Waterfall Way to Spend the Day

Hike McCloud River Falls

Three waterfalls, two swimming holes, and a beautiful hike to boot: That's some H2-Oh! And September's a good time to visit McCloud River falls for a 3.8-mile (round-trip) hike. Located north of Redding, this adventure begins at a trailhead 10 minutes west of the tiny town of McCloud, near Mount Shasta. The first cascade, Lower Falls, is fifty feet from the parking lot at the picnic area. On a hot day you'll find people cooling themselves in the water, or breaking out fly-fishing rods upriver. Continue along a paved path that meanders from the riverbank, through the woods and back, where you'll come upon Fowlers Campground, a beautiful site within earshot of the river (and including first-come, first-served sites for $15 per night). From here, a dirt trail pulls you briefly away from the river and through evergreen woods and boulder fields before leading to Middle Falls, a broad waterfall pouring into a deep swimming hole before continuing downstream. Flat, sunbaked rocks are perfect for sunbathing after a dip. Continue up the switchbacks to climb above Middle Falls and hike most of the trail's 300 vertical feet. At the top, a viewing platform provides a new angle on Middle Falls. The trail levels out from here, following the river with a guardrail between you and the steep rock riverbank. At Upper Falls, look down into the deep blue pool, then look upstream at the river feeding this beauty, and admire the rocky moonscape eroded into the riverbed.

Take I-5 north toward Weed/Portland. Take exit 736 to merge onto CA-89 south toward McCloud. Turn right on Fowler Public Camp Rd. Continue straight through the first intersection you pass (about a half mile down from CA-89), then turn right at the fork in the road to continue on Fowlers Public Camp Road (the left fork will lead you to Fowlers Campground). Continue 0.7 mile and park at the Lower Falls picnic area. (There is no official trailhead for this hike, but the beginning of the trail can be easily found from the parking lot; just walk toward the sound of a waterfall). Dog-friendly! __Researched, photographed, and written by Alexander de Marneffe Becker.

Trending Stories NorCal

View all Stories
  1. Up Umunhum

    Rising from the Santa Cruz Mountains, Mount Umunhum is one of the Bay Area’s highest points, reaching an impressive 3,486 feet. With the new 7.4-mile (round-trip) addition to the Bay Area Ridge Trail, locals can finally step up to its peak.

    View
  2. Napa's Wild Side

    It’s wine country’s Amazon. Cutting 50 miles through the famous Napa Valley and emptying into San Pablo Bay, the gentle Napa River is an ecological—and recreational—delight. And Napa Valley Paddle helps you enjoy it.

    View
  3. Strolling With Sam

    Most people come to Samuel P. Taylor State Park for the beautiful creekside campground and picnic areas. But the hiking here can be pleasantly peaceful on a short trail featuring old-growth redwood trees.

    View
  4. Sponsored

    Four Ways to Fall for North Lake Tahoe

    As vivid autumn colors start to line the sky and crowds begin to dwindle, North Lake Tahoe’s breathtaking secret season takes over and is a favorite among locals. With turning leaves, crisp air, and 12 towns to explore, North Lake Tahoe is the place to disconnect.

    View

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Apple of Your Eye

    That fall feeling is definitely in the air and on display at the Oak Glen Preserve. Apple orchards and colorful leaves are a bonus, as are the apple cider donuts and slushies you can enjoy post-hike.

    View
  2. Secluded Royale

    Panoramic coastal views and a killer leg workout combine on this 2.7-mile (round-trip) out-and-back hike to secluded Coast Royale Beach in Orange County

    View
  3. Rock Star Hike

    The sandstone giants of Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park might be the coolest damn formations in SoCal. Explore the craggy slabs on a 2.5-mile hike.

    View
  4. Clarity in Claremont

    The majority of Claremont Hills Wilderness Park is inaccessible, rugged terrain but there’s a 4.9-mile moderate loop that’s well-maintained and feels gloriously far away, despite being close to the city.

    View