Hike to Mossbrae Falls

Lake Tahoe Mossbrae Falls

Added by Mark Handy

Mossbrae Falls is considered one of the most scenic waterfalls in California. And for good reason. There are multiple layers of water that come from this spring-fed waterfall.

Disclaimer: Hiking to the falls is trespassing. Fines can be as much as $300. If you choose to hike to the falls, you're doing so at your own risk so please be cautious and cognizant of your surroundings.

If you live anywhere near Northern California or Southern Oregon, you may have heard about Mossbrae Falls, which is located in the very scenic area of the Shasta Cascade region in California. The area is pristine and well worth the hassle of getting here.

But a little background: about four years ago a woman was hit by a train when she was making her way to the Falls with her family. Local authorities and Union Pacific officials immediately started cracking down on those who travel to Mossbrae Falls along the live train tracks. Those who parked their cars in the Shasta Retreat -- a small cabin retreat along the Sacramento River -- got cited as well. In other words, it has -- theoretically -- become a lot more difficult to get to Mossbrae Falls.

Having said that, I recently made the trip into Mossbrae Falls with no trouble at all. What's more, while I was traveling along the train tracks, a train did come by. I waved to the engineer, who waved back. Once I got to the Falls, I saw several other people, including a local man who was doing some fly fishing.

Here's what he told me about the "no trespassing" rules that abound in the area. First, there are two places where trespassing will occur. One, as you walk through the Shasta Retreat cabin site and then when you walk along the land owned and operated by Union Pacific Railroad.

The local told me that the Shasta Retreat does not care about those walking down the road in the middle of its property. It does care about those who park there, though. Thus, you should park your vehicle some place smart on the north side of Dunsmuir Avenue. Stay on the public streets, in other words. Second, you're trespassing when you walk along the railroad tracks. This is a nearly one-mile hike along the tracks. I did not find it dangerous at all. If you're smart, and stay on the east side of the tracks, you are perfectly fine. If you decide to walk on the west side of the tracks, you are asking for all kinds of trouble. I have no idea why anyone would walk on that side, by the way, given that the east side offers so much room to safely walk. Anyhow, I digress. The point is this: you are trespassing when you go to Mossbrae Falls. So long as you don't park in the Shasta Retreat, you should be perfectly fine, though, when you make this hike. Union Pacific appears to have relaxed their position in regard to trespassers.

The most difficult part of visiting Mossbrae Falls seems to be a dearth of clear, concise directions to get there. Therefore, I am going to present those here so that it's not such a mystery. Here is the step by step directions:

Go to the north end of Dunsmuir Avenue, near Scarlet Way. Find a place to park. Once you get on foot, your trip to Mossbrae Falls is about 1.2 miles. The first street you walk down is Scarlet Way, which is located in the Shasta Retreat. You'll see a sign at the top of the hill at Dunsmuir Avenue and Scarlet Way. Walk down the road. At the bottom, the road turns into Cave Avenue. Veer right at that point and keep walking. After you veer right, you'll walk for about 100 yards, at which point you will see a small bridge that leads to the railroad tracks. Once you get to the tracks, make a right and stay on the east side of the tracks (the right side), which is closest to the Sacramento River that you'll be walking along. You'll be moving north at this point. Continue walking up the tracks until you get slightly past mile marker 3/4. There you will find a bridge. Do not cross it. Instead, right before the bridge, look to your right. There will be several trails that take you into Mossbrae Falls. Additionally, there is currently a big boulder near the tracks that has the words "Mossbrae Falls" spray painted on it. There is a spray-painted arrow on the rock, pointing to the river. The hike from the tracks to the falls is about 40 yards.

Once you arrive at Mossbrae Falls, you'll be welcomed by a pristine location that won't disappoint. There is also a bench there that you can sit on to soak in the view. Once you're done at the Falls, you simply backtrack and make your way back to the vehicle you rode in on.

Quick note: if you do decide to take children into this area, be sure that you carry them the entire way. The rocks along the train tracks are pointy and sharp. I'd advise that you wear hiking boots or sturdy shoes that will absorb the impact from these small rocks.

Beyond that, have fun!

Coordinates:
- Mossbrae Falls: 41.242104, -122.266870

Pack List

  • Common sense
  • Hiking boots or sturdy shoes
  • Food
  • Drink
  • Camera + tripod
  • Fishing poles
  • Windbreaker
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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Activities:

Fishing, Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:

Beginner

Season:

Spring, Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:

Out-and-Back

Distance:

2 Miles

Rating:

Features:

River
Scenic
Waterfall

Are we missing something?

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How to Get There

6 months ago

Mossy Beauty

This was a nice short hike with a very relaxing place as a reward. I parked on the street outside the entrance to the neighborhood and trekked through. I took a right after the bridge and walked along the train tracks (watch out for trains!) and initially passed up the falls because I was enjoying the stroll. There are some nice spots along the river up ahead if you want to sit and enjoy nature without being around others. When I went back to the falls it luckily wasn't too crowded and I was able to set up my hammock right next to the river with a clear view of the mossy beauty. The view didn't get old for me for over an hour (if you're going to do what I did, make sure to bring snacks to enjoy) and I eventually left because the sun was starting to set and the temperature was dropping. I will definitely go back again on a day when I went to take a short stroll and lay down with a beautiful view to look at.

6 months ago

about 1 year ago

Clear Guide to a Great Location

Mossbrae Falls is unbelievably beautiful, but there's so much misinformation about how to get there that few get to see it. This description does a great of explaining the situation. The Powers That Be have talked about an official trail/bridge/road, but that will likely be years from now, and may spoil Mossbrae's 'hidden gem' appeal.

about 1 year ago

about 1 year ago

Hiked to these falls in early September. Definitely one of those gems that catch you off guard. The walk along the tracks were easy - no trains came. The directions are super clear and helpful. We found the falls just before the bridge and were in awe. Had the whole place to ourselves on a Friday afternoon. Definitely worth a quick trip! Also if you're hungry - grab some food from Yaks and take it the falls. Perfect spot for a picnic and the food is a hefty amount of awesome.

about 1 year ago

over 1 year ago

Just got back from a 4th of July weekend in this area and we brought your post with us. The directions you provided, Mark, were spot on! I've long wanted to visit and photograph this location, but could never get good directions. Thank you again for sharing!

over 1 year ago

Added by Mark Handy

I am a landscape photographer who travels the world looking for inspiring images. Though based in San Diego, California, I am rarely home. If you'd like to follow my work and travels on a daily basis, I chronicle them on Instagram. Click the Instagram icon and follow me

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