Phantom of the Falls: A Great Winter Spectacle

A flowing phantom haunts Table Mountain near Oroville. It disappears during the summer, and remains well hidden in remote Coal Canyon the rest of the year. The lucky few that stumble upon it boast of its sinister beauty. A narrow cascade reaching 134 feet to the bottom of Coal Canyon, Phantom Falls seems most drawn to the wet, gloomy months of winter (only fitting right?). When dark clouds clear for a few days and wildflower displays are at their height February-April, Phantom Falls is one of the best spectacles in the North State during the winter.

Unfortunately, getting to Phantom Falls is about as hard as finding an actual phantom. No established trail leads to the landmark, which sometimes necessitates the use of a GPS or compass to find it (Lat/Long: 39.61041, -121.56063). Hikers also need to proceed with caution through the area to avoid trespassing or trampling over wildflowers.

Photo: Flickr/Lisa Ouellette

The Hike

Begin from the “trailhead” (again there’s no trail) at the unmarked parking lot adjacent to a green cattle gate off Cherokee Road (directions below). To ensure legal passage, head northwest to a drainage that sits due south of the falls. At this point, you’ll ascend a steep gorge. Try your best to avoid poison oak. After close to two miles of walking, you’ll reach a cliff that overlooks Coal Canyon and Phantom Falls. There, you can marvel at the splendor of your surroundings. Bring a camera.

Now is the perfect time to visit Phantom Falls as recent heavy rainfall means it’s at high flow. Get out there, and get a great introduction to the Table Mountain Area, which possesses many more stunning rainy season waterfalls and wildflower displays.

Here are some of the views in store for you once you reach the waterfall:

Directions: From Oroville on Hwy 70, take exit 48 (Grand Ave.). Follow Grand Ave. east for 1.0 miles to Table Mountain Blvd. Turn left for 0.2 miles, then right on Cherokee Rd. Drive 6.3 miles on Cherokee Rd. to the unmarked parking area on the left (at a green cattle gate).

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