McCloud River Falls Trail - Hiking

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Perfect for hikers of all calibers, McCloud River Falls Trail offers three waterfalls and panoramic views. In the summer, you can cool off like the Goonies—we're talking a water slide and large, inviting swimming holes.

Written by

Shawn Lehman


3.8 miles

The out and back distance is 3.8 miles and the total elevation gain is 300 feet.

Destination Distance From Downtown

52.7 miles


2 of 5 diamonds

The majority of the hike is fairly easy. The 5-minute walk from the Lower Falls parking area to the falls themselves is paved and ADA accessible. There is a steep section with stairs on the way to the Middle Falls overlook. On the way to the Upper Falls, there is a 20-foot section that is level, but about two feet in width with a drop off on one side.

Time To Complete

2 hours

If all you are doing is hiking and taking a few pictures here and there, two hours is plenty of time to complete the hike. However, if you want to get up close and personal with the water falls for better photos and maybe do a little swimming, you will want to allow yourself more time to get the full experience.


Spring, Summer, and Fall

The winter in McCloud gets into the low 20's, so completing this hike is more fun during the warmer seasons.

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Due to the increase in elevation and narrow sections of the trail, it is recommended that you keep your furry friend safe and keep them on a leash.



Located in the small town of McCloud, California, just south of Mt. Shasta, McCloud River Trail offers three waterfalls, a natural waterslide and panoramic views. With an elevation gain of 300 feet, this 3.8 mile trail is perfect for hikers of all calibers. For those unable to complete the hike, there are three overlooks that offer a view of each waterfall. A parking area, picnic tables, and restrooms are available at each overlook. After enjoying your hike, you can learn more about the town’s history at the Heritage Junction Museum and explore the charming shops in McCloud’s historic downtown.

What Makes It Great

Most begin this hike at the Lower Falls Trailhead located in Fowlers Campground. Just a short walk from the parking area, Lower Falls features a clear swimming hole with a Goonies-like natural waterslide. You can relax on the large boulders perfect for sunbathing and picnicking.

Meandering along the McCloud River, the level hike from Lower Falls to Middle Falls is about 20 minutes. At 50 feet high and 100 feet wide, Middle Falls is the most impressive of the three falls. There are a few boulders you have to scramble across to access the base. For those courageous enough to brave the chilly water, there is a large crystal clear swimming hole. For those who aren’t, there are plenty of spots to sit and enjoy the scenery.

The trail from Middle Falls to Upper Falls features a staircase and a few switchbacks leading to the Middle Falls overlook. From the top, you can enjoy the panoramic views of the forest as well as the falls below. In about 20 minutes, you will arrive at the Upper Falls featuring several gated viewing points. A short walk north of Upper Falls is a quiet stream featuring interesting formations where the water has eroded the rock.

Who is Going to Love It

Because of multiple access points, the small elevation gain, and the well-maintained trail, this hike is doable for almost everyone. If you don’t want to do the hike but want to see the falls, there is a parking lot just a short walk from each of the overlooks.

Although not necessary to view the waterfalls, accessing the base of the Middle and Upper Falls could be challenging for those who require assistance.

On the trail to the Upper Falls, there is a 20-foot section that is only about 2-3 feet wide with a drop off on the righthand side. Be extra mindful if you are bringing little ones or your furry family members.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From I-5, take exit 736 to merge onto CA-89 S/Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway toward McCloud. From McCloud, drive 5 miles and turn right at Fowler’s Campground. From here, you will see signs providing directions for each of the falls.

Written by Shawn Lehman for RootsRated.

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McCloud River Trail (Upper, Middle, and Lower Falls)

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