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Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway's Waterfall Region: Highway 89 Old Station to McCloud, CA

Scenic Byways or Routes
The Subway Cave, the largest accessible in the Hat Creek Flow. – by C. Forester

ADA Accessibility Notes

The drive itself is scenic. All of the following points of interest are wheelchair accessible.

  • McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park and Lake Britton Recreation Area
  • Fort Crook Museum
  • Volcanic Loop Tour at Bartle - Most of these can be viewed from the car.
  • McCloud River Falls & Recreation Area - The upper and lower falls have good viewing points for those in a wheelchair.
  • Heritage Junction Museum
  • McCloud Historic District Walking Tour - This walking tour can also be driven.

This meandering, peaceful drive takes you through Hat Creek Valley and the waterfall region of the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway’s Lassen and Shasta-Trinity National Forests. Besides catching sight of the roaring waterfalls and wildlife, you will have a chance to uncover the area’s geology and history. You will also have a chance to hike, swim, fish, view, pick mushrooms, view fall foliage, spelunk (explore nature caves), paraglide and hang glide, as well as to snowmobile, ski, and sled in winter months. This route’s itinerary follows a northern route passing by compelling views of Mount Shasta, a composite or strato-volcano towering at 14, 162 feet. The town of Burney offers a place to replenish your supplies, and find lodging.

Following are the highlights and key points of interest along the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway's Waterfall Region:

Subway Cave: A geologic landmark on the Byway, the entrance to the Subway Cave was formed by a partial collapse of the cave’s roof many years ago. This cave is the largest accessible tube in the Hat Creek Flow. The Hat Creek Flow refers to the lava that was discharged in a series of north-south fissures about 20,000 years ago. The origins of the Hat Creek Flow start out at the Spattercone Nature Trail a few miles up the road. This river of lava located near the town of Old Station, crawled northward 16 miles, covering the floor of Hat Creek Valley. While the top crust cooled and hardened, rivers of red-hot lava insulated by newly formed rock above, continued to flow. Eventually, the lava drained away, leaving hundreds of tube-like caves.

The Subway Cave Trailhead is located 1/4 mile north of the junction of State Routes 44 and 89. The community of Old Station is located 1/2 mile south of the trailhead. In addition to the restrooms and water, picnic tables are available for use, making this trail an excellent place to stop for a picnic lunch. The Subway Cave can be accessed in the summer. Contact the Hat Creek Ranger District, (530) 336-5521 or stop by the Old Station Information Center, (located near Subway Cave) open April - Dec., hours vary.

Hat Creek Recreation Area Fishing Access Trail: This is a four mile trail between Cave and Bridge Campgrounds adjacent to Hat Creek. Even though, a fire caused by lightening burned much of the vegetation in 2009, the trail shows off the multicolored wildflowers and is a prime spot to fish for brown and rainbow trout. Contact the Hat Creek Ranger District, (530) 336-5521 or stop by the Old Station Information Center for a fishing permit.

Hat Creek Rim Paragliding and Hang gliding Launch Site: Rising afternoon winds and thermals combine to make Hat Creek Rim an extremely consistent and popular launch site. Pilots who fly here should be at least an intermediate level and be a member of the U.S. Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association.

While hang gliding is the recreational sport of flying through the air from a slope or cliff with a kite-like device, paragliding uses a modified parachute to achieve flight. The Shasta Sky Sailors, a regional club committed to human flight, have developed and pioneered Hat Creek Rim as an official site for foot-launched flight since 1975. In 1996, the site began operating under a USDA Forest Service Use Permit. The Shasta Sky Sailors have, for many years, voluntarily provided other amenities such as the Pilot Bulletin Board, site guides, advisories, windsocks, and created an informational website,

Generally used in the summer months, viewers and photographers are encouraged to enjoy this site equally. The Hat Creek Rim is located about 12 miles south of the turn-off to the town of Burney on Highway 89. From Highway 89, head east on Doty Road (1.25 miles), left on Bidwell Road (2.5 miles), and finally merge left on Forest Service Road 22. Here you will find two launch sites on the left hand side.

McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park and Lake Britton Recreation Area: Volcanic forces and erosion from waterways and weather formed the mountainous basalt-covered (black volcanic rock) topography that surrounds the 129-foot waterfall within the Park. Formed over one million years ago, porous basalt retains rainwater and snow melt to create a large underground reservoir. Burney Creek originates from the Park's underground springs and flows to Lake Britton. Getting larger along the way, this body of water cascades at a rate of 100 million gallons of water daily. This forested park has five miles of stream side and lake shoreline that also borders Lake Britton.

The Park was named after pioneer settlers, Samuel Burney, and the McArthur family in the mid and late 1800’s, respectively. Responsible for protecting the waterfalls and hindering the development of the surrounding areas, descendants purchased the property and bestowed it to the state in the 1920s.

Fort Crook Museum- Initially consisting of 25 to 30 log buildings enclosed by a pine-pole stockade 12 feet high, Fort Crook was established on July 1, 1857 to protect travelers on the Shasta-Yreka Road and the Lockhart Ferries.

Located in Fall River Mills, this museum was named after Lt. George Crook, then in command of Company D, 4th Infantry. Crook became a General during the Civil War and gained national fame as both a fighter of and advocate for the Plains Indians. The Fort Crook Museumwas built in 1962 – 65 and today many of the members of the Fort Historical Society are descendants of the first settlers.

The museum is located at 43030 Fort Crook Museum Ave. in Fall River Mills. Head east on 299 from highway 89.

Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park: “Ahjumawi” means "Where the waters come together...." It is also the word used by the Pit River Native Americans of the area to describe themselves. Big Lake, Tule River, Ja-She Creek, Lava Creek, and Fall River all unite here and form one of the largest systems of fresh water springs in the country.

Over two thirds of the area is covered by recent (three to five thousand years) lava flows including vast areas of jagged black basalt. In this place of remote and pristine, you can catch sight sparkling aqua bays, vistas of Lassen Peak and Mount Shasta, as well as birds such as bald eagles, ospreys, and great blue heron. Herds of mule deer forage through much of the park.

Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park can only be reached by boat. There are no public roads to it and private motor vehicles are prohibited within. Visitors can launch into Big Lake at a PG&E public boat launch known as "Rat Farm". At the highway 89/299 junction (also called four corners), head 15 miles on highway 299 east to the town of McArthur to Main St., continuing past the Intermountain Fairgrounds, crossing over a canal and proceeding 3-miles north on a graded dirt road. Be sure to let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.

Volcanic Loop Tour at Bartle: Beginning and ending at Bartle, you can drive a geologic loop tour that touches on the Modoc Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway. From highway 89, this loop tour travels north on highway 15 (Powder Hill Rd.), east on Road 43N48, back down highway 49 south, and then back toward highway 15 south to the entry point on highway 89. This loop tour is closed in winter due to snow. Following are the various points of interest along this Byway:

  1. Harris Springs
  2. Paint Pot Crater
  3. Lava Flow
  4. Pumice Stone Mountain and Paint Pot Crater
  5. Little Glass Mountain
  6. Little Mount Hoffman Lookout
  7. Medicine Lake
  8. Double Hole Crater and Overlook
  9. Medicine Lake Recreation Area
  10. Jot Dean Ice Caves
  11. Little Glass Mountain
  12. Tilted Rock Lava Flow

McCloud River Falls & Recreation Area: Located about 10 miles north of Bartle and 5 miles south of McCloud, all three of these extraordinary waterfalls are volcanic in nature. Glaciers and springs across the Eastern Slopes of Mount Shasta flow downward over Pleistocene lava flows, eventually accumulating in the McCloud River. The river drops about 6,000 feet from its headwaters, over three falls to its delta in Shasta Lake, a distance of only forty miles. Perfect for swimming, the lower and upper falls are both wheelchair accessible. There are picnic tables, bathrooms, and lots of nearby camping. Call the McCloud Ranger District at (530) 964-2184. Turn at the Forest Service sign that says “Fowler’s Campground Lower Falls.” Passing the entrance to the campground, go ½ mile to reach the Lower Falls. For the Middle Falls, take the paved road to the east and travel about ½ mile. To reach the upper falls by car, travel another ½ mile past the Middle Falls parking area. This road is actually a loop and continues on to Lakin Dam and Cattle Camp, then back to Highway 89 about 6 miles.

Pilgrim Creek Snowmobile Park: For miles and miles of snowmobile fun, this winter play area offers open expanses, quiet solitude, and views of mighty Mount Shasta in its many snow-capped moods. Access is three miles south of McCloud on Highway 89. Travel east onto Forest Service Road #13 to the Park. Call (530) 964-2184 for snow levels.

McCloud Heritage Junction Museum: The Heritage Junction Museum has accumulated an impressive collection of artifacts from McCloud's history, including the giant Corliss steam engine that powered the McCloud sawmill from 1903 until 1979. The museum also has a huge photographic collection covering the entire history of the town and its surrounding country. The museum is open to visitors daily through the summer and by special arrangements during the winter months. 320 Main Street, McCloud, CA (530) 964-2604

McCloud Historic District Walking Tour: You will walk back in time on Main Street where most of the buildings and homes were constructed in the late 1800s. It is believed by some that the historic lumber town of McCloud was named after Alexander Roderick McLeod, who led a party of Hudson Bay Company trappers to this area. Joaquin Miller, later known as the Poet of the Sierra, also homesteaded here.

Snowman’s Hill Winter Play Area: This is a perfect spot for family fun and for those who wish to sled, tube and build snowmen.

Driving Directions

This itinerary follows a northern route from the town of Old Station. Old Station is located about 14 miles from the Northwest entrance (at Manzanita Lake) of the Lassen Volcanic National Park. at Highway 89/44. Highway 89 can also be accessed from interstate between Dunsmuir and Mount Shasta, CA.

Highlights and Key Points Along the Route

  1. Subway Cave
  2. Hat Creek Recreation Area / Fishing Trail
  3. Hat Creek Rim Para- and Hang Gliding Launch Site.
  4. McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park and Lake Britton Recreation Area
  5. Fort Crook Museum
  6. Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park (boat only access)
  7. Bartle - Modoc Volcanic Scenic Byway entry (loop tour, closed in winter)
  8. McCloud River Falls & Recreation Area
  9. Pilgrim Creek Snowmobile Park
  10. McCloud Heritage Junction Museum
  11. McCloud Historic District Walking Tour
  12. Snowman’s Hill Winter Play Area

Length of Byway or Route

69 miles

Pet Friendly Notes

Pets on a leash are allowed at McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. The only trail pets are allowed on is the Pioneer Cemetery Trail.

Most of the the other sites will allow pets on a leash.

Nearby Places