Hedge Creek Falls is a 35-foot waterfall pouring over a basalt overhang into a wooded ravine above the Sacramento River south of Mount Shasta. A short trail leads to the waterfall from a trailhead right beside an Interstate 5 offramp in Dunsmuir, so this waterfall hike makes a great break from highway travel. The fun trail actually passes behind the waterfall, going underneath the overhang, and continues down to a Sacramento River Overlook, resulting in a never-a-dull-moment 0.6-mile round trip hike with 130 feet of elevation change.
Need a break while driving on I-5? Get off at exit 732 in Dunsmuir, 6 miles south of Mount Shasta. Right at the end of the offramp, find trailhead parking at the corner of Siskiyou Avenue and Dunsmuir Avenue. How convenient is that?
Walk across Dunsmuir Avenue to a dirt trail going into the forest, passing a sign shaped like a train locomotive that reads, “Welcome to Hedge Creek Falls” (you could see an actual train at the end of the trail). Walk 50 yards to a pavilion on the edge of the ravine and bear right down the single track marked Hedge Creek Falls Trail. Descend across a slope through firs and outcroppings of mossy boulders.
After a tenth of a mile, come to a switchback bending to the right that offers a bench for taking an early break (the bench might prove more useful if you’re short of breath on the hike up). Look beyond the bench and try to catch a glimpse of Hedge Creek Falls.
After doubling back for about forty yards, the trail turns through another switchback and resumes its trajectory heading northeast. Hedge Creek appears in the ravine below, peacefully tumbling toward the Sacramento River. In no time at all, the waterfall leaps out in front of you. Hedge Creek Falls spills over a thick ledge of columnar basalt and then continues to plunge through an open-air fall into a basin in the ravine.
The trail takes you straight to the waterfall, but it doesn’t stop there! A crescent-shaped alcove carved out below the ledge of columnar basalt creates the space to walk all the way around the back of the waterfall. Take in perspectives of Hedge Creek Falls from every angle.
Proceeding out from the overhang, the trail continues down the opposite side of the ravine, bordering Hedge Creek for another tenth of a mile to approach a viewing platform that faces the Sacrament River. Pass another bench shortly below the waterfall.
Come to the Sacramento River Overlook, 0.3 miles from the trailhead (and 130 feet lower in elevation). Look out across the Sacramento River, flowing southwest through a bend in the wooded canyon below. Across from the overlook and through a line of trees, spot the Union Pacific Railroad Line and possibly a passing train.
A path to the left of the overlook descends to the Sacramento River, and the prospect of summer swimming holes. Looking right, you should be able to spot Mount Shasta rising above the treetops to the north (unless unfortunate storm clouds steal your view). Footpaths sneak up a short, steep, rocky slope to the right, apparently leading to improved perspectives north toward Mount Shasta and down over the Sacramento River.
Leave the overlook and hike back up Hedge Creek Falls Trail. Pass behind the waterfall a second time and pause to ponder some of its history. Hedge Creek Falls bears the nickname “Million Dollar Waterfall.” When Interstate 5 was constructed, the original plans positioned the highway right on top of Hedge Creek Falls. Protests to preserve the waterfall were victorious and the interstate’s planned path was moved. The relocation added around million dollars in construction costs, and gave birth to the nickname. A million thank-yous…
If the overhang behind Hedge Creek Falls seems like a decent place to hunker down for the night, you wouldn’t be the first to have that idea. It is believed that stagecoach robber Black Bart hid behind the waterfall before holding up a stage.
Part with Hedge Creek Falls and hike the final 0.2 miles up to Dunsmuir Avenue to complete this outing. Watch out for poison oak along the trail. Dogs are welcome. No permit is required for this hike and parking at the Hedge Creek Falls Trailhead is free, so get out and enjoy!
To get to the trailhead: From Mount Shasta, travel south on Interstate 5 for about 6 miles to exit 732. At the end of the offramp, turn right on Siskiyou Avenue. Then make an immediate right on Dunsmuir Avenue. Pull into the parking area on the right side of the road. Use to crosswalk to reach the Hedge Creek Falls Trail on the opposite side of Dunsmuir Avenue.
From Redding, take Interstate 5 north for 53 miles to exit 732. At the end of the offramp, turn right on Siskiyou Avenue. Cross under the interstate and turn right on Dunsmuir Avenue. Then park in the area on the right.
Trailhead address: Parking for Hedge Creek Falls, 506 Dunsmuir Avenue, Dunsmuir, CA 96025
Trailhead coordinates: 41.23625, -122.2696 (41° 14′ 10.5″N 122° 16′ 10.6″W)
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