Mossbrae: The Forbidden Waterfall

Cascading Moss

By NewmanImages

Mossbrae Falls is so close and yet so far away. Only 85 miles south of Ashland in Dunsmuir, California, it’s like a little slice of Hawaii in the shadow of Mt. Shasta. Sue and I were lucky enough to visit Mossbrae in October 2010. Little did we know that the only trail to the falls would be closed a few months later. And it still is. We were hoping to announce its grand reopening in summer 2013, but a spokesperson for the City of Dunsmuir informed us that it will be at least two more years before a new trail from nearby Hedge Creek Falls is open.

So why is Mossbrae closed? Because the one-mile trail along the busy Union Pacific Railroad is much too dangerous to hike. In some spots, if a freight train thunders by, your only escape is to jump into the Sacramento River below. You can be ticketed for hiking the tracks and for parking at the trailhead.

Autumn on the Rocks

But this waterfall is too beautiful not to share! We visited in early fall, just when the leaves were beginning to turn. We expected Mossbrae to be like most of our region’s falls in the fall: down to a trickle. But when we emerged from underneath the canopy, it felt like we had walked through a portal into the tropics. Dozens of gentle cascades poured through the thick mosses of the northern bank of the river. We kept finding new ones, some as high as 50 feet!

Why so lush? Unlike 99 percent of the waterfalls in our region, Mossbrae is neither river nor stream, but the outlet of a massive underground aquifer that flows out of a cliff for more than 150 feet along the Sacramento River. And the flow is year-round, keeping the flora nice and saturated.

See-through Train

Luckily, we didn’t meet up with a train on the hike to the falls, but one did pass by while we were down at the river. It required a  fast run up the hill to grab a few long-exposure-train-whizzing-by-shots.

The image below shows the view downriver. That crystal clear spring water is just beginning its 400-mile journey southward, where it will eventually join the Pacific Ocean after flowing underneath San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. We plan on going back to Mossbrae as soon as it reopens. In the mean time, we’ll just have to settle for the dozens of other beautiful waterfalls in southern Oregon and northern California.

Down the Sacramento

About NewmanImages: We are Jay and Sue Newman, two seasoned weekend wanderers who know where to find beauty in any direction from Ashland. You can find prints and greeting cards of Mossbrae Falls in our booth at the Ashland Artisan Emporium in the Ashland Shopping Center on Highway 66. (Walk in, take a right, go to the 2nd row from the end, we’re the first booth on the right.)

Like us on Facebook. Prints available at SmugMug.


The forbidden trail to Mossbrae (taken before it was forbidden)
Keeled Shield-back Katydid

Flowing Softly

A glimpse of the falls from the trestle


Don’t Look Down

A Slice of Paradise





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