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.
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