Stunning waterfalls, volcanic rock, and peaceful forest make for a picturesque scene on the McCloud River Falls Trail near Mount Shasta.
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Length: 3.6 Miles Round Trip (Lower Falls To Upper Falls)
Trailhead(s): McCloud River Lower Falls Day Use & Parking Area
Elevation Gain: 350’
Trail Type: Out & Back
Dogs: Allowed On Leash
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Permit Required? No
Considerations: Mulit-User Trail
Season: May – Mid November (Best)
The McCloud River Falls Trail near Mount Shasta is a picture perfect river hike featuring three strikingly pretty waterfalls.
McCloud River Falls Trail
Volcanic rock riverbanks and peaceful forest enhance the incredible beauty of the river and waterfalls along the McCloud River Falls Trail. Accessible by road, each waterfall has a parking area. It is then only a short walk to an overlook (each overlook is ADA compliant) to behold these breathtaking waterfalls. Because we believe the river and its waterfalls are best appreciated by hiking, however, we highly recommend taking them in via a stroll along the trail from the Lower Falls to the Upper Falls.
The Lower Falls overlook is located beyond the picnic tables in the McCloud River Lower Falls Day Use Area. Stairs to the left of the overlook lead down to the rock lined riverbank where the water falls into a gorgeous crystal clear aqua blue/green pool. As waterfalls go this one is short (only about a 15′ drop), but the entirety of the scene is marvelous. Many wander the rocks here, picnic, swim, and fish. It’s a popular spot.
The trail which leads upstream from the rocks is mostly flat as it follows the McCloud River upstream from the Lower Falls to the Middle Falls. Never far from the trail, views of the McCloud River come and go as trees and vegetation allow before finally parting to reveal the Middle Falls.
Simply stunning, the Middle Falls is a gorgeous 100 foot wide, 50 foot veil of water. As was the case at the Lower Falls, the clear aqua/blue green colors in the pool below the waterfall are delightful. Combined with the rocks, greenery, and logs in and around the river, the cascading water and colorful pool are mesmerizing and incredibly photogenic.
The lack of elevation change on the McCloud River Falls Trail comes to an abrupt end at the Middle Falls. Leaving the waterfall, the trail ascends rapidly via switchback and stairs up to the parking area and overlook. Once up, take a breather and enjoy the view from up above. The perspective on the run to the falls and the drop of the water over the falls is very different up top than it is at river level. When ready to leave this amazing spectacle, continue following the trail upstream.
Upper Falls & Beyond
Unlike the Lower and Middle Falls, there is no trail leading down to the Upper Falls. Because the terrain down to the river here is steep and difficult, descending is definitely NOT recommended. Instead, safely view the Upper Falls from the viewing platform 90 feet above the falls. Overlooking the river and the fall below, the observation point is a safe and fantastic place to witness the immense power of the water as it forcefully gushes out through the rock into the pool below.
The Upper Falls is the last waterfall on the trail, and most hikers turn around here. Since we had plenty of day left and wanted to see more of this splendid river, we continued hiking upriver to the Lakin Dam. The trail remains mostly flat as it follows the McCloud River. At the dam we found another observation deck for our viewing pleasure, along with some welcome restrooms. After checking out the dam and having a snack we turned around. The great thing about this out and back is that we got to see each of the waterfalls once more as we hiked back to the Lower Falls.
Scroll down to learn about the GEAR WE USE and OTHER OUTVENTURES in this area.
Additional Information (Click below to follow links.)
McCloud River Falls Trail Slideshow
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Gear We Use for Day Hiking
To see descriptions of the gear Chris & Mac use for day hiking, as well as links to manufacturers and retailers offering the gear for sale, please CLICK HERE.
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