Pacific Southwest Region Viewing Area
Middle Falls of the McCloud River in mid-October. Photo by Jay and Terri Thesken.
Hikers admire the brilliant fall foliage of Pacific dogwood. Photo by Jay and Terri Thesken.
Blackfruit dogwood is common near the water. Photo by Julie Kierstead Nelson.
The last leg of the trail, past Fowler Camp. Photo by Julie Kierstead Nelson.
Middle Falls of the McCloud River Trail
Forest: Shasta-Trinity National Forest
District: McCloud Ranger District
Description: The Upper McCloud River is spring-fed, not dammed, and flows steadily all year through a basalt canyon lined with forest of Douglas-fir, white fir, Pacific yew, ponderosa pine and incense-cedar. Black oak, vine maple, and Pacific dogwood provide shade in summer and brilliant color in autumn. The Middle Falls trail is less than a mile long from Fowler Campground. Add another quarter mile to this if starting from the day use picnic and swimming area at Lower Falls. The Lower Falls spills into a spectacular swimming hole, with a wide rocky shelf for sunbathing!
The trail is a very easy hike, nearly level, and paved from Lower Falls to Fowler Camp. The trail surface is packed dirt from there to its end. The trail dead ends at a viewpoint near the Middle Falls of the McCloud River. You can scramble over rocks to reach the base of the falls.
Viewing Information: The trail from Fowler Camp to Middle Falls is especially rich in forest and riparian flowering shrubs, including mahala mat, Oregon-boxwood, Sierra coffeeberry, mountain-ash, Sierra gooseberry, twinberry honeysuckle, cluster rose, Douglas spiraea, and blackfruit and Pacific dogwoods. Along the sunny trail segment between Lower Falls and Fowler Camp you will see dry-site flowering shrubs: greenleaf Manzanita, whitethorn, Klamath plum, chokecherry, and bitterbrush. Wildflowers, including flowering shrubs, are at their best from April to mid-June; fall color is lovely in October, when the umbrella plant along the water turns various shades of scarlet, orange, pink, yellow, and purple. (See species list, PDF, 40 KB).
Directions: From Interstate 5, take the McCloud exit (State Route 89) and travel east approximately 13 miles to the town of McCloud; keep going another 5 miles past McCloud to the Fowler Campground sign and turn right. You may access the trail from the Lower Falls day use area, or from Fowler Campground. The short Lower Falls-to-Fowler trail segment is sunny and has a different set of shrubs than the Fowler-to-Middle Falls trail as a result. See the McCloud Area Recreation Guide (PDF, 203 KB) for more detailed area and route information.
Safety First: Summer temperatures are regularly over 90 degrees in this part of California, so carry plenty of water, or visit during milder times of the year. There is no poison oak on this trail! You may encounter a rattlesnake, black bear, or mountain lion. Visit the Shasta-Trinity recreation web page for sensible precautions you can take to minimize safety risks.
Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Shasta-Trinity National Forest, McCloud Ranger Station, P.O. Box 1620, McCloud, CA 96057, (530) 964-2184.
Closest Town: About 5 miles from McCloud, California.
The sunny part of the trail skirts Fowler Camp. Photo by Julie Kierstead Nelson.
Middle Falls of the McCloud River in July. In the foreground is umbrella plant, a giant-leaved member of the saxifrage family native to California and southwest Oregon. Photo by Julie Kierstead Nelson.
Twinberry honeysuckle, with each berry growing from two conjoined ovaries. Photo by Julie Kierstead Nelson.
Sierra gooseberry, edible but not very palatable. Photo by Julie Kierstead Nelson.
Pacific yew, an ancient conifer whose bark was the original source of taxol, an important cancer treatment. Photo by Julie Kierstead Nelson.
Lower Falls of the McCloud River is a great place to be on a hot day. Photo by Julie Kierstead Nelson.