Driving Tour: McCloud River Loop Tour in Autumn

by Shasta Cascade on December 12, 2009

Lower FallsWhat better time to check out the waterfalls on the McCloud River Loop than early December, just before the ground is covered with snow? Even better, what about a trip during the middle of the week, when there’s no one around?

From inside the car, you’re protected from the 45 degree cold outside. At first glance, it would be hard to tell if it’s December 8th or August 8th because the sky is clear and sunny. Any thoughts of summer quickly disappear when you exit the car and feel the cold.

For background, the McCloud River Loop is a six mile long drive located just a couple miles east of McCloud on Highway 89. The drive takes you past three of the most beautiful waterfalls in Siskiyou county: Lower, Middle, and Upper Falls. There’s a hiking trail that connects the three falls, but if you prefer to stay in the car there’s a paved road that allows easy access to parking lots at each location.

As we pull into the parking lot for lower falls, we spot the only other car on the trip, and it’s getting ready to leave.

During the summer, Lower Falls is usually somewhat of a crowded place with throngs of sunbathers and daredevil cliff jumpers.

The water in the pool below the falls is surprisingly high for this time of year. During the summer, what is normally a 25 foot drop is now half that much. It’s clear that the rains of October are working their way through the system.

Right next to Lower Falls is Fowler Campground. Overnight camping is not allowed at any of the Falls, so Fowler is one of the few places in the immediate area one can spend the night. Unfortunately, the campground has been closed for the winter and the entrance gated shut, so we move onto Middle Falls.

Middle Falls is different from the other two because the viewpoint looks down to the falls a several hundred feet below you.    This is the most spectacular of the three viewpoints because you can see for miles in each direction.  During the summer, you can see the tiny figures of people way down below.  Middle Falls is also different from the other two viewpoints in that you can only see the Falls, but can’t get any closer.  The only way to access Middle Falls up close is to hike the connecting trail from either one of the two other Falls and walk in.

Upper Falls is popular as a fishing area; and I’ve fished there many times myself.  There’s a number of picnic tables that are in close proximity of the parking lot.  The river is also very narrow in places just above the Falls so the water flows much faster.

The next stop up the McCloud River Loop road is Lakin Dam.  Lakin Dam is a cement dam only about 20 feet high.  When the water gets really high, the McCloud river just flows over the entire length of the top.   Lakin Dam is/was the source of water for the mill.

After Lakin Dam, the McCloud River Loop road returns back to Highway 89.

Driving Tips: There’s no median painted on the road, and it’s barely wide enough to accommodate two cars passing by each other without losing a sideview mirror. Also, be sure to look out for the occasional pothole. If road is covered in snow and not plowed, don’t test fate unless you have a large four wheel drive. A mistake like getting stuck in this area wouldn’t be life threatening because of the highway nearby, but it would be a terrible inconvenience.

Attached below is a map of the drive.

<br /> <a href=”http://www.trailguru.com/wiki/index.php/Track:2UG1″ mce_href=”http://www.trailguru.com/wiki/index.php/Track:2UG1″>McCloud River Loop (Lower, Middle, Upper Falls) (Driving)</a><br />

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