Burstarse Falls is a great destination on the PCT.
I was torn about which hike on the PCT to feature today. Naturally it had to be somewhere in the Castle Crags, but there are a few good choices. Considering that I have 5 days to feature trails before the Trail Town kick off and the first was dedicated to the section along the McCloud, I thought it was important to focus the next selection on the Castle Crags. There are a few good choices for this section but in the end, I selected the trip to Burstarse Falls.
The hike to the falls is a fantastic but relatively easy hike to a great waterfall. It also features some great views of the granite towers of the Castle Crags, which can be frustratingly hard to come by, consider their epic size and how much trail crosses them. The real delight of the hike, however, is Burstarse Creek. Naturally the falls is the culmination of this, but the creek itself is a highlight reel. Upon arriving at the creek, it tumbles down an attractive 10 foot waterfall before flowing across the trail and then pouring into a narrow granite gorge. Following the use trail upstream, hikers are presented with a chance to walk to the bottom of Lower Burstarse Falls, which is a pretty 25 foot plunge. Above this, the creek races through a series of granite chutes. These are very reminiscent of creeks in the Sierra Nevada. Burstarse Falls itself lies a little further up the creek. It shoot off a tall granite cliff before hammering the rocks below, where it explodes into numerous small cataracts. These recombine and continue the creek’s journey down to Castle Creek. It is a wonderful spectacle.
The hike to Burstarse Falls is along the PCT’s long, gradual climb across the southern flank of the massive Crags. After leaving the McCloud River, the trail surmounts a small divide, and then drops down to Squaw Valley Creek. From there it makes a long ascent of Girard Ridge before descending along Falls Creek down to the Sacramento River. It crosses the river and immediately begins climbing up, out the canyon, gaining elevation along the southern flanks of the Castle Crags. These enormous spires are the most rugged terrain encountered by the PCT since the Bucks Lake Wilderness in the Sierra Nevada.
I was really tempted to focus this installment of the PCT Spotlight on the Soapstone Trail. This hike features a short section on the PCT and boasts one of the most spectacular views in the whole area. I ultimately chose the classic Burstarse Falls hike, but I would strong encourage everyone to explore the Soapstone Trail and check out the spectacular view of Mount Shasta and the Castle Crags!
This is quite a panorama, but these images are taken from the same spot. Click to enlarge: