Upper Shingle Falls, California

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Upper Shingle Falls in March 2016

I’m going to paraphrase here, but as someone said, “Sometimes the journey is more interesting than the destination.” Now let me start by saying: I think Upper and Lower Falls are really beautiful, so they’re definitely interesting…but I’ll probably remember the journey 20 years from now more than the waterfalls.

The pair of Shingle Falls (also known as Beale Falls, Fairy Falls, or Dry Creek Falls) are out in an interesting location in California. They’re right near Beale Air Force Base, and yet you wouldn’t necessarily know as you’re hiking through the grazing lands. My first adventure was getting to the parking lot. I almost entered the AFB, which I’m not sure would have been an issue because the road was open…that’s what Google Maps told me to do, but it ends up that while their location for Shingle Falls is correct, it’s not the correct way to drive. One of the other books I had with me mentioned a road that I had just passed. Luckily, I backtracked to this gravel road. This ended up being the correct road. It’s a 4 mile drive down these gravel roads, but they’re pretty passable roads.

Then I get to the parking area. The trail for the hike is pretty well marked. I start my hike along the wide trail (which is clearly also a road). As I’m walking along, I see these cows on the other side of some fencing…while some cows may seem “slow”, these cows seemed very wary of me, and they were very aware of my passing. I kept hiking. About halfway through the hike, you take a right through a gate and into a pasture. Realize you are now walking among the cows! For a while, I didn’t see any cows. As I reached this junction where you can head three different ways, I was about to take what I had read was the “easier” route when I saw a good 30 cows in my way. As I said before, these breed of cows seemed a bit more aware of their surroundings…much fitter and more active. So I backtracked a bit and took the “Upper Falls” trail. It climbed uphill for a bit, but it was still a pretty easy journey. After about a mile, I reached the Upper Falls.

You can see the Upper Falls here. Of the two falls, this is the easier one to capture without having to maneuver to weird spots. Be careful, though! There’s fencing there because I believe someone didn’t use their best judgment and it didn’t end well.

Directions:

  1. There are a number of different ways to arrive at the falls, though they all lead in the same general direction.  I was on CA-70 and entered the town of Marysville. I then took a left onto CA-20 (which you could follow toward the same set of roads).
  2. I turned left onto Ramirez Street, which turned into Simpson St.
  3. I then turned left onto Hammonton Smartsville Road. This is the road to focus on, because you will likely end up on this at some point, no matter the path.
  4. I drove just about 15 miles to the intersection of Hammonton Smartsville Road and turned right onto Chuck Yeager Road.
  5. I then drove 4.5 mile south on Chuck Yeager Road to Waldo Road. Waldo Road is a dirt road to your left, and it was somewhat easy to miss.
  6. Turn left on Waldo Road, and drive for two miles.
  7. Then take a left on Spencerville Road. Drive another 2 miles to the “end” of Spencerville Road. You will end up at a bridge that you cannot drive over and a large parking area.
  8. From this parking area, start along your journey. Cross the bridge over Dry Creek, and take a right immediately after crossing the bridge. You are actually still on Spencerville Road, just hiking now.
  9. Walk about a mile or so, and you will see a white fence/guardrail to your right that you can open. Turn right along this path, and walk along what is the obviously beaten path.
  10. After a 0.2 miles or so, you’ll see signs for the Upper and Lower Falls, each branching off. You will also be able to continue along a wider path to the falls. (The cows were on the wide path.) As long as you follow the creek, it tends to be difficult to miss the falls.

Accessibility: 6/10 (moderate, depends on the path, whether there are cows, and the last few hundred feet are uphill for sure)
Height: 47′
Hike: ~5 miles round trip

Where in the World is Upper Shingle Falls?

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