Morning on Whitney Creek.
The easiest of Mount Shasta’s four high waterfalls to reach is Whitney Falls. It is the only one of the four that has a dedicated trail to a vista overlooking the falling water. The hike there is a beautiful jaunt on the mountain’s north side, boasting some good views of Mount Shasta and some intriguing exposure to a creek that is still actively carving out its route. Unfortunately, the shifting creekbed and some lack of have maintenance has given the trail a few troubles. To make matters worse, Whitney Creek itself can be a bit fickle and can have unpredictable flow. This is because the creek is generally fed by the melting of the Bolam and Whitney Glaciers during warmer summer weather rather than spring snowmelt and rain. It is not uncommon to cross over the creek and find it dry or to hike up the trail and find the falls missing. Not only is the source of the water somewhat difficult to predict but the sandy volcanic landscape is thirsty and can often absorb the water sooner than one would like. All of this adds up to making timing essential in order to observe Whitney Falls.
For those interested in hiking up to Whitney Falls, the time to go is now. The creek currently has a lot of water in it. This was observed at sunrise, which means that the volume will only increase as the day warms up. The warmer temperatures will melt the glacier faster and the volume will correspondingly go up. Afternoon is the best time to go, since the melting will be thoroughly underway. Making conditions even better, the afternoon and evening light is the best time to see the falls.
If you are heading out that way, be prepared for some challenging creek crossings. One, right at the trailhead, is difficult due to loose scree along the creek. Further up, flooding has washing out the creekbank, leaving a challenging crossing. The original route of the trail is still extant but is getting overgrown. We need to organize a group to hike out there with some lopers and clear it up. Not only is that route safer and more convenient but it also has the best views of Mount Shasta from the trail. Considering that this is the only trail on the north side of the mountain, this ought to be a big selling point.
Whatever the condition of the trail, the view of Whitney Falls is worth the effort. Now is a good time to make the journey.