Historic gold mining towns, rugged terrain, lakes, and waterfalls are tucked away in Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area. Everywhere you look there are tree-lined mountains jutting up with winding roads leading past blue water lakes.
We had only a weekend to explore Whiskeytown Lake and Trinity Lake and Trinity Alps. Definitely not enough time to see everything, just enough time to get a taste and desire to go back!
Waterfalls √ Lakes √ Wilderness √ Camping under the stars √
Our first stop on our trip was the closed visitor center at Whiskeytown Lake. The view from here was spectacular! The first impression of Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area was impressive!
Crystal Creek Falls Trail
The first hike at Whiskeytown was a short .6 mile round trip out and back hike to a man-made waterfall, Crystal Creek Falls. It was a perfect introduction to the area!
We had packed lunch and enjoyed it in the parking lot inside the truck with the air conditioning on. It was 90 degrees outside! After eating and hydrating we grabbed our cameras and walked along the paved, full sun path back to our first waterfall of the day.
We could hear the waterfall for most of the walk and when we reached it, the beauty of the waterfall made us pause. Taking in the cooler air, the sound of water rushing over rocks, and the sunshine above, we stood along the path for a moment. Honestly, this was the best view of Crystal Creek Falls but one must walk down the dirt path to the base of the falls to truly enjoy it.
There were other people lounging on a flat rock next to the water so we stayed back and found our own rocks to sit on and dip our feet in the cold water. It felt soooo good!! This was such a perfect spot to be on a very hot day! Not wanting to leave the cool water and rushing waterfall we stayed for a bit then headed back to the truck to drive to the next waterfall trailhead.
If all you have is 30 minutes to detour off the main highway, stop here and check out the waterfall!
Along the same road, we reached the James K Carr Trail to Whiskeytown Falls. On the Whiskeytown park’s website, this is listed as a moderate to difficult hike. We think moderate in cooler weather and difficult in the 90+ degrees we were in! 🙂 Take more water than you think you will need. The website shows this as a 3.4 mile round trip hike with 700 feet elevation gain, our AllTrails app tracked us at 4.4 miles roundtrip with 942 ft elevation gain. Either way, it is absolutely worth it to see the 220-foot waterfall!!
There is plenty of shade, sun, mosquitoes, and water flowing as you hike the listed 1.7 miles back to the big attraction – Whiskeytown Falls.
We were wishing the entire time it was cooler weather or for a slight breeze. It never came and our water bottles were getting lower and lower. Fighting off the hordes of mosquitoes attacking like we were the only people around didn’t help. We began to wonder if this would be worth it. Would there even be a waterfall flowing? When we finally saw the first set of people we asked them if it was worth it (as we were climbing uphill with the mosquitoes chasing us) and they said YES with such enthusiasm it gave us the energy to keep going. Have we mentioned we aren’t fans of hot weather hiking? 😉
Continuing on we were met with some much needed shade with the creek flowing by which cooled us down a bit. The water looked so inviting! Once we reached the falls, we found a small group of hikers enjoying the water. We decided to give them space and explore the large stone stairs that lead up the cliff alongside Whiskeytown Falls.
At the top of the stairs, we were stopped just shy of the top of the falls for our safety. The view from up there with the cooler air coming off the waterfall felt so good. When we were ready to head back down the group was just getting their shoes back on to head out.
We sat on a large downed tree, threw off our shoes, rolled up our pants, and took our shirts off and waded into the pool of water at the base of the falls. It felt so incredibly good!
These waterfalls were lost to most people until 2004 when a park biologist was viewing aerial photos. A handful of locals knew about the falls but they were hidden from most until 2004 and a trail was built. Sort of makes you wonder what other hidden beauties are in this 42,000-acre Whiskeytown National Recreation Area!
After about 15 minutes of having the falls to ourselves, a large group of hikers were just reaching us. They looked as tired and hot as we felt when we reached the falls. We had soaked our shirts in the water and were enjoying the dripping wet shirts continuing to keep us cool as we put our shoes back on for the hike back.
It was still hot. Our shirts dried about halfway back and so many more people were heading up the trail. We cheered them on and enjoyed the short hike back to the truck feeling a little less drained from the heat.
Water gone and sweat dripping we reached the truck and turned on the air conditioning full blast and headed off to Trinity Lake to find our home for the weekend.
Trinity Lake is a large, man-made lake with 145 miles of shoreline and is 19 miles long. There are several campgrounds around the lake and some have boat ramps. The main attractions here are getting out on the water or hiking the Alps. We had a little blow-up raft but never used it. The Trinity Lake was a little low near our campground so we opted to not go in.
Bushytail campground is run by the US Forest Service. The facilities are dated but clean and the various campsites are nicely dispersed under tall Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine trees.
Because of Covid-19, the group campsites were closed and it was only the single sites there which made us feel a little safer. We were in campsite #1 which was closest to the restroom/shower building but far enough away we weren’t bothered by the sound. Bathrooms were flush toilets with 1 power outlet. Showers were 1 large room each, private and pay at the end. It was $5/shower so at the end of our weekend, we paid and never had to worry if we had enough quarters for the shower or if it would stop while we still had shampoo in our hair. So nice! And yes, we are those campers that take showers. We also have an air mattress in our tent! 😉
Speaking of tents, we got to try out our fancy new North Face tent! It was like glamping! The inside height is 6 feet tall with a large front door and 2 side doors that can be zipped up to be like windows. We didn’t need the rain fly and half of the tent was just netting. The views at night were incredible and the fresh air felt really good!
The concrete picnic table was near the fire pit and the bear box making it very easy to set up for cooking. Fires were permitted but not needed for heat. We had 1 log going at a time to keep the bugs away while we ate and played cards. The entire campground was quite before 10 pm and we were able to enjoy clear skies full of stars overhead as we fell asleep. Highly recommend this campground!
Tangle Blue Lake
Our usual weekend camping trips usually consist of a short hike on Friday and Sunday with a long one on Saturday. With the temps being above 90 degrees all weekend we opted for a moderately long hike for Saturday and skipped Sunday. We stopped at historic sites and took our time driving home. Definitely need to go back to hike the other hikes we had picked out!
Per the AllTrails app, Tangle Blue Lake trail is 8.3 miles with 1,260 feet elevation gain/loss. The trail description of Tangle Blue Lake shows 6.6 miles and 1,160 feet elevation gain/loss. Highly recommend your hiking poles (we should have taken ours) for the stream crossings and steep spots along the trail.
Cell reception is spotty at best around Trinity Lake so download directions before heading up there. We had to go old school with written directions and an incomplete map. 33.4 miles from our campground we needed to turn left on a dirt road with no sign. (insert giggle here) Read the directions on the trail description, “on the outside of a hairpin turn follow 39N20 about 3.6 miles to the trailhead”. We passed it. We did however know when we went too far and turned around about a mile past the turnoff. On the way back down we found the yellow warning sign with a big black arrow on it and pulled over. It looked more like a turnout than a dirt road that would take us anywhere. Some nice person had written 39N20 on it in marker so we at least knew we were in the correct spot and wouldn’t be trespassing!
The hubs had fun using his 4WD on the dirt road while trying to avoid boulders and ruts in the road. It was a bladder busting drive. Seriously.
There were about 6 other cars at the trailhead when we got there and room for about 4 more comfortably. Upon our return, several others had parked along the side of the road. There are no restrooms, just a parking lot. Please remember the Leave No Trace principles and pack it out.
The trail starts down the trail pass through the gate and across a metal bridge. As we headed up the slightly steep and rock fire road there were swarms of butterflies sipping up water in the small little stream of water flowing down. A beautiful welcome to our hike!
Manzanita trees were growing alongside and in the middle of the fire road here. Mother Nature is definitely trying to take back her land. As we hiked we could hear Tangle Blue creek flowing just below us at times and we crossed it several times. We found a couple of spots that backpackers had set up camps along the creek, one of which we stopped at on our way back to dip our feet and cool off.
The trail was a gentle grade most of the time. It was rocky. It was wide. It was narrow. It challenged you. It gave you shade. It let the sun beat down on you. It gave you beautiful meadows. It crossed creeks. It wound around large trees. It had frogs and wildflowers. It led you to a stunning alpine lake.
We could try and describe the immense diversity of the trail but believe the photos will tell you more!
Once you reach the meadow you can see the white granite spires above Tangle Blue Lake and you know you are almost to your destination! We came across the primitive campsites that were mostly full and this glorious site! We chose not to jump into this lake. It’s a little small and a water source for people camping so we sat and had our snack with views of the lake and enjoyed the break.
Heading back down we saw several more people making their way up to the lake to camp. It would be a beautiful spot to camp and enjoy the serenity!
Wondering what wine we were drinking after our hot hike? Schug’s delicious and refreshing rosé of pinot noir of course! It has been our favorite summer wine so far this year!
All the Details
Whiskeytown Lake had a fire burn through in 2018 so some trails are closed and with Covid-19 the visitor center is also closed. Check their website before going and also to purchase a parking pass. Parking for Whiskeytown National Recreation Area is $25/vehicle.
Crystal Creek Falls trail: vault toilet in the parking lot, parking for about 10 vehicles, easy paved .6 mile out and back hike to a beautiful waterfall.
Whiskeytown Falls trail via James K Carr Trail: vault toilet in the parking lot, parking for about 15 vehicles, 4ish miles with 942 ft elevation gain/loss, moderate hike, a mix of sun and shade, take lots of water and go early, the 220-foot tall waterfall is the main attraction!
Bushytail Campground at Trinity Lake: $25/night single site fee, flushing toilets, shaded campsites dispersed for privacy, hot showers you pay at the end, bear box, fire rings, concrete picnic tables.
Tangle Blue Lake: 8.3 miles with 1,260 feet elevation gain/loss, moderate hike, take hiking poles, creek crossings, no facilities, recommend a higher clearance vehicle for the road to the trailhead, free parking for about 15 cars.
Did we miss a detail? Leave a question in the comments below! ↓
Things We Love
First off, must say we absolutely love our new tent! The North Face Homestead Super Dome 4 Person tent is so wonderful! We had researched new tents after our Camping Calamities at Limekiln SP last winter. It was sold out for a while then we found it on Moosejaw. It is now sold out again. Keep your eye out. This tent was so easy to put up and take down and the space was amazing as well as 3 doors!
The bosslady sends out signals to mosquitoes far and wide and they attack her like crazy. She wears a ParaKito mosquito repellent clip on her backpack that smells strong of citronella and has used the ParaKito roll on mosquito repellent. This time she decided to add lavender essential oil to her arsenal.
Reading some articles, it is said that lavender helps repel mosquitoes AND if you do get bit it can help reduce the itch. Both totally helped! She has been using a harsh chemical anti-itch formula for years and was tired of using it so looked for more natural alternatives. Lavender was the winner! It is already proven to calm you so why not smell good, be calm, repel mosquitoes and soothe any itching naturally?! We purchased our roll-on lavender essential oil from Plant Therapy.
If you use this link from Plant Therapy, you get $10 off your $25 purchase and we get $10 to use on our next purchase. Full disclosure, we have a lot of essential oils we’d love to stock up on and you can too! Win win!
Leave a comment below and let us know what other natural items you use while out hiking and camping!