McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park not only gives visitors the chance to explore the volcanic terrain of northern California - rich, diverse and rugged - but is also home to one of California's most impressive waterfalls.
Waterfall, actually, doesn't exactly capture the nature of Burney Falls. The 129' cascade is, rather, a spectacular series of rushing falls and bouncing rivulets, which collectively careen over a wide, sheer cliff. The falls draw large crowds, and with good reason, but visitors can also escape to the mountains and forests at McArthur-Burney. The park has about five miles of trails, and it also provides access to the famous Pacific Crest Trail, offering backpackers a getaway into the rugged mountains. Another popular attraction is the large, beautiful Lake Briton, which offers a swim beach and boat launch. Anglers can cast their lines into the lake or into spots along Burney Creek, where they may find gorgeous rainbow, brook and brown trout. The park also boasts a lovely visitor center and a historic pioneer cemetery - truly, there is something for everyone here.
The Pioneer Campground at McArthur-Burney has 102 campsites, all of which are suitable for small to moderate sized RVs and trailers. Reservations are taken (and highly recommended) during the busy season, from late spring to early fall.
The park is located just off of CA-89, which is a part of the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway; this route, comprised of several highways in California and Oregon, traverses over 500 miles of gorgeous, rugged country and offers access to numerous volcanoes, lava fields and other volcanic geologic features. Though it passes through mountainous country, the byway has few sharp turns or steep hills. The route is paved and well-maintained, as are the roads leading into McArthur-Burney itself.
The area around the park is popular for recreation and camping, and so facilities offering camping-related amenities are usually close at hand. The nearest large town, however, is Burney, which is just a 15 minute drive to the south. Burney has grocery stores, restaurants, banks, ATMs, camping supply stores and more.
McArthur-Burney's spacious campground consists of several interlocking loops. In a few spaces, tight turns can make parking a bit tricky, but for most spots, maneuvering is straightforward. Sites have a moderate length limit, with RV's and trailers being capped at 32 feet. Many trails, as well as the Burney Falls Overlook, are accessible directly from the campground, while the PCT trailhead and the lake and boat launch are just a short drive away (additional parking is available at the latter).
McArthur-Burney's lovely campground boasts 102 RV-suitable camping sites, with many of these being located near Burney Creek. Sites are roomy, and most are shaded by towering Ponderosa pines. Camping here is primitive, with no water, sewer or electric hookups. There are, however, potable water spigots available throughout the campground. A sanitary dump station is located nearby as well. Other campground amenities include several modern restrooms, showers, and a camp store offering some basic supplies, firewood and food.
The campground itself is fairly large, but wherever your spot is, the Burney Falls overlook will be no more than a half-mile walk away. The Pioneer Cemetery, Rim, and Burney Creek trails are also all accessible from points within the campground. Access to the lake and the PCT are short drives away.
The Pioneer Campground accepts reservations during its busy season, from mid-May to early September. Reservations, which can be made up to six months in advance, are highly recommended - the falls are a huge draw, making this park one of the area's most popular. During the off season (which can still be quite busy) sites are first-come first-served.
Five miles of trails run through the forests and fields of McArthur-Burney, offering the chance for visitors to walk underneath towering conifers and or visit a historic pioneer cemetery (via the Pioneer Cemetery Trail). Those looking for a longer trek can find it in the Pacific Crest Trail; the famous route, which runs over 2,600 miles from southern California to northern Washington, passes right through the park; backpackers can hop onto this rugged trail and traverse some of Lassen National Forest's most scenic terrain.
Lake Britton, ringed by conifers and sitting under an endless California sky, is a popular destination for canoers and kayakers. The lake's cool waters prove especially attractive during midsummer, when high temperatures routinely reach into the 90s. Visitors can fish (most of the lake is open for fishing year-round), explore the shores or just enjoy a peaceful float out on the water. A convenient boat launch is located just about a half-mile north of the campground.
The placid waters of Lake Britton and the rushing waters of Burney Creek both offer world-class fishing opportunities to park visitors. Brown, rainbow and brook trout are stocked in the creek, while in the lake anglers may find bluegill, bass, catfish, crappie, sunfish, perch, trout and more. Fishing spots are easily accessible - hiking trails hug the water's edge along both the creek and the lake, and several bridges cross over Burney Creek too. Regulations for fishing differ along different sections of the creek and lake, so make sure you are familiar with park rules before heading out. Make sure you have a valid California state fishing license too!
Visitors will find a surprisingly diverse mix of habitats at McArthur-Burney; forests of stately conifers, groves of mixed hardwoods, meadows, and chaparral all provide homes for a diverse range of fauna. Mule deer, mountain lions, coyotes, grey foxes and porcupines are among the mammalian residents visitors may come across, while the park's rich avifauna includes bald eagles, American white pelicans, ospreys, pileated woodpeckers, chestnut-backed chickadees and many, many more. Reptiles such as fence lizards, sagebrush lizards, and garter snakes can be found as well.
In any season, McArthur-Burney offers spectacular opportunities for amateur and professional photographers alike. Spring and summer bring verdant growth and wildflowers, while winter blankets the landscape with sparkling snow and freezes some of the park's smaller cascades. Of course, the magnificent, one-of-a-kind Burney Falls are the park's most photographed feature, but the park's trails allow access to deep forests and gorgeous vistas. Hook up with the Pacific Crest Trail and delve deeper into the California wilderness, or set up at Lake Britton for some great sunrise shots.
Built just a few years ago, McArthur Burney's visitor center is a great way to introduce yourself to the park and region's natural history. Engaging exhibits focus on the area's flora, fauna, geology and human history. Learn about the fascinating volcanic events which, over the past few million years, shaped many of the geologic features that are still visible today; or, learn how to distinguish between the forest's many species of towering pine and fir. At the visitor center, you can also learn more about the times and subjects for the interpretive programs the park runs.