The hike to Feather Falls in Plumas National Forest outside of Oroville has always been one of my waterfall walks. It’s a moderate hike on a good trail with a spectacular reward: the Fall River plunging 410 feet down a sheer cliff face to then meet the Feather River and Lake Oroville.
Feather Falls Hiking Trail Key Information
Distance: 8.8-mile loop
Type: Day hike
Elevation gain: 1100 feet
High point: 2500 feet
Contact: Plumas National Forest, Feather River Ranger District
Maps: USGS Forbestown, USGS Brush Creek
GPS coordinates of trailhead: N 39 degrees 36.858 minutes; W 121 degrees 15.997 minutes
Notes: Dogs allowed. Watch out for poison oak. Occasional winter snow. Toilet at trailhead.
Driving Directions to the Feather Falls Trailhead
Take CA Highway 70 to Oroville, exit onto Oro Dam Boulevard, head northeast, and turn right after 1.5 miles onto Olive Highway (CA Highway 162). Go 6.0 miles and turn right onto Forbestown Road. Go another 6.0 miles and turn left onto Lumpkin Road. Follow Lumpkin Road 10 miles and turn left at a Feather Falls sign for the final 1.6 miles on a paved Forest Road 21N35Y to the trailhead.
Feather Falls Hiking Trail: Highlights
This hike offers a smorgasbord of natural delights. You’ll walk through tall stands of incense cedar and ponderosa pine, along streams shaded by bigleaf maple and dogwood, and past a multitude of spring and early summer wildflowers to Feather Falls, where the clear waters of the Fall River drop 410 feet into a granitic gorge.
Hiking the Trail to Feather Falls
For the first 200 yards, the path travels past dozens of madrone trees, easily recognizable by their large, shiny green leaves and peeling red bark. Bear left at a trail fork, noting that you’ll return by the right fork. Near the 0.5-mile marker, look for the scarce California nutmeg tree, which has long, sharp needles.
Reach the cool canyon shade of Frey Creek at 1.1 miles. As you gradually descend near the gurgling water, look for a swimming hole at the bottom of a two-stage waterfall to the left at 1.4 miles.
Views through the trees of the middle fork of the Feather River and its steep canyon walls appear at 1.5 miles; look for the smooth granite head of Bald Rock Dome looming above the west bank of the river. From here, you descend a shady 1.0 mile and then begin a moderate climb to a trail fork at 3.2 miles. Stay left and follow the safety railings to another trail fork. Go left again to reach the overlook.
Feather Falls Overlook
From the overlook you have a magnificent view of Feather Falls, where the aptly named Fall River drops 410 vertical feet past sheer granite cliffs to the canyon far below before joining the middle fork of the Feather River and Lake Oroville.
After imbibing this broad view of the sixth-highest waterfall in the United States, go back to the last trail fork, turn left, and walk 0.2 mile to where a small trail leads to granite boulders at the lip of the falls. Be very careful here and stay out of the water and well away from the edge.
Follow the Trail Upstream Along Fall River
This side trail continues another mile upstream along the Fall River. Summer swimmers will find good swimming holes, and overnighters will find several campsites. Near the end of the trail, you’ll see some old fruit trees and an old water ditch, which are all that remain of an old homestead.
The return portion of the loop is 1.2 miles longer than the route to the falls, but it has very little elevation change. This upper portion leaves from near the overlook and offers excellent views of Frey Creek and Bald Rock Dome. It connects to the bottom portion of the loop near the trailhead.
This is Hike 25 in the fourth edition of my all-color hiking guidebook 100 Classic Hikes in Northern California.
Have you done the hike? What did you think?