falls is often called the “eighth wonder of the world” - the first who did so was President Theodore Roosevelt. The State Park is a popular weekend destination for families, hikers, and those who like to spend an awesome weekend in nature on the Rim Campground and Pioneer Campground.
The famous PCT, or Pacific Crest Trail, leads through the park for good reason. Although Burney Falls is a little too popular, it is a Must-Visit park with one of the most breathtaking waterfalls.