King’s Creek Falls is the largest waterfall in Lassen Volcanic National Park, gracefully cascading 43 feet over volcanic rock. The reward is high relative to the effort; the 1.5-mile trail leading to the falls is moderately difficult and stunningly scenic.
From Highway 89, follow signs for King’s Creek Falls, not to be confused with King’s Creek Picnic Area. The trailhead is next to a large white bridge with enough room to park on either side.
My friend and I start along the trail on a summer evening after work. We take the Horse Trail, as the popular Cascades Trail is currently closed to due unsafe conditions. It will reopen once needed trail maintenance can be completed.
The trail meanders through meadows and patches of red fir and white pine. We cross gingerly over several wet spots where the rushing water helps sustain lime-green grasses. Our descent of approximately 700 feet begins in earnest about a half mile into the trek as we skip down loose rock, walking lightly like the deer we glimpsed along the road earlier. As the trail opens, the view stretches to volcanic ridges marking the horizon.
I keep my eyes peeled for a mother bear and her two cubs that frequent areas near the trail. Lassen is home to an estimated 50 or 60 black bears. This time, I am not lucky enough to spot one.
As the sun lowers, the light glints golden and auburn on the hemlock trees. I am fooled by the first waterfall we come across, thinking it isn’t as large as the pictures I had seen. When we arrive at King’s Creek Falls, there is no mistaking its laughing cascades and steep drop-offs. The setting sun reflects off of the waterfall, casting a final golden glow before kowtowing to the stars.
To get a closer look at the waterfall, I take a short walk on slippery, wet rock, with only a thin metal wire separating me from a misstep and dire injury or death. The rushing water reminds me of Nature’s power and beauty, so clearly woven throughout the landscape at Lassen Volcanic National Park.
There is power in a single flower on a windowsill, a single blade of grass jutting through concrete cracks. It may not be as obvious as a 70-foot waterfall, but is present nonetheless, if only you take the time to look, both in your backyard and in America’s preserved public spaces.
We find our way back to the car with the aid of headlamps, shutting them off and pausing periodically to admire the clear pinpoints of light puncturing the night’s black canvas.