Potem Creek tumbles 70 feet over Potem Falls to crash into a beautiful, rock-rimmed swimming hole, all yours for a short trail hike.
Potem Falls, near the Pit River in the Shasta Lake National Recreation Area of Shasta-Trinity National Forest, is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in northern part of Northern California. Unlike Burney Falls and the three waterfalls of the McCloud River near Highway 89, Potem Falls is a bit off the beaten track, which means you’ll share it with relatively few people.
Potem Falls Trail Key Data
Distance: 0.6 mile round-trip
Type: Day hike
Elevation gain: 140 feet
High point: 1300 feet
Information: Shasta Lake Ranger Station, Shasta Lake National Recreation Area, Shasta-Trinity National Forest; 530-275-1587; website here
Permits: no permit needed
Potem Falls Trailhead GPS coordinates: N 40 50.332 W 122 01.610
Notes: dogs allowed on leash
Potem Falls: When to Visit
Potem Creek flows strongest in winter and spring, especially after rainstorms, so go then if you want to see Potem Falls in full glory. However, late spring through early fall is the best time to swim, since air temperatures are highest and the pool at the base of the waterfall is so inviting. The hottest days are in July and August.
Potem Falls Trailhead Directions
From Redding, take Exit 680 off Interstate 5 onto CA Highway 299. Drive 30.5 miles and then turn left onto Fenders Ferry Road, which is also known as Forest Road 34N17 and Road 27. It’s paved for the first 3.5 miles and then good dirt thereafter. Cross the Pit River on a bridge at 8.8 miles. Watch carefully for the unsigned trailhead on the left 0.6 mile beyond the bridge, a total of 9.4 miles from Highway 299. You can usually hear the waterfall from the trailhead.
Hiking the Potem Falls Trail
The trail descends moderately for 0.3 mile through a forest of canyon live oak, Douglas fir, and ponderosa pine. Look for a view down at Potem Falls at the first switchback. Two more switchbacks bring you to the base of the waterfall.
Potem Falls plunges to a cacophonous meeting with a deep and broad pool, creating a cooling mist that feels great on hot days. Come from late morning to mid-afternoon if you want sun; otherwise the steep walls of the Potem Creek drainage create full shade.
More Shasta Lake Hiking Trails
I’m the author of several Northern California hiking guidebooks. My book Day Hiking: Mount Shasta, Lassen & Trinity Alps Regions has 125 hikes, including four trails/trail systems in Shasta Lake National Recreation Area:
- Dry Creek Trail from Shasta Dam
- Waters Gulch Trails (including Overlook Trail, Fish Loop Trail, and Eastside Trail)
- Bailey Cove Trail
- Hirz Bay Trail
The book also covers 15 hikes in and around Redding, 11 hikes in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, and six hikes to the north in Castle Crags State Park.
And see my Clikapudi Trail post and my Sugarloaf Creek Trail post, which also offer swimming and hiking opportunities in the Shasta Lake area. In addition, check out my my post about Shasta Lake’s human and natural history.
Best Day Hiking Trails in Upper California
- Mount Shasta and nearby
- Lassen Volcanic National Park
- Trinity Alps and Marble Mountains
- Redding area
- Whiskeytown and Shasta Lakes
Includes trailhead directions and detailed maps and trail descriptions
Your Take on the Potem Falls Trail
Been? What did you think?
Camp for Free in California National Forests
California’s national forests and BLM lands have thousands of miles of dirt roads with lots of spots for dispersed camping (boondocking). My book provides all the info you need to get started (but is not a guide to specific sites):
- Researching the best locations
- Finding the best camping spots
- Backcountry safety and ethics
- What to take