What’s in a name???
While the locals will refer to this as “Squaw Creek”, the Forestry Service has gone with the more politically correct “Cabin Creek” and updated their signage accordingly. Rest assured, they are one in the same and completely worth your attention!
This hike is actually very close to McCloud – about the same distance from Downtown as the Reservoir. We are just bummed that it took us so long to experience it. Cindy and I completed the 8-mile loop in the spring of 2014 and plan to return again and again. Here’s what makes the area so great.
If just the thought of an 8-mile loop exhausts you (as it would my parents) there is still plenty of scenic exploring for you to do immediately around the trailhead. Within the first 1/2 mile you will see thundering cataracts, cross tall bridges over deep canyons, and still have a couple of places where you can get down to the creek itself. This would be a great place to spend a half day exploring with small children or grandchildren.
For those who are more adventurous, we highly recommend the 8-mile loop. Just remember, you must go counter-clockwise or you will absolutely HATE this hike! (More on this later.)
After traveling about 1/4 mile from the trailhead, hikers will merge with the Pacific Crest Trail where it crosses Squaw Creek. While you might choose to explore the bridge, don’t cross it. Instead, continue on your original path keeping the creek to your left. A short distance later the PCT will split to the right and switchback up a ridge. Take this route to complete the counterclockwise loop. Don’t proceed down the Squaw Creek trail if your goal is to complete the 8-mile loop.
As you follow the PCT up and around the ridge, there is a fairly good incline in places over the course of about a mile. The trail finally widens and deposits you at the highest point of the hike – a gathering of trails called the “Octopus”. Some of the “trails” here are actually forestry roads. As you exit your trail and emerge into the clearing, you’ll want to turn left and then go straight down the steep road in front of you. The PCT breaks off at the Octupus continues toward I-5 and the Castle Crags. Don’t stay on the PCT here – again, follow the road DOWN. You’ll know you’re headed in the right direction when you see a gate blocking the road to vehicular traffic.
The descending road takes you deeper into the forest for about 3 miles down a fairly steep slope. This can be hard on your knees after awhile, but the increasing solitude as you travel deeper into the wilderness is worth the slight burn. This is where you will thank me for telling you to go counter-clockwise. Having to hike up this road at the end of a clockwise loop would be a miserable experience with little to no scenery to distract you from your burning quads!
Eventually you cross the creek on a vehicle bridge. At this point, start looking for a sign about another .1 mile down the road that points to the left and indicates the Cabin Creek route. Note: this confused us since we didn’t know at the time that Squaw Creek and Cabin Creek were the same thing. We had been looking for the Squaw Creek trail and almost went on by. Luckily, we read our map correctly and made the turn!
Once on the new trail, you will immediately cross the creek and begin the moderate climb back to the trailhead. Squaw Creek is your constant companion for the rest of the journey providing a steady roar and beautiful scenery. The trail is fairly easy to navigate, although there are a few areas where you must scramble through some rock and others where you should watch your footing. Be sure to watch our for the poison oak. While not a nuisance to us during the spring, we can see where it was starting to emerge and will be thicker this summer.
A good resting point is at the first major waterfall that you encounter. In fact, a small trail spur leads you down closer to the falls where you can sit and enjoy the view. This was where we decided to have our lunch and comes at about the 5 mile mark in the hike.
The final 3 miles that return you to the trailhead are increasingly more scenic and provide plenty of great views of the creek and its canyon. Again, there are a few spots that require some care as you navigate along the trail, but for the most part, the incline is gentle and the scenery rewarding.
We would certainly bring the kids on this hike the next time around. The only concern for the little ones would be the distance and the poison oak. Beyond that, there isn’t anything too challenging for them and for those kids who enjoy a good hike, this one is certainly a winner. We’ll be doing it again and again, and are really excited about making the trip in the fall as we were taken aback at how many deciduous trees lined the route. With fall colors on display, the hike would be breathtaking!
For a more detailed write-up, be sure to visit Hike Mt. Shasta and their post on the Squaw Creek trail!