Lower Falls is only a few minutes from McCloud and the Eagle’s Rest as you travel east on Hwy 89 headed out of town. From McCloud, take Hwy 89 east for approximately 5.75 miles and look for the park entrance on the right side of the road. Follow the signs for Lower Falls and you’ll find ample parking nearby.
For first-timers, Lower Falls in an excellent destination for a day on the McCloud River. Adventure seekers can “jump the falls” from either side, and most likely you will encounter other adventurers who are willing to show you the ropes. Even in the height of summer the water is cold so be ready for a shock! Both Cindy and I, and each of our boys have “taken the plunge” and lived to tell the tale – turning Lower Falls into an informal right of passage for our family. For reference, Nate was 11 when he jumped for the first time. He’s a good swimmer and didn’t have any difficulty navigating the river current after he surfaced from his jump.
For Johanna – who was 6 during her first trip to Lower Falls – we walked upstream a bit and found several good play / picnic sites on the large rocks along the river. There are several shallow “coves” that do not have any river current and allow for fun in the water for younger family members. A few of the coves are surprisingly deep and allow the little ones to experience the thrill of “jumping the falls” as they leap from the rocks into mom or dad’s arms standing chest deep in the water. If you’re family is like ours, be prepared to repeat this activity again and again (and again and again… LOL) as JoJo never seemed to get bored with this!
Lower Falls also serves as a trailhead for both an up-river hike (to Middle Falls) or a down-river hike (toward Lake McCloud). The path to Middle Falls is a great family hike, and was completed successfully by both Johanna and my 75 year-old monther-in-law Pat. Be sure to note the lone redwood tree just after you head up the trail toward Middle Falls. The boys enjoyed climbing the cliffs along the trail above the river and exploring the pine forest along the way.
All in all, Lower Falls is a great place to spend a day or a half-day on the river. Easy in, easy out and close to home makes for a rewarding and low stress activity. Pack a lunch and plan to enjoy this great destination!