Many consider Burney Falls to be the best camping in Northern California.
The showpiece of McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial SP is the 129-foot waterfall at the entrance. It’s said that, “President Theodore Roosevelt once proclaimed Burney Falls “the eighth wonder of the world.” The falls’ water comes from an underground spring and runs year round. Behind the falls is a nesting spot for black swifts and swallows. The park includes over 900 acres of land, part of the pacific Crest Trail, the Pioneer Cemetery, and Lake Britton.
The falls were named after one of the first settlers to the region, Samuel Burney. He came to the region in 1858. The beauty of the falls and surrounding forest drove the descendants of the McArthurs, who settled the area in the late 1800s, to buy the land and donate it to the state of California in the 1920s.
The McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park campground is rich with history, flora, fauna, and outdoor activities. But there’s more to see and do in the region just beyond the park. Many families come here every year because it is one of the best camping sites in Northern California.
Getting To Burney Falls
MacArthur-Burney Falls is about a four hour drive from Sacramento and an hour east of Redding. From Redding, CA, head east on 299 and then left on 89 just past Burney, CA. From here, the park is about 6 miles down 89 on the left.
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Most campsites are larger than average, so even when the park is packed, you still feel like you have some space between you and your neighbors. Most accommodate camping trailers and some accommodate large RVs. There are also some cabins available, but at a much higher cost per night.
Each campsite is equipped with a picnic table and campfire pit and wooden pantry. No bear boxes at this campsite as there are not any bears—a plus if camping with bears makes you nervous. However, do lock up your food in coolers and the pantry. The squirrels here can get into and run off with the food at a speed that would rival any bear.
Facilities and Amenities
Inside the park is a store with basic camping supplies that you forgot to bring, souvenirs, ice for your cooler, ice cream, basic groceries, and firewood. The visitor center has informative displays on native wildlife and habitat.
All the bathrooms and showers have been upgraded to be 100% private and are quite nice for camping. You’ll need quarters for the shower and there may be a line, especially in the mornings. They are well maintained and cleaned once a day. However, how clean they stay throughout the day will depend on campground guests.
There's no shortage of camping activities at this Northern California campground. You can spend the day on the beach of Lake Britton, hike a trail to an old cemetery, hike above the Burney waterfall or hike down to the waterfall pool, go fishing or boating or canoeing, become a junior park ranger, or join a ranger led campfire program, and all without ever leaving the park. The marina rents small boats if you don’t have one. The railroad bridge over the lake is the one used for the railroad bridge scene in the move Stand by Me. The trails are easy walks and some are paved or flat enough to push a stroller. The beach sand is not too rocky and perfect for sand toys. If you are camping with kids, you will not run out of camping activities to keep them busy.
Things to Do Nearby
An interesting stop is the Hat Creek Radio Observatory which has been studying radio emissions from space since 1959. Run by the SETI Institute and the University of California Berkeley, there have been some great space discoveries made here, such as finding amino acids in space. During some summers you can stop in for a tour, but call ahead to ask if tours are currently available as tour availability changes.
Even without a tour, the drive to the observatory is scenic and the facility interesting to see from the outside. It’s located on Bidwell Rd. in Hat Creek, CA, about 30 minutes from Burney campgrounds. Head south on Highway 89. If you get to Subway Cave, you’ve gone too far.
The Town of Burney
The town of Burney, CA is just a 20 minute drive from the campground. Here you can get gas, groceries, or have a pizza if you need a break from campfire cooking. There are also some quaint antique shops and art galleries.
Drive Up a Mountain
If you have an adventurous spirit, take the drive up to the top of Burney Mountain. At the top you’ll be met with an incredible view of Lassen Peak, Mount Shasta, and other mountains, and get a chance to see the fire lookout station.
The drive up is not for the faint of heart. It’s steep, curvy, unpaved, and big enough for only one car at a time in many spots. The scenery is well worth the trip however. Just remember the road rules: The vehicle driving uphill gets the right of way. The car coming down the mountain must back up to make way for the car coming up the mountain. Summitpost.org states that a 4x4 is required to make it up the mountain.
Outside the park you will find many more hiking trails and quiet fishing spots along Hat Creek. Lassen Volcanic National Park is just an hour drive south on Highway 89 from Burney Falls Park. On the way to Lassen just past Route 44, stop and explore the Subway Cave made by flowing lava for free. You will want a flashlight and sweatshirt once inside the lava tube.
Baum Lake, off Cassel Rd and 299 is a good place for fishing, bird watching, and hiking. It’s quiet and rarely crowded. Go just before sunset and you’ll see the many resident osprey catching fish for their dinner.
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