Great California park will make your boring life better
Journalism isn’t a very glamorous career.
There’s a lot of rejection, both from people who don’t want to talk to you and from readers when they don’t like what you write.
And when we’re not talking to people who would rather be doing anything else we’re often waiting for events to start so we can get to work or hoping an event will end so we can make deadline.
But every so often there’s a bit of serendipity when a news event puts a journalist in position to see or hear something totally unexpected and that he or she can’t wait to share.
It happened to me recently at McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park in Burney, Calif.
I’d seen the park on my road atlas a few times but had never given it much thought until I came across a story that would involve early morning interviews in Lassen National Forest, about 165 miles northwest of Reno.
To make the day easier I’d planned to head to the area the night before and camp in my truck, which is pretty common for me.
A source from the area recommended McArthur-Burney Falls. Since it was close to our planned meeting point I decided it would work and headed up without even looking at the park website.
But as soon as I stepped out of the truck at the campground entrance and heard Burney Creek roaring over the falls in the distance I realized this park would be much more than a place to crash for the night.
So after tucking $30 into the iron ranger to pay for a campsite and unloading some gear I headed straight for the falls.
I was not disappointed.
The falls plunge 130 down a wall of volcanic rock and splash into a large pool a little more than 22 feet deep.
From there Burney Creek continues flowing down a steep canyon with a mix of pine, cedar and oak trees.
There’s a trail that drops from an overlook at the top of the canyon down to the bottom of the falls.
From there the trail goes downstream along the creek until it reaches a bridge and crosses to the opposite bank. Or you can follow a spur trail to Lake Britton, a nearby reservoir.
After crossing the bridge, the trail climbs back to the top of the canyon providing a view of the other side of the falls and, in the fall, an amazing array of color. It also passes to within a tenth of a mile of the Pacific Crest Trail.
The trail is smooth and mostly paved, making it suitable for families with small children. It also has trailside plaques with educational information about the wildlife, vegetation, geology and history of the area.
The campground has nearly 130 sites total but during the off-season only a small number of them in one loop are open.
Still, I had no trouble finding a site on a weeknight. I’d estimate maybe five or six of the approximately 20 available sites were full. But there’s an online reservation system if you don’t want to take a chance on first come-first served.
The sites were large and supplied with picnic tables, deep fire pits and food or gear lockers. The restrooms are heated and there are showers with hot water.
The only downside of the campground was, as far as I was concerned, that there is little to no vegetation between the sites so there wouldn’t be much privacy if someone was occupying a nearby site.
This park is only about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Reno so you could visit as a day or overnight trip.
In fact, if you’re looking for a nice surprise to break up your weekend travel routine I’d recommend bumping Burney Falls to the top of your list.