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Beale Falls Hike

Updated: Mar 23

This morning, I asked if we were going anywhere today. The answer was, basically, "What hike did you find to go on?" I said, "None, yet," sheepishly, as I opened AllTrails and started seeking out lower elevation hikes without snow. I arrived at two contenders. The longer hike was our first choice, but it turned out that no more permits were available for today (a consequence of not planning farther ahead). The other choice was a shorter hike (less than 6 miles round trip), but there would be waterfalls and cows, so I was sold.

Truth be told, I'm not 100% certain what the name of the falls is. Based on what can be found online, it seems that any of these is accurate:

  • Beale Falls

  • Fairy Falls

  • Shingle Falls

So, I don't know. I'm just going to call it Beale Falls because 1) one of the signs on the trail called it "Beale Falls," 2) it's just east of the Beale Air Force Base, and 3) it's the name that shows up on Google Maps, so it must be true.

A bit of interesting history of the area from the CA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife we were going to today:

Following the discovery of gold in California great numbers of miners came to the streams of this area to glean gold from their beds. The destruction of streambeds and adjacent alluvial soils was offset somewhat by the ditches and other water developments which later benefited the ranchers and farmers who settled the area. Cattle grazing has been the primary use of the area since the days of the miners.
Near the beginning of World War II the area now known as Spenceville Wildlife Area was acquired by the government for military training. Many forms of training occurred here – infantry, tank, bombing, strafing, etc. The Department acquired a major portion of the wildlife area in 1962, and more in 1965. The property was designated as a wildlife area by the Fish and Game Commission in 1968.

My grandpa was a WWII veteran, POW, and Bronze Star recipient, so the area's tie to WWII was particularly interesting to me.

After making our decision, we got going as quickly as we could this morning and headed out towards I-80, exiting on Hwy 20, which is a beautiful, curvy route through the tall pines of the Sierra Foothills in Northern California. As we descended on Hwy 20, the snow along the sides of the road completely disappeared and the outside temperature climbed to nearly 70 degrees. It was going to be a perfect day for a hike. We drove along green pastures with grazing cattle and budding trees.

A couple of turns off the highway, a left at the Dollar General, then this awesome bridge.

We pass more green pastures, grazing cattle, and a shooting range in the Spenceville Wilderness Area, an 11,900-acre area. Getting deeper into rural, we turn onto Spenceville Road, which quickly turns to gravel.

When we reached the trailhead, the makeshift field parking lot was full, and cars had started parking along the road, so we made a loop through the lot and snugged off to the side of the road with the Jeep, grabbed our gear, and headed towards the trail, following a cute family-of-four that included two young boys under the age of six – both of whom were toting their wooden toy rifles. We watched them, amused, as big brother opted to climb over the gate rather than walk around it, and little brother followed suit. Just beyond the gate was this bridge over the creek and a handmade directional sign on the chainlink fence leading us the way of the falls.

The "trail" was mostly a wide gravel road, but some sections were more like narrow cattle paths. It was lined with budding blue oak trees, gray pines, and very green grass.

Oh, and there were plenty of cows.

This hike very much reminded me of our legendary Table Mountain hike to Phantom Falls during peak wildflower season in April 2019. The green, the creeks, the cows, the dodging cowpies on the trail.

A couple of miles in, we reached a fork that was literally a "choose your own adventure" from that point forward.

Out of pure luck, we chose the uphill route to the upper falls, and I think that was the right decision because the upper falls were bigger and more impressive, and we could easily trek back down to the lower falls from there as we made our way back to the trailhead.

I was expecting to see more wildflowers along the trail, but there really weren't that many – perhaps, it was a bit too early in the season. The closer we got to the actual falls, however, we started to see a few orange poppies and some other purple flowers that I wasn't familiar with.

We could hear the rushing falls before we could see them, and I thought they sounded promising. We started at the very top of the upper falls first, which is a 100-foot drop to a large pool at the bottom.

Then we walked down a little farther between the rough, craggy rocks to get a different view of the upper falls.

We continued descending across the rocky crags down to the second falls.

From there, we continued down to the lower falls, which was a somewhat popular spot for families with young children to come and take a dip.

After we'd explored the falls enough, we rejoined the main trail and started making the trek back to the trailhead.

Because when we arrived the parking lot was full of cars, I was a little disappointed at the thought that the trail and the falls might be crowded. While we did see a number of people in both directions and on various spots on the trail throughout the day, nothing about the hike felt crowded or annoying, so I was very thankful for that.

(Except this one guy. We'll call him "Scuba Steve." He was solo hiking just ahead of us and, I swear, he was wearing a wetsuit. He wasn't annoying. But it made me laugh.)

After we reached the parking lot, we discussed where we were going to eat "lunch," and we headed out. On our way, we stopped at a roadside stand (a folding table, really) and bought a jar of fresh local honey to take home with us.

Such a beautiful day for a waterfall hike. Even though this was a short hike for us, it was quite enjoyable.

Beale Falls

Total Distance

5.34 mi

Total Time


Total Ascent

587 ft

Max Elevation

659 ft


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4 Kommentare

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25. März

A little different than most of your hikes but every bit as beautiful!

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Brianna Sheck
Brianna Sheck
25. März
Antwort an

We never know what we're going to get on some of these lower elevation hikes. 🤣

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Mit 5 von 5 Sternen bewertet.

Wish I was there to go with you! Looked like a perfect hike.

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Brianna Sheck
Brianna Sheck
19. März
Antwort an

Next time, Pam!!

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Hi, thanks for dropping by!

I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures and checking out the photos I take along the way!

If you like what you see, please click the heart at the end of the post or leave me a comment!


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