Fairy Falls, New Zealand

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Fairy Falls in May 2011

It ends up that there are two Fairy Falls in New Zealand: Fairy Falls on the North Island outside of Auckland, and a Fairy Falls on the South Island in Milford Sound. This is about the South Island version of Fairy Falls.

Milford Sound is one of my favorite places on the planet. There’s a stunning beauty to the location. And for a waterfall lover, there are no lack of waterfalls in the sound. Bridal Veil Falls is right next to Fairy Falls, and then you can find Bowen FallsStirling FallsPalisade Falls, and other Milford Sound Waterfalls in the sound itself. The best way to view all of the falls is to take a cruise (or kayak if that sounds exciting). I took a cruise later in the day, and it was perfect. In addition to waterfalls, I saw a significant amount of marine wildlife, including seals and dolphins/porpoises. It was definitely a wonderful visit, and I’m ready to go back again!

Directions:

  1. From Te Anau, head north on NZ-94 to its very end at Milford Sound. (From mid-May to October, you may want to check to make sure that the road is open to Milford Sound…It can close randomly, or snow chains may also be required.)
  2. At Milford Sound, park, head to the cruise area and board your cruise.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 100′
Length of Hike: not applicable

Where in the World is Fairy Falls?

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Lower Shingle Falls, California

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Lower Shingle Falls in March 2016

I was trying to find this waterfall in my photo database, and was having a bit of a difficult time, and then I remembered…this is the waterfall with many names. Shingle Falls is also known as Beale Falls, Dry Falls, and Fairy Falls. But don’t let that one slightly confusing aspect stop you from visiting the falls.

I visited the falls just over one year ago in March 2016. I decided to split these out as two separate falls, the Lower Shingle Falls described here and the Upper Shingle Falls described previously. (Information about the drive and trail are found there, so check that out.) While both falls are close to each other, you can’t see both falls at the same time, and they have different enough personalities that they should be distinct. The upper falls do require just a bit more effort to get to, depending on the path you take.

At this time in March 2016, the rains had started. Both Upper and Lower Shingle Falls were impressive. The ground was slippery enough that it made the hike to the falls (and between the falls) rather muddy and slippery. I had hurt my knee the day before, and going downhill between to get from the Upper to Lower Falls was somewhat painful. Add some crazy cows to the mix, and it was definitely a memorable hike in a beautiful area.

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, though less so for the Lower Falls)
Height: 29′
Hike: ~5 miles round trip

Where in the World is Lower Shingle Falls?

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?

Milford Sound Waterfalls, New Zealand

One of the waterfalls in Milford Sound (May 2011)

Up until this point, I haven’t listed these waterfalls on any list, and I’m not sure why. When you visit Milford Sound, which you should do sometime in your life, you should take a 2 hour cruise through the sound. You’ll see wildlife, stunning views, and a significant number of waterfalls. Many of them show up only after it rains, while others are more consistent. You can check out the ones that have been clearly named, such as Bowen, Bridal Veil, Fairy, Palisade, and Stirling Falls. And yet, there are a number of other waterfalls that seem to last longer that haven’t been named, or if they have been named, there names haven’t been advertised very well.

So I’ve decided to include them, since they are in such a beautiful place, and are equally as scenic as some of the named falls. There’s not a whole lot of description required. I’m a really bad judge of height, but each of these is in the hundreds of feet tall! If you take the cruise, you’ll see eight or nine falls during sunny periods, and I’ve heard it increases even more so while raining. It’s a reason to take a cruise while raining!

Directions:

  1. From Te Anau, head north on NZ-94 to its very end at Milford Sound.  (From mid-May to October, you may want to check to make sure that the road is open to Milford Sound…It can close randomly, or snow chains may also be required.)
  2. At Milford Sound, park, head to the cruise area and board your cruise.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: ~100-200′
Length of Hike: not applicable

Another ephemeral waterfall

Another one!

Where in the World are the Waterfalls of Milford Sound?

Fairy Falls, New Zealand

Fairy Falls in May 2011

If you head west out of Auckland, you will at some point likely enter the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park.  It is definitely worth your time to visit that area, as it is stunningly beautiful.  If you continue heading west, you can end up at Piha Beach, which I would visit again in a heartbeat.

In the park, in a slightly different direction from Piha Beach, you can find Fairy Falls.  Well, you can find the parking area to Fairy Falls.  There is a hike for this one, and I can’t seem to remember whether it was a particularly long hike…  It doesn’t seem like it was that long.  I remember it taking something like 20-30 minutes (maybe 40 at most)  to get to the falls, and that was stopping along the way to take photographs at many of the cascades above the “main” falls.  The scenery is amazingly beautiful, and the elevation doesn’t change outrageously for most of the hike, so it’s very enjoyable.

As you proceed further along the hike, stairs appear and lead you further downstream toward the main falls.  To get to the base of the falls, you will have to climb a number of stairs.  It is well worth it, though.

Directions:

  1. Head west from Auckland toward Waitakere Ranges Park.  I believe I started on Hillsborough Road, which passes through suburban Auckland.
  2. At numerous points, the name of the road changes, but just remember to keep heading west.
  3. In Titirangi, you will choose to head slightly southwest onto Scenic Drive Road.  (I believe there are signs indicating Waitakere Ranges Regional Park.)
  4. Continue along Scenic Drive Road for a significant distance.  It’s a winding, curvy journey.  Pass the Arataki Visitor’s Centre and continue on.
  5. The parking area was on the left along Scenic Drive Road (if I remember correctly).  Across the road was the start of the trail.

Accessibility: 5/10 (moderate)
Height: 49′
Length of Hike: 2.0 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Fairy Falls?

Fairy Falls, Oregon

Fairy Falls in May 2010

One of the main attractions along the Columbia River Gorge is Wahkeena Falls. The 242′ falls is really stunning. What is not widely as advertised is Fairy Falls, which is upstream from Wahkeena Falls. Now let’s think about this…You start at the main road, the Historic Columbia River Highway. There’s a steady hike uphill to get to the most photogenic portion of Wahkeena Falls. If you continue along this trail, you’ll at some point find yourself at Fairy Falls. But this requires more steady hiking uphill. In just over a mile, you will have hiked up almost 500′ of elevation, so your legs are little to feel a little burn!

But it’s well worth it! The hike is not so impossibly difficult, and the falls are wildly photogenic. Most of the waterfalls in Oregon are surrounded by GREEN, and this waterfall is no exception. The ferns really do create an almost fairy-like setting.

Directions:

  1. From I-84, get onto the Historic Columbia River Highway.
  2. Look for the Wahkeena Falls parking lot as you’re driving along the highway. It will be to the west of the Multnomah Falls parking area.
  3. Start hiking up the paved trail to the viewpoint of Wahkeena Falls.
  4. You’ll cross the bridge over Wahkeena Creek, and continue along this path to Fairy Falls. It may seem like a long distance while you’re hiking uphill, but the way back down is easier!

Accessibility: 3/10 (moderate/strenuous)
Height: 20′
Length of Hike: 1.6 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Fairy Falls?