Hiking McCloud Falls Trail Near Mount Shasta
McCloud Falls hiking trail is located just outside of Shasta, California and is a beautiful, dog friendly hike that is great for beginners. We hiked this trail at the end of August of 2020 with our miniature wiener dog, Vienna.
We started our hike at about 10am on a Monday morning. There are several places you can start the hike. We decide to start at Lower Falls which you can find on Google Maps. There is no parking fee at this parking lot, but they do take donations. We made sure to bring plenty of water for the hike, but just in case, there is a fresh water fountain located at this parking lot to refill your water bottles.
If you decide to start at Lower Falls, the distance of the hike all the way up to Upper Falls is about 2 miles, then you take the same trail back down. There are some inclines and one set of stairs, but the entire way is fairly easy with some medium-level difficulty spots. The beginning of the trail is paved, the rest of the trail is then a dirt path that is clearly marked. The trail follows the McCloud River the entire time, and there are some less visible side tails to get closer to the water if you so choose.
If you decide not to do the entire hike, you do have the option of parking at either Middle Falls or Upper Falls. There is also a dry campground located at Middle Falls as well as a lookout over the river below.
By going on a weekday and starting fairly early, on the way up we did not see too many people. By the time we reached Middle Falls we did see our first couple of people. Once we reached Upper Falls that's when we started seeing quite a few more hikers. In the future, we would probably start our hike a little earlier than 10am so that we can avoid the crowd.
Definitely the most impressive waterfall on the hike was Middle Falls. There are three sets of waterfalls on this hike; Lower, Middle and Upper. There are parking lots are each water fall with a lookout that is easily accessible. Lower and Middle however also have smaller trails down to the water. These trails can be a little difficult to traverse, especially the ones that lead be to the spot pictured above. There is some light rock climbing, which normally is a hard no for me, but I made sure to bring my good hiking shoes that have a really good grip.
Once you get down to the water feel free to jump in! It is quite cold tho, this water is basically pure snow run-off, so be prepared and bring a towel! I didn't jump here but my boyfriend did. Thankfully it was a hot day so he dried off pretty quickly as we continued on our hike to Upper Falls.
If you want to enjoy Middle Falls without a bunch of other river-goers and hikers, come as early as possible and come mid-week. We were lucky to get to Middle Falls and only interact with one other couple. But by the time we were ready to hike the rest of the trail, there were already a few other groups of people hiking down to the water. On our way back down we saw all the best spots (and easier ones to get to) near the water were occupied by quit a few other people.
I got in the water and it was COLD. You can't walk down to the water at Upper Falls but a little further past the waterfall along the river are some very calm and clear pools of water that you can easily get to. I was more comfortable getting in the water here because I could easily see the bottom and it just seemed so tranquil that I couldn't resist. But OH EM GEE, I felt like I was taking a polar plunge. After about 2 minutes my legs and feet were literally numb and tingling all over.
Afterwards we sat on some nearby smooth rocks along the water and ate some lunch and let Vienna rest and drink some water from the river. There weren't too many people here thankfully, Middle Falls draws more of a crowd since you can swim closer to the waterfall there.
Our little four-legged fur baby did so good on this hike. She did get a little hot but thankfully there was tons of shade and we found some spots along the river for her to drink some clean water. When we walked down to Middle Falls the rocks were way too big for her to climb, so to be safe we let her ride in her K9 Sport Sack.
If you bring your dog on this hike make sure they are on their leash at all times (or you're carrying them like we had to one point) and you bring plenty of baggies to potentially pick up after them. Also, THROW THE POOP BAGGIE AWAY. There is nothing more infuriating to see that people have left behind full poop baggies. Do yourself and everyone a favor and please just be a responsible dog owner.