Between 30 and 40 million years ago, an ancient volcano near what is now Honey Lake expelled lava that flowed west and drained all the way into what would become the Northern Sacramento Valley. This dark basalt formation can be seen in a handful of places, but one of the best spots is at Table Mountain north of Oroville. In the early spring, geology combines with plant ecology and hydrology to create a spectacular show of waterfalls, wildflowers, and vernal pools.
A solitary oak greets you at the North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve parking area. As there are currently no established trails, you should note the oak as a landmark while you embark on your cross-country walkabout. There are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore in this reserve, and some of the highlights are the twin cascades of Fern Falls and Coal Canyon Falls, also known as Ravine Falls and Phantom Falls, respectively. The trickiest part of the walk to the overlook occurs just as you pass Fern Falls. Make sure to pass south and west of the fence line that forms a border with private property. Once you pass the fence, an unofficial use trail makes it easier to navigate toward an overlook showing Coal Canyon Falls and Coal Canyon.
The walk to the overlook is about 1.75 miles one way. You have the option of hiking in an arc around Coal Canyon Falls for more photographic opportunities. A cut in the lava cap northwest of the falls can provide access with a scramble to the underbelly of the falls and the lava cap.
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