In the winter, due to snow, McCloud River Loop Road is closed from December 15 through March (or longer if there is snow). Details below.
McCloud River Lower, Middle & Upper Waterfalls
In the far north of California, you can relish three breathtaking waterfalls along the McCloud River near the historic mountain town of McCloud in Siskiyou County. Easily accessed along Highway 89, this favorite destination is just five miles east of McCloud and a short 20-mile jaunt from the more touristy Mount Shasta City along Interstate 5.
The McCloud River flows down a canyon formed of basalt (volcanic rock) and generates three waterfalls varying in height. The Lower Falls is a modest 15 feet, the spouting Upper Falls is roughly 30 feet high, and the most impressive of the waterfalls, McCloud Middle Falls, has a drop of 50 feet and a span twice as wide at 100 feet.
How To Get To McCloud Falls
McCloud Falls is about 75 miles from the Oregon border in north central California.
Eastbound on Hwy 89
Traveling along Interstate 5 in southern Siskiyou County, take Highway 89 east towards Lassen Volcanic National Park. You’ll pass the town of McCloud and continue for five and a half miles. Look for a sign on the left side of Hwy 89 that says Fowlers and Lower Falls | Shasta Trinity National Forests Campground. You’ll be turning right onto Fowler Public Camp Road.
Westbound on Hwy 89
Alternatively, if you’re traveling from the east or southeast, you’ll end up heading west on Highway 89 going past another very impressive waterfall called Burney Falls. Look for a sign on the right side of Hwy 89 that says Fowlers and Lower Falls | Shasta Trinity National Forests Campground. You’ll be turning left onto Fowler Public Camp Road.
For the Lower Falls, follow the road straight, you’ll see a sign to Lower Falls and Fowler Campground. This will take you to the Lower Falls parking lot.
To get to the Middle and Upper Falls parking lots from Hwy 89, look for signs to the Middle and Upper Falls. You’ll be taking a left off of Fowlers Public Camp Road onto McCloud River Loop Road.
Travel Distance & Drive Times to McCloud Falls
|From||Mi / Hrs|
|Redding, CA||77 mi / 1.25 hrs|
|Klamath Falls, OR||99 mi / 1.75 hrs|
|Medford, OR||107 mi / 2 hrs|
|Reno, NV||200 mi / 3.5 hrs|
|San Francisco, CA||290 mi / 4.5 hrs|
|Sacramento, CA||235 mi / 3.75 hrs|
|Portland, OR||380 mi / 6.25 hrs|
|Seattle, WA||550 mi / 9 hrs|
|Los Angeles, CA||620 mi / 10 hrs|
The Best Ways to View McCloud Falls
You’ve got your choice of walking the four-mile roundtrip McCloud River Trail to visit each of the falls, or if you’re pressed for time or otherwise unable to walk the trail, McCloud River Loop Road connects each of the falls.
When To Visit McCloud Falls
Easily accessible most of the year, McCloud Falls and its surroundings offer a different presentation throughout the year.
Snow Melt off in Late Spring
The waterfalls themselves are most impressive in late spring when the snow starts to melt, adding volume to the river. At this time, the Upper Falls are particularly pumping and shoot out before dropping down to the river below.
Summertime Camping at Fowlers Campground
With the nearby snowpack melted, the falls don’t have as much volume to them in the summer, but the riverbank trees and cool breeze flowing off McCloud River can provide a respite from the summer heat. As a bonus, Fowlers Campground, with its numerous canopied trees, is open. You can camp overlooking McCloud River and explore the area at your leisure. Definitely a worthwhile venture.
Smoke & Wildfires in Siskiyou County
It’s important to note that Northern California has been plagued by wildfires, particularly in recent years. Even if there aren’t fires nearby, watch out for smoke permeating the region. Check the air quality for the town of McCloud on Weatherbug before you travel.
Be sure to take care if you have a campfire (if it is allowed). Never leave a campfire unattended and be sure to extinguish it completely as winds can unexpectedly flare campfires up. The dry conditions of Siskiyou County are a major fire hazard.
Visit Fall Foliage at McCloud Falls
In the autumn, the surrounding trees give you an extraordinary display of fall foliage colors for a completely different feel than the rest of the year. The volume of the waterfalls depends on the amount of rain at this time. It can pay off to plan your visit after a local area rain. The switchback trail from Middle McCloud Falls overlook and the riverbank is a particularly beautiful walk, although a bit steep.
Enjoying McCloud Falls in the Wintertime
Winter is a unique story. Due to snow, McCloud River Loop Road is closed in the winter from December 15 through March (or longer if there is still snow). There is a locked gate just off of Highway 89, but parking is available outside the gate. Do not park on Hwy 89.
Snowshoeing or cross-country skiing is advisable if you want to view the waterfalls. Motorized vehicles like snowmobiles are not allowed. You can hoof it through the snow, but walking can be difficult in deep snow, but may still be possible depending on the amount of snow.
Camping at McCloud River and Falls
Seasonal camping is available at Fowlers Campground along the McCloud River. Enter on the same road as McCloud Falls.
Note: Due to fires in the area, it’s a good idea to check that the campground is still open.
Fowlers Campground is open seasonally from May 15 to around November 18. Reservations are available in the peak season from May 15 to October 15 with reservations open for booking six months in advance beginning at the end of the year.
Facilities are limited at Fowlers Campground. There are vault toilets. The only running water is from a spigot tap. No sinks or showers.
There are a total of 39 campsites. Eight sites are non-reservable and available on a first-come, first-serve basis. All sites are non-electric.
Campsites fees are an affordable $15 per night. RVs are allowed and have room for very large RVs.
Whatever time of year you visit, there’s no doubt that you will have a spectacular time visiting McCloud River’s three waterfalls.
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