Friday, September 12, 2014

Feather Falls Loop Trail with a 3.5-mile-long and a 4.5-mile-long semiloop

Feather Falls with gliding and cascading water
The Feather Falls Scenic Trail is a 9-mile-loop trail in the Feather Falls Scenic Area of the Plumas National Forest in the northern Sierra Nevada, California. This trail connects the campground at the trailhead near the southern boundary of the Scenic Area with the Feather Falls overlook and the upper Fall River. Feather Falls Trail includes a Lower Route and an Upper Route to the waterfall. An USDA document classifies the 4.5 mi upper trail as moderate and the 3.5 mi lower trail as strenuous.

A short walk from the trailhead gets you to the Y-junction, at which the two semiloops begin.
Feather Falls overlook platform
The shorter lower route (the sign says 3.3 instead of 3.5 mi) is a lot of down and up and up and down. If you prefer a more leveled path, you may even want to consider the longer upper route for both your out and return trip. At the junction where the semiloops rejoin, I did not find any trail post or markings. Forest all around and no hint of a waterfall. But don't worry. Climb the short incline and a few switchbacks. Soon, you will see and hear the falling water.

All sections of the Feather Falls Trail are well maintained. There are benches at various locations—including the unmarked junction. Interpretive panels along the trail sections inform about Frey Creek, Bald Rock Dome and the Middle Feather River. And, of course, about the main attraction:

Feather Falls, on Fall River, plunges 640-feet and continues one-half mile where it meets the Middle Fork Feather River, and Lake Oroville. Feather Falls is the sixth highest waterfall in the United States, outside Alaska, and the fourth highest in California.

The water of the Fall River is cascading down a steep, south-facing cliff. The spraying water is likely to reflect and refract sunlight during your visit on a sunny afternoon, adding a rainbow to your waterfall pictures. The longer you watch, the more interesting patterns you will notice. Where the water glides over polished patches of sloping rocks, it dynamically covers the rock surface with a white plumage.

The overlook platform provides the most impressive vistas. When you are making your final steps towards the waterfalls alongside the safety-railing on the left side of the trail, you might miss the Overlook sign, while proceeding straight to the Fall River's edge. At the Overlook sign, follow the given direction downstairs to the overlook platform “hoovering” in front of the steep wall with the falling river.

Getting to the Feather Falls Trailhead and and its campground
Get to the junction of Lumpkin Road with Forbestown Road between Hurleton and Forbestown east of Oroville. From this junction, follow Lumpkin Road for about twelve miles until you get to the Feather Falls Scenic Area sign (right picture). Turn left. A narrow road leads you downhill for 1.5 miles to the Feather Falls Trailhead Campground and the trailhead parking area. The trail starts at the northern end of the parking area at the tip of the U-turn around the restrooms.

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