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Phantom Falls in California

This waterfall is as hard to find as its name suggests

Phantom Falls
Phantom Falls

The beautiful Phantom Falls, also called Coal Canyon Falls, is located near Oroville, California, and belongs to the North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve. This 164-ft (50-m) waterfall runs off the edge of Coal Canyon. It has a pool of water at the bottom. California newt subspecies and the Coastal Range newt are endemic to this site. Phantom Falls runs only from late autumn to early spring. It totally disappears during the dry period.

Phantom Falls is also hard to find since there is no marked trail leading to it. Hikers usually start at Cherokee Road parking lot to the waterfall not far from Coal Canyon. From there a 2-mi (3.2-km) rocky downhill hike leads the bottom of the falls. Another option is to hike from the bottom of Coal Canyon but the terrain there is more complicated. The cave behind the falls hides the shaft of a gold mine, dating back to the California Gold Rush.

Even though the best time to see the falls runs from November through April, a period between February and April can be marked as perfect. Seeing wildflowers in bloom all around North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve is a pleasant bonus to the general beauty of the site.

Practical info

When is the best time to visit Phantom Falls?

To see Phantom Falls in its full glory, the ideal time is from November to April when it is fully operational. The waterfall disappears during dry spells. A bonus of visiting from February to April is the array of colorful wildflowers around the ecological reserve. Show more

Where is Phantom Falls located and how can I get there?

Situated near Oroville, California, Phantom Falls is accessible from the North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve. To get there, visitors can start at the Cherokee Road parking lot and hike the rocky downward trail that spans 2 miles to get to the base of the falls. Alternatively, visitors can start hiking from the bottom of Coal Canyon, though it presents a more difficult terrain. Show more

What is the height of Phantom Falls?

Standing at a height of 164 feet (50m), Phantom Falls cascades off the edge of Coal Canyon and forms a pool of water at its base. The water comes from Coal Canyon Creek and is only seen running from late autumn to early spring. Show more

Is there a marked trail to Phantom Falls?

A trail leading directly to Phantom Falls does not exist, making it somewhat difficult to locate. Hikers can choose to trek from the Cherokee Road parking lot or take the hike from the base of Coal Canyon, which requires a more complicated terrain. The Cherokee Road parking lot trail is more popular and less complicated. Show more

What is the significance of the cave behind the falls?

Incorporated in the cave behind Phantom Falls is the hidden shaft of a gold mine dating back to the California Gold Rush. The mine's shaft, a remnant of the area's rich history, and the surrounding cave present a unique photo opportunity. Tourists can access the sunken mine shaft with caution. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin