[Update October 2020: The portions of the Plumas National Forest affected by North Complex Fire, in which Curtain Falls is located, ARE CLOSED THROUGH MARCH 2023 to hiking, hunting, camping, and fishing due to ongoing recovery efforts]
About 45 minutes northeast of Oroville, along the Middle Fork of the Feather River, is Curtain Falls, made of granite smoothed, over the millenia, into a beautiful natural water slide. However, as beautiful as the destination is, the journey getting there is just as, if not more so, challenging, so this is recommended for confident, seasoned hikers only.
The trailhead starts easily enough, with views of granite boulders that mimic some of the best of the Yosemite scenery, but soon turns into 31 switchbacks down the mountain.
When you reach the bottom of the ravine, you’ll be rewarded with several pools—some calm, some rushing—carved out of the granite and filled with clear and sparkling green water, unique to the area due the combination of the water’s mineral content and granite.
Curtain Falls proper are about a quarter mile upstream from where the trail ends at the river, and you can see them from the trail’s end. Less confident swimmers should stay here and enjoy the cool waters of the river. Strong swimmers can continue on, working their way through the boulders along the riverbank until they reach the spot where they will have to swim across the river to finally make it to Curtain Falls. There, they’ll be rewarded with the natural water slide made of smooth granite and emerald-colored waters.
Enjoy the waters either way, then rest, refuel and rehydrate, and leave yourself plenty of time to make the return trip. You’ll return with a story to tell and remember forever.
- May and September are good times of the year for this hike, since it’s warm without being scorching
- The water will be COLD at any time of the year
- Pack twice the water you think you will need, then pack another three bottles. Having a Life Straw or iodine just in case wouldn’t hurt
- DO NOT go out in the heat, because the sun against all the exposed granite is merciless.
- Get started early in the day
- Tell someone where you’re going and when you’re expected back, then check back in when you get home.
- From Oroville, California, take Hwy. 162 towards Berry Creek.
- Turn right on Bald Rock Rd., and follow this to a signed dirt road for about nine miles to The Dome Trail (Road 21N51Y – this is actually on the signpost).
- Turn left about 2.7 miles down this road (also marked) and park at the trailhead.
*Credit to Gypsy Mamas for most of the information found in this piece