Kings Creek rises from Lassen Peak’s south shoulder, spills through wooded glens and lush meadows, and rushes headlong over a rock outcropping to create Kings Creek Falls, one of the national park’s most popular sights.

The hike to Kings Creek Falls via Kings Creek Trail is 2.4 miles round trip with 300-foot elevation gain; to Sifford Lakes is 5.25 miles round trip with 500-foot elevation gain

Twin cascades (split by rock) drop 50 feet or so into a rocky canyon. Both the attractiveness of the falls, as well as its close proximity (one mile) to the main park road, contribute to the popularity of this jaunt.

A picture-perfect hiker's path along Kings Creek in Lassen Volcanic National Park
A picture-perfect hiker’s path along Kings Creek in Lassen Volcanic National Park

Kings Creek Falls is certainly a worthy destination; however, the best part of this hike may be the journey itself. The path descends past corn lily-dotted Lower Meadow (as opposed to Upper Meadow on the north side of Highway 89) and through woodsy areas cloaked in lodgepole pine, fir and hemlock.

Along with serving up lots of scenery, the trail itself is notable for a long series of stair-steps hewn from the granite banks of Kings Creek. The trail very closely parallels the creek.

Extend this walk—or escape the flocks of falls-bound visitors—by looping to Sifford Lakes. Swimming opportunities reward your efforts.

Directions: From the park’s Southwest Entrance Station, travel 12 miles north on Highway 89 (a couple miles past the Lassen Peak trailhead) to the signed parking area for Kings Creek. The path departs from the right (south) side of the highway.

The hike: Begin a 0.25-mile saunter among towering fir and pine to the fringes of Lower Meadow. Past the meadow is a trail fork; left is the falls, right the return leg of the Sifford Lakes Trail.

At full glory, Kings Creek Falls in Lassen National Park is an impressive sight. (courtesy NPS)
At full glory, Kings Creek Falls in Lassen National Park is an impressive sight. (courtesy NPS)

Continue to the falls (ignoring the “Horse Trail” that also leads to Kings Creek Falls) and begin a careful descent on a granite staircase. Step along past numerous cascades—referred to as The Cascades—on the ledge-like creek bank.

Just one hundred yards shy of the falls, look for the Sifford Lakes Trail branching right. Continue to Kings Creek Falls and the fenced overlook. After admiring the falls, those opting for a longer hike will return to the Sifford Lakes Trail and cross Kings Creek on a log footbridge. Bid adieu to Kings Creek, which flows out of the park and through Warner Valley before joining the North Fork of the Feather River.

Begin a steep, but short 0.1-mile climb to the top of a minor ridge. The path levels as it continues along the base of a volcanic outcropping, punctuated by a couple of caves near its top.

About 0.6 mile of travel from the Kings Creek crossing brings you to small and shallow Bench Lake, and another 0.4-mile to a trail junction. Fork right and walk 0.25-mile to the left-forking connector trail leading to Sifford Lakes.

It’s a short half-mile to the first Sifford Lake, fine for swimming but not as pleasant as the second Sifford Lake, located 0.75 mile farther up the faint path. A couple more Sifford lakes are short cross-country walks from the second lake.

Retrace your steps back to the first Sifford Lake. South of this lake is a vista point offering a look down at the steaming landscape of Devil’s Kitchen. Return to the junction with the main trail and descend northwest a mellow mile to return to Kings Creek where it bubbles through Lower Meadow. You’ll then follow the Kings Creek Falls Trail 0.4-mile back to the trailhead.