Offering great canyon views, a massive waterfall, a few smaller falls and creeks, wildflowers, and Native American history, the hike to Feather Falls is a great way to spend an afternoon. There are three trail options that allow visitors to choose a route based on time and difficulty. You can make it a loop, or you can opt to take one of two single trails there and back.
The 4.5-mile trail is easy and gradually follows a ridge through old-growth forests that offer shade, a smaller set of falls, and wildflowers. The 3.5-mile lower trail is intense going downhill and even more so coming back, but it offers beautiful views of Bald Rock Canyon and great views of Bald Rock Dome. A plutonic dome reminiscent of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, it rises nearly 2,000 feet above the canyon and river below. The best idea may be to take the 3.5-mile trail to get to the falls and to take the 4.5-mile trail on the return; this will allow you to see everything this trail has to offer.
As you begin your descent down the trail you quickly drop into the woods and then walk along the ridge above the canyon. As Bald Rock Dome comes into view, take a while to enjoy the scenery and read the information boards along the way. The dome was formed at the time Half Dome was being formed 140 million years ago, and it is 2 miles wide and 3,509 feet above sea level. It is a very cool site to see. There are six separate resting benches along the trail to enjoy as you hike the shorter route. This connects with the longer trail for the final climb to the falls.
You'll be able to tell just how massive these falls are as you get close enough to hear them. At over 600 feet tall, they put on a great show. You will have a great view of the falls and Bald Rock Canyon from the viewing deck. For those who backpack, this is also a killer spot for a campsite if you can arrive later in the afternoon and crowds have left. You also have the ability to continue on the trail and loop around to be right next to the massive drop and the falls. The rocks there also offer a very cool campsite.
As you return on the longer trail, you will be rewarded with more views of Bald Rock Dome as well as blooms of wildflowers and old-growth forests. This trail is fairly level most of the way. Frey Creek also offers a nice little waterfall and another nice spot to rest and relax. If you hike the entire 8-mile loop, expect to spend at least four hours or longer depending on how extensively you want to explore and enjoy the riparian ecosystem this area offers. The parking lot offers a restroom and multiple free campsites, so you can easily make this a great weekend trip. Please make sure to pack out what you pack in, and enjoy one of the coolest falls in Northern California!