A waterfall hike might not be the first thing that comes to mind in the midst of a severe drought. Nevertheless, after hiking the Lassen Peak Trail, we decided to check out the nearby Kings Creek Falls and upper cascades. We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of water in Kings Creek.
Basics: This trail is about 3 miles roundtrip with 700-ft of elevation (though our GPS shows less). It took us about 1.5 hours at a leisurely pace.
Closure Notice: The falls overlook and the cascades section of this trail are closed for the 2015 season. Check the NPS website for the latest info on closures and renovations.
Red Tape, Directions and Camping: There is a $20 entrance fee for Lassen Volcanic National Park. The Kings Creek trailhead is approximately 12 miles up the road from the southwest park entrance. There is no parking lot; park along the wide shoulders on either side of the road. The trail begins at the stairs on the south side of the highway.
The closest campgrounds are Summit Lake South and Summit Lake North. Reservations are recommended and can be made through recreation.gov up to six months in advance. Additional camping information can be found on the Lassen Park website.
Trail Description: Our hike up Lassen Peak only took a few hours, so we had a lot of time left in our day. We spent a few hours lounging on the shore of Summit Lake, then headed back out to one of the closest trailheads: Kings Creek.
The trail starts out relatively flat as it follows Kings Creek through the forest and along a meadow. Eventually the creek drops away towards the upper cascades. We followed the signs for Cascade View.
The view down to the cascades was nice, but we kept going. The section of trail along the cascades is closed for renovations, but we saw a use trail heading away from the view point. THIS IS NOT A REAL TRAIL. We followed it all the way down to the creek, but it was steep and loose and I fell at least once. In hindsight, we should have backtracked and taken the Horse Trail instead.
Once we reached the creek, we picked up a real trail again. We looked back to view the cascades from the bottom, then we hiked the remaining 0.2 miles to the top of Kings Creek Falls.
The overlook is closed for renovations this summer. It will be really nice when it opens in 2016, but until then, the top of the falls is as far as you
can should go.
The future overlook was fenced off, but a heavily worn trail took us around the construction area and down to the falls. When I checked the park’s website after our visit, I discovered that this entire area is supposed to be closed. I do not advocate ignoring trail closures, but nobody was working and there was nothing to indicate that this side trail was also closed. Perhaps it is simply more accessible when construction is paused for the weekend. In any case, we were able to get a nice view of the falls.
On our way out we followed the Horse Trail. It was much easier than the use trail we had taken on the way in.