One of my ASU college chums, Bryan, stopped in for a visit a couple weeks ago, since he was in town visiting family and mentioned the Waterfall Challenge. There are four waterfall hikes in the challenge. Hike to each waterfall, where you obtain official rubbings of verification, then take your passport to the visitor’s center and receive a PRIZE!! I can talk Brendon into almost any adventure with the lure of a prize at the end. Ended up the prize was not to John’s liking and he turned into a rotten banana at the visitor’s center when we were all done (calling me “Fart-cee” for several hours in retaliation), but none the less it was a great first adventure hiking in California for our little family and took place over the course of three weekends.
**Heads up: this is going to be a long post, but you can skim for photos if you get tired of reading**
Given the ages of our tribe, we started with the shortest hike and worked our way to the most difficult, longest hike. Turned out to be very advantageous, as we had to make modifications along the way to make it pleasurable for all and minimize John’s grumpy moods. Where Brendon is built for distance, John is all about sprints and doesn’t understand why these long adventures are fun, yet.
Crystal Creek Falls – 2/3 mile round trip.
Slope to the hidden falls (Center). Hidden Falls on Right.
Super flat and easy. ANYONE can do this hike. It’s actually paved the whole 1/3 of a mile. There is a bonus waterfall over a semi-challenging path of boulders and slippery dirt, directly behind Crystal Creek Falls. It was definitely worth the effort and that part both boys really enjoyed.
We (Me and Brendon, let’s be clear here) were on such a high from this hike that we decided to do the second one the same day. I would not recommend this tactic for novice hikers, aged 4. Although, I would love to do the challenge myself next year and do all four hikes in one day….
Boulder Creek Falls – 2 miles round trip.
The hike itself is overall pretty easy and very well marked. Unfortunately, three-quarters of the way in and John had had enough of hiking. It was not good. I ended up piggy backing him the rest of the way until the very end where it got a bit slippery. The most notable part about the hike were the mass numbers of little flies. We couldn’t even enjoy the falls much. Pretty much arrived, did the rubbing and ran. Vance ended up packing John most of the way out.
The 2 mile round trip is from the 4×4 access road, which certainly earns its 4×4 status despite seeing a Honda Civic at the top. There is a longer hike from a different direction to the same falls in case you don’t have a 4 wheel drive vehicle.
Brandy Creek Falls – 3 miles round trip.
John refusing to get his photo in the pack. It was really hard to get a photo of this waterfall from all the tree coverage. But it made a wonderful place for a picnic next to the falls.
The most populated of all the hikes. We saw so many people the morning we did this hike; a large group of adults and children mixed, some runners, random groups and a couple dogs. Probably our favorite of the four hikes. There were no flies, the trail seemed cooler and more interesting, not to mention several pools for swimming as you neared the falls.
This time we upped our game and brought the Ergo. John is probably near the upper weight limit, but I didn’t care and it made it so much easier. In fact, John has never liked being in the Ergo much so the minute he started complaining (quarter mile in), I tossed him in there and you know what, he didn’t have to go in it again the rest of the hike. Surprise, surprise. We also followed some friendly hiking with children advice from Curtis and brought jelly beans for return trip bribes. Worked like a charm!
Notice John is not so happy in this photo at the finish. That’s because he fell just feet away from the completion of the hike. Something that happened at least once per hike, excluding the first paved one.
The only downfall of this hike was the road getting to the hike. I hear you CAN hike all the way from the lake, although, I certainly wouldn’t. The road getting to the trail head is windy, dusty and single lane at some points. It’s possibly the only reason we’d consider not doing this hike again.
Whiskeytown Falls – 3.4 miles round trip.
Easy access and not too busy if you go early. We saw quite a few people as we were headed back down. Also, by about 10, it was getting hot on the trail. When we set out around 8:30am it was absolutely perfect hiking weather.
This hike is noted as moderate to difficult. There are a couple challenging super steep sections, but for us the most stressful part was the cliff like side of the trail. We were constantly on our toes watching the boys; made it a bit more stressful than any of the other hikes. This hike had several benches along the way, picnic tables near the last half, where we had our snackbreak after visiting the falls and lots of handrails near the end.
The steep section of the trail (Left) A close up look at John’s manpri’s (Right). This boy is in need of pants in the next size up….time for Fall shopping.
The mileage is a bit off. I think it’s only 3 miles; likely because you can no longer hike to the top of the falls; only the bottom portion. Still very impressive and worth the hike.
And for all the hiking and rubbing, you get a…..bandana! In your choice of yellow or gold. No seriously, these two almost identical colors are the color choices. Ha! How do they even ask with such a straight face? None the less, it’s a useful prize and FREE (they were running low since the program has been ongoing since April). I was a bit miffed that they put “walked” the falls on the bandana. I personally would’ve rather it said “hiked”, but whatever. Wonder if they’ll do it again next year and what will be the prize??!!