Phantom Falls is an incredible 135 ft waterfall on North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve in Oroville, California. With a beautifully shaped valley, named Coal Canyon, surrounded by flowering green hills and sharp drop-offs, Phantom Falls is accompanied by numerous other tiny waterfalls from surrounding creeks, and a trek down to the center.
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Whether you want to hike all around the edges of the valley and explore each waterfall, or find your way through to the center and bottom of Phantom Falls, prepare for roughly a 9-mile hike out and back or round trip, depending on the numerous potential routes.
The waterfalls are at their peak after a rain, quickly disappearing as the land dries, lending to the name Phantom Falls.
- Trail length: 6 – 9 miles
- Elevation gain: 985 feet
- Best time to hike: Spring
- Dogs: Allowed on leash
- Cell reception: Little to none
- Waterfall GPS: 39.61041, -121.56063
- Cost: Land Pass Required.
While parking is free, make sure you have purchased a Land Pass in advance.
- Land Use Pass
- Mosquito repellant
- Offline maps or GPS
While the parking itself is free, you are required to purchase a land use pass PER PERSON to hike North Tabletop Mountain.
The passes are $4.89 for 1 day only or $27.26 for a year. The website may keep trying to show you commercial options – I struggled to get the regular cheap passes to show up and essentially had to just click Lands Pass and Purchase Licenses from the menu several times to get it to show up.
If you’re a hiking procrastinator like me and will wait to get it until you arrive, this hiking pass will not oblige.
Reception is going to be hard to attain at the parking lot, no matter what carrier you are using. There are some areas on the actual hike near the falls that have limited reception, but ideally you need to get a pass before you arrive. Highway 70 is the last dependable area for good reception to buy a pass from your phone.
First, you need to register yourself for a GO ID here: https://www.ca.wildlifelicense.com/internetsales/CustomerSearch/Begin
You will need to have your California driver license handy to register/login.
Select the location, North Table Top Mountain, input all your personal info, purchase the pass, and save the PDF on your phone and screenshot the QR code and purchase receipt.
This was one of the more annoyingly complicated passes I’ve had to purchase, and the website is frustrating on mobile. As you go through the process, you’ll realize why I included instructions on how to buy the thing.
You can also purchase passes by phone or at an office:
By phone: (800) 565-1458. Be sure to carry the temporary authorization number (TAN) provided to you by the sales associate.
The Phantom Falls parking lot is located off Cherokee Road, located here:
Parking lot GPS: 39.595923, -121.541736
Parking spaces are unmarked in a small dirt lot. Reports indicate the lot will fill by late morning. There are no restrooms.
The trail around the waterfalls share occupancy with cow pastures. This means you may often encounter cow trails which will very temptingly lead you astray. You will absolutely need GPS or offline maps downloaded to ensure you properly make your way to the Phantom Falls overlook.
Lower Phantom Falls
You might have stretched your neck over the ledge and wondered if there was a way down. Well, there is, and you can make it if you are sure-footed, have good upper body strength, and can lightly rappel down some steep inclines. This portion is not dog or kid friendly.
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