Brandy Creek Falls
This gravelly former logging road is completely shaded and well-maintained for 1.5 miles. It is, however, fairly steep, and casual walkers may find it strenuous. Plan on taking the climbs a little slower than your normal pace and don't torture yourself trying to push a jogging stroller up these inclines. Among the assets of this trail are several small, easy-access streams for dogs to cool off in, with excellent bridges. There is almost no poison oak but ticks are common in spring.
At the falls, cool, spring-fed water flows all year. The stream may be swift until about May but for most of the summer, levels are hardly more than knee-deep. The rocks are extremely slippery even when not wet, and I lose a dog or two off a falls every time I visit. Fortunately the pools below the falls are deep and sandy-bottomed with no rocks and the dogs seem not to mind slipping in. People may not fare as well taking the plunge so use extreme caution whenever crossing rocks.
Wading and scenery are very pleasant at the first few little falls in the series but not extraordinary. If you found the trail exhausting, you may even be a bit disappointed. Don't judge too soon! As you continue up the creek gulch, a larger cascade with a prime swimming hole comes into view. At this point the trail becomes somewhat doubtful. It is not always clear whether a scratch on the hillside was made by animals or humans, or if those humans later had to be airlifted with a broken leg (remember: the granite rocks are polished to a slick, glass-like finish, even some distance from the creek bed). If you manage to scale the middle falls, however, you will come into view of the upper falls, a true curtain-fall with impressive spring flows. Any vestige of a trail peters out at this point. There is a small goat track up to the top of the upper falls but it is not, IMO, worth getting dirt in your shoes and twigs down your shirt.
There is an optional loop on Rich Gulch trail, which is a bit steep at first but then level for several miles. It descends to the road you came in on, about a mile lower than than the parking lot.
Both of these trails have light pedestrian and bike traffic throughout the year and occasionally horses. Deer and squirrel are common, with bears and cougars sometimes seen. Leashes are required in developed areas of Whiskeytown.
DIRECTIONS TO BRANDY CREEK FALLS:
From Redding, take Highway 299 west towards Whiskeytown. Turn left at the Whiskeytown visitor center (stop to buy a parking permit here, $5 daily/$25 year). At the bottom of the hill, the road takes a sharp right turn and crosses the dam. Continue for several miles on this windy road. On the left, just past the turn-off for Brandy Creek Beach, is a road clearly marked "Sheep Camp" and "Brandy Creek Falls Trail". The pavement will end shortly after you turn on this road, and depending on the time of year, road conditions vary. Most 2-wheel-drive cars will have no problem with the road, even at its worst. Proceed on this road for about 3.5 miles until it ends at a trailhead with a restroom (no running water). The Brandy Creek Falls trail is clearly marked going UP the hill. Don't confuse it with "Brandy Creek Trail", which goes in the opposite direction, downstream, all the way back to where you turned off the paved road.