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McCloud Falls is a fun place for the whole family and is only 30 minutes east of the town of Mount Shasta. It’s a great daily getaway location for locals, and it’s not too far off the main drag if you’re driving through. McCloud Falls is a short 4 mile hike along the stunning McCloud River. It includes three different waterfalls and there is a campground if you plan to stay for more than a day. If you’re driving south on the I-5, you have to make the stop at McCloud Falls and enjoy the scenery.
Time Required: 2 Hours
Location: 25 miles east of Mount Shasta
Distance: 4 miles return trip (can be hiked or driven)
Highest Elevation: 300 feet
Season: May to October are ideal, but McCloud Falls can be visited year-round
Additional Requirements: N/A
From Mt Shasta: Head south on Mt. Shasta Blvd, take a left on CA-89 (Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway) and follow that highway for 15.5 miles. Take a right off that highway onto Fowler’s Public Camp Rd. You will see a sign saying “Fowler/Lower Falls” on the highway. Follow it for about a mile down to the Lower Falls parking lot. There will be signs directing you to the Upper and Middle Falls if you want to drive to them from Lower Falls.
WHAT TO BRING
- Comfortable Footwear: Always nice to have comfortable footwear.
- Water: In the summer months this area can be very warm. It is important to stay hydrated.
- Snacks: Bring some of your favorite snacks to enjoy along the hike as well as a light lunch for when you arrive at the falls. Some of our favorite snacks are trail mix, bananas, beef jerky and licorice.
- Weather appropriate clothing: If it’s a hot day, bring a swim suit. If you like cliff jumping, bring some water shoes to break the surface tension of the water. The Middle Falls is a great location for cliff jumping and usually quite popular in the summer.
- Beer: Beer and a lawn chair. It isn’t uncommon to see people unfold a lawn chair and crack a cold one on the rocks at the Lower Falls. It’s a great place to relax and spend time with friends and family.
- Sunscreen: If it is sunny and you’re like Mattson, who easily burns, bring sunscreen!
- Insect Repellent: Insect repellent can greatly improve your hiking experience.
- Bear Spray: You are in bear country. Always hike with bear spray that is easily accessible.
- Camping Gear: If you plan on camping, bring a tent, sleeping bag, cooking gear etc.
- Camera: There are numerous photo opportunities you won’t want to miss.
- This Guide: Print a copy of this guide to reference throughout the hike
Wildlife: You will be hiking in bear country. It is always advisable to check in at the local Visitor Information Center to learn of any trail closures due to wildlife. Carry bear spray in an easily accessible location. Travel in groups of multiple hikers and make lots of noise to avoid an unexpected encounter.
Camping Permits: Fowlers Campground has a ton of very well kept campsites with lots of activities and amenities in the area. Here is a link if you’d like to book a spot.
Leave No Trace: It is important that we enjoy the outdoors responsibly and sustainably. Some key principles to consider when hiking to “Leave No Trace” are:
- Plan ahead and prepare: Proper planning allows adventurers to hike safely while minimizing damage to the land.
- Travel on durable surfaces: Stick to the trail when possible. If there is no trail, or you must travel off trail, stay on durable surfaces to reduce your impact.
- Dispose of waste properly: Pack it in, pack it out.
- Leave what you find: Leave rocks, plants, archaeological artifacts and other objects of interest as you find them.
- Respect wildlife: Observe wildlife from a distance. Never feed wild animals.
- Be considerate of other visitors: Be courteous to others to allow everyone to enjoy their outdoor experience.
To learn more about “Leave No Trace” visit http://www.leavenotrace.ca
Summary: McCloud falls is a very straightforward hike easy enough for anyone to enjoy. Our guide outlines the hike starting from Lower Falls, and continuing to both Middle and Upper Falls. Alternatively, there are roads with parking lots at each falls, so another option is to drive to each of the falls separately.
This hike is very easy, straightforward and can be done by almost all skill level of hiker. Starting at the Lower Falls (Route marker #1 on the map), follow the paved trail up along the river. You will pass the Fowler’s Campground Area and the paved trail will end and turn into a dirt trail. The distance between the Lower and Middle Falls is roughly one mile. Depending on your adventurousness/skill level, you could also rock hop your way along the river from the Lower Falls to the Middle Falls.
In our opinion, the Middle Falls (Route marker #2 on the map) is the most exciting of the three. At about 50 feet high and twice that in width, Middle Falls is the biggest by far. This is a great location for a swim on a hot day, or to go cliff jumping if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush. Always make sure to check the depth of the water before cliff jumping! In the winter months it is too cold to swim but the falls are still very worth checking out. Middle Falls can be viewed from the lookout point up top, or you can make your way down a steep trail to view the falls closer up. Both areas provide spectacular vantage points.
Upper Falls can be reached by following the railing from the lookout point at Middle Falls. Along the way you will hike through some trees and be treated to views of the McCloud River Canyon below. As you hike, look back towards the Northwest and you may be able to catch a glimpse of Mount Shasta poking through the trees. After about 10-15 minutes, you will come to the Upper Falls pouring out of a narrow gorge into a pool below (Route marker #3 on the map). The pool is surrounded by immense rock walls on either side. The Upper Falls and river gorge can also be viewed from above as you continue following the trail.
This is a very straightforward hike easy enough for anyone to enjoy. There is also the option to drive to and from each of the falls, and there are wheelchair accessible paths from each parking lot to the waterfall lookout points. In the summer months the falls can be busy and it can be difficult to find parking. This makes making the hike between the falls the more attractive option.
Whichever way you choose to experience McCloud Falls, we hope you enjoy it, and we hope this guide helps you along the way!
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU
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Have fun out there!