PCT: Old Station to Burney Falls

Miles 1377.4-1419 of the PCT: Along a panoramic rim with views to Mount Shasta, then down into a broad valley with entrenched creeks and the spectacle of Burney Falls.

Hiking Easy

Distance
67 km
Ascent
830 m
Descent
1.3 km
Duration
1 day +
Low Point
896 m
High Point
1.6 km
Gradient
VIEW ON MAP
PCT: Old Station to Burney Falls Map

Description

<i>Notice: Much of this trail segment is closed following the Dixie Fire of 2021, with no date for reopening yet announced. Check the PCTA Closures page for updates.</i>

Just after leaving the highway near Old Station, the PCT meets a side trail for Subway Cave (NB mile 1377.5). The half-mile detour leads to an underground lava tube and interpretive site. The main interest for distance hikers, however, is the water fountain at the trailhead because the next northbound source may not be for 30 miles.

Beyond the Subway Cave trail, the PCT continues through the fringe of the Dixie Fire burn area and begins an ascent along the edge of a plateau. This is the Hat Creek Rim, where several miles of trail overlook a broad valley while traversing a sparsely treed landscape strewn with lava rock. Partway up the rim is a scenic viewpoint with paved parking and a picnic area (NB mile 1380.3).

An opportunity for water comes at Lost Creek Spring (NB mile 1385.5), which trickles in the bottom of a ravine the trail contours around. A side trail descends a steep 400 feet to reach it. The PCT swings around the head of this canyon then continues along a higher bench of the rim. A grand view spans a skyline of volcanoes, with Lassen Peak one side and Mount Shasta on the other.

Walking along this plateau is flat and easy, but shade is scarce. Where the trail crosses unpaved Bidwell Road (NB mile 1393.5) there is a small trailhead area, which may be used to join the PCT north of the Dixie Fire area. From there, the trail takes a gradual descent as the rim slopes downward. In a few more miles, a final zigzag through a band of basalt reaches the valley floor. Continuing among sagebrush and scattered pines, the trail begins to parallel Cassel Fall River Road and later crosses it (NB mile 1403.1).

Eventually, the trail drops into a lower tier of the valley, toward a reservoir and a fish hatchery. Near the bottom of the hill is Rock Spring Creek (NB mile 1406.9) which may have water, but water might also be obtained from the hatchery or the lake half a mile farther. The PCT winds around some infrastructure here, then continues alongside Baum Lake where campsites can be found (NB mile 1408.4). After rising gently to another plateau rim, the trail soon meets Highway 299 (NB mile 1411.3). There’s no trailhead or parking where the PCT crosses, however. About 7.5 miles SW is the small town of Burney which has stores, restaurants, lodging, and a post office.

Across the highway, the trail continues through relatively flat and open forest for a few more miles, crossing several dirt roads. At the rim over Lake Britton, gaps in the trees reveal the reservoir and some bridges below (NB mile 1416). Soon the trail crosses CA-89 and enters McArthur-Burney Falls State Park. The Falls Loop (NB mile 1419) is a short and very worthwhile detour to see the photo-famous waterfall. The trail also reaches the main park area with a store, campground, and other facilities. This is the northern end of CA Section N on the PCT, and Section O proceeds toward Shasta from there.

Permits: Most of this segment is within areas of Lassen National Forest and Shasta-Trinity National Forest where no permits are needed. Near Crystal Lake Hatchery and Baum Lake, the trail crosses private property, but camping is still allowed in certain areas. Be sure to respect any relevant signs and restrictions.

Sources: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/lassen/recreation https://www.pcta.org/discover-the-trail/maps/ https://pctmap.net/trail-notes/

Difficulty

Easy

Walking along a well-kept trail that’s mostly flat. No obstacles are present.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

April, May, June, July, August, September, November

Features

  • Wildlife
  • Historical
  • Picturesque
  • Dog friendly
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Family friendly

Guidebooks in this area