What a payoff for a short hike along an active railroad bed!
Cindy and I did this hike without the kids in the early spring of 2014. Technically, we were trespassing along the railroad line as this pseudo-trail was closed a couple of years ago after a hiker was struck by a train. As such, we felt like this particular hike would be without the kids – at least the first time. The old trailhead is closed, and marked with no parking signs. Since it is in the middle of a neighborhood, we didn’t feel like it was a good place to park. Instead, we parked about a mile further down the tracks and doubled the length of the hike. Call it four miles round-trip.
Here’s the challenge: the tracks are active, and trains run in BOTH directions. Additionally, the sound of the Sacramento River is a constant companion and can mask the sound of an approaching train until it is close to your location. There are also several spots along the hike where it is necessary to walk near or even on the tracks. These spots aren’t particularly long, and most of the hike can be done at a safe distance away from the rails. That said, when you’re on the tracks, you’re on the tracks. You wouldn’t want to be in these spots with a train coming along.
We saw three trains during our hike up and back from the falls – none of which surprised us (you can hear them coming if you’re alert and paying attention) and all three engineers gave us friendly waves once they could see we weren’t near / approaching the train. If you decide to go, take responsibility for your safety and be alert and aware at all times.
Now you may ask why did we even risk this hike given the chance for a trespassing ticket or a close encounter with a moving diesel engine. The answer is simple: Mossbrae Falls.
A great swimming hole in a spectacular setting.
Perhaps the best way to describe Mossbrae Falls is as “Burney Falls – Lite”. The Falls are spectacular and a huge payoff after the 2-mile hike along an uneven rail bed. The area around the Falls is well away from the tracks and a perfect location to spend a long summer day. There is ample room around the base of the falls to setup your “camp” for the day, and you’ll probably get about 2 hours of direct sunlight at midday when the sun is straight overhead. Otherwise, expect to be in the shade.
There is some talk about linking the Hedge Creek Falls trail to Mossbrae Falls, which would be a boon for the City of Dunsmuir. Hopefully this can be accomplished – reopening the falls to the general public and taking the railroad out of the access equation. For now, we felt the hike was worth the risks involved, but we’d have to think twice about bringing the kids – at least until a new access route is opened up.
Again – hike this trail at your own risk and remain alert at all times. For more information about the hike, be sure to visit the Hike Mt. Shasta site and their post about the area waterfalls.