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Mills Creek Falls and Crumbaugh Lake

Lassen Volcanic National Park

July 15th, 2013

7.4 miles
1630 vertical feet
Total Time: 5:35

Starting elevation
6728 feet
Max elevation
7317 feet

Rating: 7/10

Directions: From Red Bluff, take Highway 36 east to Highway 89. Turn left onto Highway 89 and enter Lassen Volcanic National Park (there is an entrance fee). Immediately after entering the park, turn right into the large parking lot at the Southwest campground and visitor's center. The trail starts at the far end of the lot near the visitor's center.   View Driving Map

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GPX File

There was a lot going on at the parking lot, with a big youth group and some sort of ceremony (perhaps a wedding) getting prepped. But we walked a few feet down to the Mills Creek Falls trailhead, then disappeared into the forest.

The trail heads downhill for about 0.3 miles, then crosses a bridge over a stream. From here there are hillsides full of mule's ear plants, a pretty sight with mountains in the background to the left. The trail climbs briefly before heading downhill again, re-entering the forest in the process.

Ascending hills full of Mule's ears

Hills full of Mule's ears

After about 0.9 miles the trail starts climbing again. We started seeing groups of hikers, most of them headed in the opposite direction from the falls. The trail mostly climbs for the next 0.6 miles, then descends again, traversing a hillside high above Mills Creek. After about 1.8 miles from the trailhead, we reached the overlook of Mills Creek Falls -- at 75 feet, the tallest falls in the park.

Mills Creek Falls

Mills Creek Falls

The falls are not your typical falls. There's one flow of water coming in from the left, another coming in from slightly above to the right, and then it all falls together from a ledge about 30 feet below.

Mills Creek Falls

After a snack break, we left the overlook, which sits about 180 feet lower than the trailhead. Now our task was to climb. We continued along the trail, crossing the creeks over two footbridges. Then came a killer climb. The climb is only about 500 feet, but whoever made the trail doesn't believe in switchbacks, making the climb in half a mile -- about a 20% grade through the forest.

Above Mills Creek Falls

After trudging up the steep climb, we reached the edge of a beautiful meadow. The trail skirts the northern edge of the meadow. After a brief respite from the climbing, the trail climbs some more, though not nearly as steeply as before. We gained about 250 feet in 0.8 miles from the top of the steep climb, then descended slightly for about a half mile to Crumbaugh Lake.



Crumbaugh Lake provides a much more dramatic setting than Sifford Lake. It's a much larger lake, and has mountains rising to the northwest. Meadows surround much of the lake. In fact, that's the one problem with the lake -- the entire shoreline is surrounded by grasses. There is no accessible shore like at Sifford Lake. There are no skipping rocks. So, while it's nice to look at it, it can't be enjoyed up close and personal as easily as Sifford Lake.

Crumbaugh Lake

Crumbaugh Lake
(Click image to view full size)

Crumbaugh Lake

We found a large rock to sit on for a lunch break. The sun played hide and seek behind the clouds, but eventually emerged for most of the afternoon. After lunch, we started the return journey back the way we came. We encountered one hiker heading up before we reached the meadow -- the only hiker we saw past the falls. I should point out that Crumbaugh Lake can also be reached via an easier hike from the Kings Creek picnic area (coming from the opposite direction). You'll miss the pretty meadow, though, unless you go past the lake, as well as Mills Creek Falls, of course.

Crumbaugh Lake

Crumbaugh Lake


We continued past the meadow, then down the steep descent to the falls, where there were lots of people milling about. From there, it was up and down back to the trailhead.

The steep descent above Mills Creek Falls

Back to the Mule's ears

Back to trip report.

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