UPDATE: Sadly, as of 2020, I heard this trail was destroyed due to the North Complex Fire. I have not hiked it since. I hope they can repair this trail because this is one of my favorite hikes in California.
Address: 39.61375,-121.26631 (Print a map because your GPS will go out) Parking: Free parking lot at trailhead Hours: None posted Type: Hike (10.5 miles, moderate)/ camping Regulations: Dogs allowed on-leash Best time to visit: Late winter; spring-summer is very busy Don't miss: The view from the top of the falls; the ladybugs
Description: Feather falls is probably the most incredible thing I've seen in my life. I highly recommend this hike to you and your dog if you are both in good shape! I went in January and it was drizzling, but we had the place to ourselves. The trail to the falls has a lot of downhill and is very scenic, with highly forested areas, and also more open areas that overlook the mountains and Bald Rock. The trails are surrounded by moss covered trees and beautiful red manzanitas. You will snake through the forest, along mini water falls, and ultimately to the huge 400 foot waterfall. The hike back has a significant uphill climb, since you hiked down into the valley to view the falls.
There is a large parking lot with pit toilets at the trail head. The map is deceiving but there's only one trail from the parking lot and after about 1/2 mi in it splits off to the Upper/Lower trails. Take the Upper route to the falls and the Lower route back, so you'll have the least overall uphill climbing. Both routes have bridges and landmarks that are worth seeing. The Upper Trail even has a mini waterfall at Frey creek. It's difficult to get lost if you stay on the trail, but there is one unmarked split right before the climb to the falls. When you're almost at the end, just keep going uphill where it splits off, and it will lead you to the falls. The trail to the left is the Lower which will take you back.
Feather Falls was surprisingly in full force when I went in January. I hear this place gets packed in the summer, but we went on a Friday and we had the whole place to ourselves. There also aren't many bugs out in January, so it was a great time to hike. Take the trail to the deck and you will have amazing views from directly across from the waterfall. The hike to the top edge of the falls is worth it too, but be careful. It is nearly impossible to get to the metal "cage" on the edge. Standing on top of one of the safer boulders and looking down is pretty incredible though. The trail to the top of the falls splits off to the left to the "cage" and if you continue to the right there are some great pools to explore and your dog can swim in them. The hike back on the lower trail goes down for quite a while and then climbs up a bit along the creek. During winter you may notice ladybugs congregating on the trail near the Frey Creek Bridge. The ladybugs come here every year during winter, just like they do at some parks in the bay area.
The whole trip was 10.5 miles and took almost 5 hours (with lunch and photo breaks).
Notes on camping: There are 6 (free) first-come first-serve campsites surrounding the parking lot. They have fire pits and picnic tables. There are bear-proof trash bins at the trail head, and two pit toilets. On my recent visit (January), there were motion-sensor lights in the restrooms, but only one light was working. There are also a few water spouts spread throughout the campsites (some working, some not), with only non-potable water. Make sure you bring water or a good filter. The campsites are pretty remote, several miles from the nearest house and there is no cellphone reception at the campsites. For your safety, I'd recommend camping with a large group or making sure other campers are nearby. In winter, there usually aren't many campers. If you're not comfortable camping here, checkout my post on the dog-friendly Motel 6 which is nearby, only about $50/night, and I've stayed there twice with positive experiences.