A Magnificent Mountain and Stunning Waterfalls: Mt. Shasta and Burney Falls

Mt. Shasta is one of the world's most beautiful mountains. Driving up I-5 through Northern California on a clear day presents this view.

Mt. Shasta is one of the world’s most beautiful mountains. Driving up I-5 through Northern California on a clear day presents this view.

California is jam-packed with world-class natural wonders. One immediately thinks of places like the Redwoods, Yosemite, and Death Valley. But there is ever so much more. Two gems in the northern part of the state are Mt. Shasta and Burney Falls. Our trip into Nevada three weeks ago took Peggy and me past both.

Mt. Shasta has been part of my world for decades. I first became aware of it as a child when my parents followed historic Highway 99 north from our home in the Sierra Nevada foothills to visit with my Dad’s parents in Ashland, Oregon. Over the years since, I’ve made dozens trips up and down Interstate 5. The beauty of the mountain has never ceased to awe me.

Mt. Shasta in Northern California.

Following different roads around the mountain presents different perspectives. This shot is from Highway 97, on the north side. You can clearly see that the mountain is made up of more than one volcano.

Mt. Shasta photo.

This photo is taken from a rest stop on I-5 west of Mt. Shasta

Picture of Mt. Shasta from Highway 89.

And finally, I took this picture south of the mountain on Highway 89.

The 14,162-foot volcanic peak dominates California’s more remote far north and, along with Mt. Lassen, serves as the southern anchor to the series of volcanoes that make up the Cascade Mountains of the Northwest.

In 1980, I was honored to climb Shasta with Orvis Agee, possibly the oldest man to ever climb the mountain. In 1974, the 71-year-old Orvis had persuaded me that he could handle a hundred mile backpack trip I was planning by informing me he had climbed Mt. Shasta three times the previous year. He made his last ascent up the mountain in 1988 at 85. It marked his 30th trip to the top. Two years later, in 1990, he did a 60-mile journey through the Granite Chief and Desolation Wildernesses west of Lake Tahoe with Peggy, me and other friends. He was still going strong at 87.

“Not bad for a guy who is just a bunch of bones held together by rubber bands,” Orvis told Jenny Coyle when she interviewed him for her book on Mt. Shasta.

Not surprisingly, Mt. Shasta plays a prominent role in the mythology of Native Americans who have lived in the area for thousands of years. On a somewhat stranger note, it is supposedly the home away from home of Lemurians who are said to live in a cave complex beneath the mountain and are occasionally seen walking on the surface. Lemuria was an Asian equivalent of Atlantis in that it too was considered a cradle of civilization that sank beneath the ocean. I don’t have a clue as to why the Lemurians chose to live on Shasta. And no, I haven’t seen any.

Located on California’s Highway 89, Burney Falls are even more remote than Mt. Shasta. Peggy and I had driven by the location several times but never stopped. If you are anywhere near, don’t make the same mistake. Our niece, Christina Dallen, had stopped by the falls after visiting with us and posted a photo on Facebook. It inspired us.

“Bully!” Theodore Roosevelt was said to utter when he saw the falls and declared them the eighth wonder of the world. They were declared a National Landmark in 1984. The following photos provide a glimpse as to why.

Burney Falls in Northern California. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Burney Falls are located at McArthur-Burney State Park. Note how the falls originate out of various layers of rock as well as flowing over the top.

Burney Falls photo.

Here, the falls roar over the top.

Ponderosa Pine tree and Burney Falls in Northern California.

A lone Ponderosa Pine grows between the two channels.

Water comes out from layers of rocks as well as over the top at Burney Falls.

The water shooting out from the rocks provides an almost etherial quality to the falls.

Burney Falls Northern California photo by Peggy Mekemson.

A close-up of the water emerging from the rocks. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Photo by Peggy Mekemson of Burney Falls in Northern California.

Peggy captured the braided quality of the falls on the right. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Water from Burney Falls crashes into the river.

A final shot catching the water crashing into the river.

NEXT BLOG: What if you could hire a different talented artist to paint each room of your house? The results would be fascinating. That is exactly what is happening at a hotel in Reno that takes its inspiration from Burning Man. I visit the hotel in my next blog.

39 comments on “A Magnificent Mountain and Stunning Waterfalls: Mt. Shasta and Burney Falls

    • Over the years, I’ve explored almost every corner of the state,Gerard, much of it on foot and by bike. It truly is incredible. This week I am backpacking in to one of its most remote corners. –Curt

  1. I still can’t believe this was our first visit to Burney Falls. It is magnificent, one of my top 10 waterfalls and so easy to get to. It is a reminder to take time to explore along the way…afterall we are retired, no hurry! Right?!! Peggy

    • Peggy hit something that I missed. Admittedly the falls are remote from a driving perspective, but once you arrive, there they are, easily accessible to everyone. –Curt

  2. Beautiful photos of a beautiful place. Thank you. We both had a chuckle. You haven’t seen Lemurians??!!! Better get on it Curt.
    Looking forward to the next post – that hotel sounds fabulous.

  3. These pictures are spectacular. The blueness of the sky behind the mountain is breathtaking. A view like that might almost entice ME to do “a hundred mile backpack trip.” Almost… 😉

  4. What a majestic looking mountain and awesome waterfall. We’ve been to California a few times but never North of Mendocino, now you’ve given us two reasons to plan another visit.

  5. As usual Curt, your photos are top notch. We’ve driven by Mt. Shasta a few times, but never had the wonderful, clear-day view shown in your photographs. Next trip to the left coast, we’ll have to get a bit closer – maybe get shot of a Lemurian. ~James

    • That Lemurian shot will be worth a lot, James. 🙂 Lemurians are even rarer that Bigfoot and UFOs.

      The mountain is often covered in clouds. Sometimes it seems to sail above them. –Curt

  6. First, a hat’s tip to Mr. Agee. He’s more than one up on my 88 year old cousin Masako. I hope he remains able to journey as he feels.

    Second, I had embarrassingly never heard of Burney Falls… nor that Mt. Shasta was one than one volcano. Thank you.

    And… I’m sure your photos of the falls did no justice to being there… and listening.

    • Orvis has passed on Koji but if there is a Heaven, I am sure he got in and is now climbing whatever mountains are there. (As an aside, his granddaughter commented on this blog. What fun.)

      I’ve always known about Shasta but my knowledge of Burney Falls was right up there with yours. 🙂 Both are spectacular. –Curt

  7. Orvis Agee is my Grandpa. He was such a sweet loving man. I sure miss his sense of wonder and funny remarks. Thank you for remembering him so well.

    • Martha, what a pleasure to meet you. Orvis is one of my all time favorite people.We backpacked together for 15 years. Sometime this summer I am going to blog about the first trip we ever did together. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. –Curt

  8. Beautiful photos and great post. I ran into a neighbor at the plant nursery a couple of days ago. She’s in her 90s. She’d taken a break from weedeating to come buy some tomato plants. She inspires me. But now that I’ve read about Mr. Agee, I’d have to say he inspires me even more. Thanks for sharing that.

    • Orvis inspires me as well, Bill. He always has but especially now I have reached Senior Citizen status, Peggy and I are heading out backpacking tomorrow as part of that inspiration. –Curt

  9. To show you how sheltered my life truly is, Kurt…I was floored while looking at your pictures. I had no idea, that California had these kind of mountains. For real! When I thought of California, I imagined a state much like the one I’m from originally. Florida. Sandy beaches, palm trees, hot weather and oranges.
    My dream is to one day have the money to move to Washington State the Olympic Peninsula. I fell in love with Washington and Oregon because of their mountains, oceans and emerald green forests. and I have to tell you, I’m pretty impressed with California now as well! What a treat to discover something new at 47 years old! Thank you for that Kurt! For sharing these beautiful pics and teaching an old dog a new trick!

    • It is indeed my pleasure. Peggy and I enjoy sharing what we discover as we wander and believe one of the purposes of our blog is to encourage folks to get out and explore the magnificent world we live in. Thanks. –Curt

  10. here is another fine “field trip” you and Peggy take us on.. this place is gorgeous.. I have never seen a big waterfall such as these and since I have a fear of heights, you could find me parked on the ground right next to them..
    So pretty!

  11. Your photos are wonderful. I didn’t know a thing about Burney Falls. How I could have missed those with all the reading and traveling I’ve done in the area, I haven’t a clue. I suspect it simply was a function of something you mentioned — the riches of the area are so vast, it’s easy to miss a sight here and there.

    Now I’m wondering… Especially on days after storms, when humidity was quite low, it was possible to see snow-covered peaks from the top of the Marin Hills in Berkeley. Shasta’s too far north, but now I’m wondering what they were. Lassen, maybe? The Sierras? I must have known at one time, but now I don’t know about that, either!

    Hope your trip’s going well, and that your weather’s as good as ours is!

    • Hi Linda. The mountains were likely the Sierras although the coastal range occasionally gets snow. Both Shasta and Lassen can be seen when driving up the northern part of the Central Valley on clear days.

      I was clueless on Burney falls as well… and I had lived in Northern California for most of my life. –Curt

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