James K. Carr Trail (Whiskeytown Falls) - Hiking

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Featuring steep inclines, meandering creeks, lush greenery, and gushing cascades, the James K. Carr Trail is a 3.4-mile trail, in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, that shouldn't be missed.

Written by

Shawn Lehman


3.4 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

10.5 miles


4 of 5 diamonds

This is a steep trail, and there are some areas that have a slippery sediment which can be dangerous if you have trouble with your footing.

Time To Complete

3 hours

This trail can be completed in as little as two hours, but due to the steepness of the trail it's a good idea to give yourself time to take breaks as needed to enjoy the hike.


Spring, Summer, and Fall

Because of the sandy consistency of the trail, this can be a dangerous hike in the winter time. Temperatures near the falls are quite cold in the winter so if you do decide to brave this trail, wear appropriate attire. Summer temperatures in the area can get up to 115 degrees, so morning or afternoon hikes are recommended. Be sure to bring lots of water.

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Fees Permits


A pass is required. You can purchase a $10 weekly pass or, if you live in the area or plan to visit often, you can purchase an annual pass for $40. The annual pass is also valid at Lassen Volcanic National Park just an hour away. Day-use passes are not available. U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over can purchase a lifetime pass for $10.



Showcasing raging cascades and lush greenery, the James K. Carr Trail is located in Northern California’s Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. A restored logging road, this moderate 3.4 mile trail leads to Whiskeytown Falls, one of four amazing falls available in the area. 

There are two additional trails available from the James K. Carr Trailhead: Mill Creek Trail (0.4 miles round trip) and El Dorado Mine Trail (12.2 miles round trip or 6.1 miles one way as the trail ends in the Tower House Historic District). After a day of hiking, you can enjoy lunch at Shorty’s Eatery in the ghost town of Shasta State Historic Park.

What Makes It Great

Featuring steep inclines and a slippery, sandy path, the James K. Carr Trail is the most challenging of the four Whiskeytown waterfall hikes. However, hikers are amply rewarded with lush green foliage, meandering creeks, and gushing cascades.

The trailhead features restrooms and a small parking area. From the trailhead, the path follows a restored logging road down to a wooden foot bridge. The majority of the trail features intervals of steep hills and short plateaus. There are several benches along the way for those who need to rest. Fairly shaded, the trail hugs Crystal Creek making this a great warm-weather hike. About 0.8 miles in, there is a tree-covered area complete with picnic tables and easy creek access.

After a mile, hikers will cross a second footbridge and continue 0.4 miles to the base of Whiskeytown Falls. To the left of the falls, there is a path leading to “Photographer’s Ledge” vista point just above the cascades. Footholds have been carved into the rock and an iron handrail has been installed to help hikers get to the top. From here, you can enjoy the view of the falls making their way into the pool below.

Who is Going to Love It

This trail is doable by hikers of all calibers. For those who aren’t in their prime hiking shape, there are plenty of spots to rest and recharge. As some of the trail features loose sand and slick mud (closer to the falls), those who have trouble with footing should pass on this hike and check out the ADA accessible Crystal Creek Falls Trail instead. Crystal Creek Falls is just south of the James K. Carr Trailhead.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Starting at Whiskeytown Visitor Center, turn left onto CA-299 W for 8.4 miles. Make a left onto Crystal Creek Rd and drive 3.7 miles. You will pass the turnoffs for Crystal Creek Falls. The trailhead and parking area is on your left.

A pass is required. You can purchase a $10 weekly pass or an annual pass for $40 that is also valid at Lassen Volcanic National Park just an hour away.

U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over can purchase a lifetime pass for $10.

Dogs are allowed on a leash.

Written by Shawn Lehman for RootsRated.

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