Day Trips – November 2022

Although Autumn is here and the temperatures are cooler, there is no reason not to enjoy the great outdoors. And what better way to enjoy Fall than by visiting… waterfalls.

Kings Canyon Waterfall – Carson City, NV

When most people think of Carson City, they might think of the Nevada Day Parade, or the historic 19th century buildings. Certainly there is a lot to see and explore in the capital city. But did you know there is a lush, exotic waterfall just a few minutes away?

Kings Canyon has been a lot of things to a lot of people over the years. Since the 1850’s it has served as a branch of the California Trail, providing a route for prospectors to make their way to the gold rush. It was also the scenic route for the Lincoln Highway in the early 20th century. To this day it is a popular spot for OHV, 4-wheel-drives and mountain bikers to explore. For those on foot however, there is a lot more to see.

The Kings Canyon Trail System offers a number of hiking paths in this area. The most popular, and the easiest, is to the waterfalls. At a quarter-mile in length, this trail provides a quick get-away suitable for children. As a bonus, the view of Carson City is spectacular.

As the trail winds its way up hill, you’ll soon encounter a grove of aspen trees. It is among these trees where you will find the waterfalls. At 25 feet in height, these falls are very beautiful. Not only do the falls provide a scenic hike, they are an important source of drinking water for the city below.

There are actually two waterfalls. The other is further up stream and is accessible via another trail. There are a number of trails and loops accessible from the trailhead. The longest trail, to Ash Canyon is nearly 7.5 miles long. Some allow dogs, mountain bikes and even horses.

Whether you’re looking for a quick hike or a longer adventure, the Kings Canyon Trails are waiting for you to visit.

For more information, visit:

Phanton Falls

Phantom Falls – Oroville, CA

Visitors to Butte County in Northern California are often struck by the sheer, surreal beauty of the mesas which dominate the western edge of the foothills. One popular spot to explore this unique landscape is the 3300 acre North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve. For those willing to take a hike, Phantom Falls is a big attraction.

As the name implies, Phantom Falls can be an elusive sight to see. It’s only active after it has been raining. With a bit of planning, and a moderate hike, you will be rewarded with a spectacular view as a ribbon of water cascades 166 feet down a sheer rock face to the canyon below.

To truly appreciate the scenic beauty of the area, it’s helpful to understand the geology which formed this region. Nearly 16 million years ago, a volcanic fissure opened up in the mountains near present-day Janesville, some 70 miles to the northeast. From this opening, a river of lava flowed westward into the valley below. When the lava cooled it formed a thick layer of basalt. This particular stratum of rock is now know as the Lovejoy Formation.

A lone oak at Sunset

Basalt is a dense, erosion resistant material. However, over millions of years the action of the Sacramento and Feather Rivers have eroded this basalt deposit across the Sacramento Valley. Table Mountain, and the nearby ridges are what remains of this ancient lava flow.

The soil on top of Table Mountain is thin and rocky and doesn’t support a large amount of plant life. A few California Oak trees have taken root and provide a stark contrast to the wide open, barren terrain. This large sunny expanse is ideal for several varieties of wildflowers. In early Spring, the abundance of wildflowers is a large attraction, drawing visitors from across the region.

Because of the thin soil and the basalt layer below, the ground doesn’t retain much moisture. This is why the falls are only active following a rain storm. Actually, there are 17 waterfalls in the area, of which, Phantom Falls is the largest and most spectacular.

The hike to Phantom Falls is fairly easy. The main obstacle is the large amount of loose rocks on the surface. Extra time and attention is needed to avoid ankle sprains. And because the falls are mostly active following rain, a visit to the waterfalls will involve crossing some damp and muddy terrain.

For a more challenging hike, it is possible to visit the bottom of the falls. For those making that journey, a visit to the grotto is a rewarding experience.

When the lava flowed over this area 16 million years ago, it covered the existing landscape. While the thick basalt is erosion resistant, the land it covered isn’t. As a result, the action of the waterfalls has eroded the soft earth below, resulting in cave formations, known as grottos. In this area, the lava flowed over ancient riverbeds. This being gold-country, those ancient riverbeds contained an abundance of loose placer gold. In the nearby town of Cherokee, miners took advantage of this fact and used hydraulic mining to access this precious metal. They also tunneled into this softer dirt in their explorations. Some of these shafts can still be found in the waterfall grottos.

Table Mountain Ecological Preserve is managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. A $5 land-pass is required to explore the preserve. However, if you have a current hunting or fishing license, the fee is waived.

South Table Mountain from the air

Although Fall is upon us and the weather is getting cozy, there is no reason you can’t get out and enjoy outdoors. At Table Mountain, the rainy season is the ideal time to get out and explore.

For more information, visit:

Table Mountain Ecological Preserve in the Spring

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