|Trailhead location||5 mi east of McCloud|
|Length||3.8 miles (round trip)|
|Elevation gain / max||300′ / 3,600′|
|Difficulty||Easy – Moderate|
|When to go||Year-round|
The McCloud River Trail passes three beautiful waterfalls as it winds through a canyon of basalt lava rock. This smooth, well maintained trail offers summer swimming, fall foliage, and an early spring thaw, making it fun and accessible almost year-round.
Although all three waterfalls along this section of the McCloud River have their own parking lot and can be easily accessed directly, it is well worth it to start at Lower Falls, then hike the River Trail upstream to the other falls.
From the Lower Falls parking lot, take the paved path by the kiosk. You will almost immediately arrive at the Lower Falls, where a stone staircase leads to the water’s edge. (Swimmers, please note: new submerged boulders have made popular jumping spots at this this location extremely dangerous. The River is constantly changing; always exercise caution and good judgement, and do NOT assume the water is deep enough to dive.)
From Lower Falls, continue upstream through the canyon, past Fowler Campground, approx 0.7 miles to Middle Falls (swimming is popular here as well). The trail has been relatively flat so far, but will climb a series of moderate switch backs from the base of Middle Falls up to an overlook above. The trail flattens and continues along the canyon rim to Upper Falls overlook. There is no sanctioned trail to the base of Upper Falls. For those interested, the trail continues another 13 miles further upstream, and because most hikers turn around at Upper Falls, you will find this section of river very uncrowded.
Geology: The McCloud River Canyon beautifully displays the eruptive history of nearby Mt Shasta as it carves its way through multiple layers of basalt lava rock and volcanic mud flows. Of particular interest are the many outcrops of columnar basalt, which has a unique geometric shape. These textures form as lava flows cool and contract, creating regularly spaced vertical fractures.
Controlling Agency: McCloud Ranger Station, Shasta-Trinity National Forest, P.O. Box 1620, McCloud, CA 96057; (530) 964-2184. Visit the office at 2019 Forest Road on the north side of Highway 89 on the east side of McCloud. Call in winter for road conditions.
Directions to Trailhead
From Mt Shasta City:
- Follow Highway 89 east for 15 miles from the I-5/89 junction (5 miles east beyond the town of McCloud).
- Turn south on Road 40N44. (Look for a Fowlers Camp/McCloud Falls sign.)
- Go right at .6 mile (a left here takes you to overlooks of Middle Falls and Upper Falls)
- Continue another .7 mile past the campground and park at the picnic area at the Lower Falls.
- Follow your ears toward Lower Falls and the beginning of the trail.
Not the trail you were looking for? Check out our guides for other great trails nearby.