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  • Writer's pictureGabriella Viola

McCloud Falls: Visiting Northern California's Gorgeous Three-Tiered Waterfall

Updated: Sep 15, 2021

Visiting McCloud Falls in Northern California

If you are visiting the Mt. Shasta area in Northern California, then you don't want to miss McCloud Falls. After visiting for the first time this past May, McCloud Falls has become one of my favorite waterfalls in California! Not only are the falls impressive, but they are also easily accessible. Here is some helpful information if you plan on visiting the three-tiered waterfall.

*When exploring the outdoors, please keep it beautiful by Leaving No Trace*


Getting There

Mt Shasta along Hwy 89 in Northern California
Mt Shasta from HWY 89

From HWY 89, turn off at Fowlers Campground. Once in the campground area, you will see clear signs for Middle, Lower, and Upper McCloud Falls. Tip: Cell service along HWY 89 is pretty spotty, so make sure you have McCloud Falls entered into Google Maps before starting your trip.

You can visit the tiers in whatever order you prefer. I did Middle McCloud Falls first, then Lower, and then Upper.


Experiencing the Waterfalls

Middle McCloud Falls in Northern California
Middle McCloud Falls

You can access the falls via the McCloud River Falls Trail, a 3.5-mile out and back hike that passes all three of the waterfalls, or, you can drive right up to each tier individually. I chose to drive up to each tier. While at Middle McCloud Falls, I did the short hike down to the base of the falls, which I highly recommend!

If you choose to do the McCloud Falls hike, you can access the trail at Lower McCloud Falls. The trail is well maintained and is rated as easy to moderate.


Middle McCloud Falls

Middle McCloud Falls in Northern California
Early morning at Middle Falls
Middle McCloud Falls in Northern California

If you only have time to visit one section of McCloud Falls, then I would recommend Middle Falls. It's the biggest and arguably the prettiest of the three tiers. The view from the overlook is lovely, but if you really want to be wowed, then take the short and easy hike down to the base of the falls.

Once at the base, you'll be rewarded with some pretty spectacular scenery. You can get as close to the falls as you want, and you can even go swimming, as long as you don't mind the cold water! Keep in mind that the rocks around the falls are quite slippery.

*Always use caution when swimming next to a waterfall.


Lower McCloud Falls

Lower McCloud Falls in northern California

Lower McCloud Falls was my second favorite of the three tiers. While not as high and wide as Middle Falls, it's still a beautiful and unique-looking waterfall. It's also the most accessible, just walk down a flight of stairs and you're right next to the falls! I've read that that Lower Falls is a popular spot for swimming. While I didn't see anyone swimming when I visited, I did notice quite a few people fishing at this tier.


Upper McCloud Falls

Upper McCloud Falls

In my opinion, Upper Falls was a bit underwhelming (at least from the overlook), but it's still worth a quick stop. I did see a trail that led to the base of the falls, but it looked very steep and sketchy, so I opted not to do it. If you chose to do the dicey hike down, I would imagine you would encounter some stunning scenery at the bottom of the falls, and perhaps an opportunity to swim!


Where to Stay

There are quite a few budget-friendly hotels and motels in the Mt. Shasta area. During my visit to McCloud Falls, I stayed at Cold Creek Inn and Swiss Holiday Lodge. I would recommend either hotel, as both were comfortable and clean. If you're looking to be right in downtown Mt. Shasta, I would choose Cold Creek Inn.