Hiking the McCloud Waterfalls Trail


The McCloud waterfalls trail is a beautiful hike that takes you through a 3-tiered set of waterfalls on a fairly easy path along the McCloud river. Found in upstate CA about an hour outside of Redding, this area is a perfect place to escape, relax and explore. Being from upstate NY myself, I had no clue there was an "upstate CA", and just like NY, this area is similar in landscape with lakes, rivers, waterfalls and greenery— much of what you don't find living in southern California unless it is a rainy year.

Overview:

Length: 3.8 miles out and back | Level: Moderate | Duration: 2-3 hours | Elevation: 900

Dogs: Yes on leash | Parking: Free at the parking lots

Sherwin Lakes Trail

The trail-head is found in Fowler's Campground and it's a bit hard to find especially if you are not familiar to the area. It's off route 89, and the best way not to miss it is to just plug that campground into your GPS as there will not be any signs that say McCloud Falls. Parking is free anywhere in the lots in the campground. There are bathrooms and water at both the upper and lower falls trailheads.


There are three ways to see the falls- you can drive to all of three viewpoint areas as they each have their own parking lot, park at the upper falls and walk down to the lower, or vice versa. We opted to park at the lower falls and hike the river trail upstream. Even though this has only a slight incline, i prefer any trail to be uphill first to get it out of the way. Bring a bathing suit!



THE LOWER FALLS

The smallest of the falls, but still beautiful, Lower McCloud Falls will be the first you'll see coming right out of its respective parking lot. Lots of people swimming and fishing here as it is the easiest to access to do so. The water is cold but when it's the hot summer months, why not?! The path to the middle set of falls is clearly marked and paved for part of the way. Hang here a bit, then start heading up to the next set of falls.



THE MIDDLE FALLS

Clearly the most impressive of the falls, the second set here is the one where you'll want to spend the most time and swim if you didn't yet. As you pass the Fowler's Campground on the path, these falls emerge at about .07 miles from the lower falls. It was over 100 degrees when we did this hike, so I knew I was going to test the water out here! It was freezing but totally refreshing in the heat, and made the remaining hike to the upper falls way more pleasant. Highly recommend bringing a picnic and hanging out here for a bit. Once you've had your swim or food break, continue onward to the upper falls.


From here, the trail to the upper falls continues up through some moderate switchbacks providing you with this gorgeous view of the whole river canyon!


THE UPPER FALLS

Sherwin Lakes Trail

Full flowing through a 50ft wall of basalt rock, the upper McCloud falls is definitely impressive. When you reach the top, here you'll find built railings and a deck with a few viewpoint of the falls. Though I read there is an off the beaten path trail that takes you down to get closer, I couldn't find it, and I didn't see anyone else swimming or looking for a way down there either. It seemed to be a steep incline and rocky descent, so we enjoyed the view here for a bit then headed back down the way we came.

Which ever way you choose to see the falls, expect a beautiful day out in the wilderness! The trail does continue on in both directions following the river. So it is possible to extend it further if you are looking for a longer hike or more to explore if you are camping there.

QUICK TRAIL TIPS

  • Hiking poles aren't necessary, though I did see many other hikers with them as the trail is quite rocky in some spots.

  • We did this hike in water sandals like these you can find at Amazon. You will want these for ease of getting in the water

  • This hike can be done all year round, but is best in the warmer months in case there is snow

Google Map Coordinates here.

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