This is a very popular and easy hike in Lassen, so be prepared for crowds! We did this hike during the Covid pandemic shortly after the national parks opened again and there were still a lot of people on this trail. It’s worth it though for the beauty of the water falls! You’ll follow a mountain creek as it drops over a 50 ft basalt cliff, with several long whitewater cascade over more of the same dark, volcanic rocks along the trail.
You’ll be given a map when you enter Lassen National Park which will give you the location of the trail head. Lassen is a fairly small national park with just one main road (Rt 89) going through the entire park. Kings Creek Falls trailhead is towards the middle of this road, about 1 hour for either entrance.
There’s a small parking lot available at the trailhead and also lots of space for parking along the side of the road.
What to expect along the trail
You’ll start by hiking downwards through the trees alongside Kings Creek (hence where the falls got their name) to Lower Meadow. This meadow is pretty large and we saw a deer grazing as we walked by.
You’ll then come to a junction with Bench Lake loop (a long 5mi trail that loops around the area) where you go left to continue on towards the falls, breaking away from the creek. The trail is pretty flat, wide, and easy with no obstructions. There’s a great view out over a lower area of the park as you walk along the hillside between the trees. You’ll pass “the exit route” which is a trail clearly marked as for exiting hikers only from the falls (and for good reason, more about that later).
Shortly, the path starts to descend through a series of stone-lined steep switch backs along the side of the mountain quickly going down around 200ft. After the switch backs the path continues back towards the river, crossing a log walk way.
Here you’ll intersect with another part of the trail (the exit route) and take a left. Now you’re following along the creek again where you’ll see several smaller waterfalls with white rapids cascading over volcanic rock before reaching Kings Creek Falls.
The falls are a little further ahead and a wooden viewing platform has been built out above the 700ft waterfall. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any trail to get down to the bottom of the falls in order to get a view looking up at them.
On you’re return, go back up the same way you came. You’ll reach a junction point where you can go right (back the way you came and up the switchbacks) or straight (up the exit route). Going straight, you’ll soon be walking up several flights of stone stairs that have been carved into the mountain side on the right of a large cascading river/waterfall. This is very much a “mini Mist Trail” if you’ve every been to Yosemite.
The elevation of this trail is over 7,000ft, so climbing these steps is going to be a little more difficult than expected. This is a faster, steeper, and more direct route to get back up to the main trail than the switchbacks that you took to get down. The reason it’s marked as “exit only” from the main trail is because these steps are fairly narrow and it would be difficult and dangerous if there were lots of people going both directions.
The climb is really pretty as you have the cascading rapids directly next to you for the whole trek. I hesitate to call this a waterfall since this water isn’t falling off the side of a cliff – it’s more running down the side of the mountain which is a sloped incline of volcanic rock.
Once you’re back up to the shade of the trees and the main trail, it’s a straight shot back to the meadow and them up to the road and parking area.