Mud Creek Falls and Clear Creek Falls

Mount Shasta Wilderness / McCloud, California, USA

About Mud Creek Falls and Clear Creek Falls


Hiking Distance: 2 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 2 hours

Date first visited: 2016-06-20
Date last visited: 2016-06-20

Waterfall Latitude: 41.37645
Waterfall Longitude: -122.15465

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Mud Creek Falls as well as the neighboring Clear Creek Falls (I used to think it was called Croquette Falls) were pretty much the only waterfalls that we witnessed on the slopes of the impressive Mount Shasta.

While we were aware of Whitney Falls on the mountain’s north face, we knew that mud flows from the volcano have buried its trailhead making the first mile of that hike a difficult route-find and scramble.

Mud_Creek_Falls_053_06202016 - Zoomed in distant look at Mud Creek Falls
Zoomed in distant look at Mud Creek Falls

So we settled for these waterfalls, but it turned out that even earning a view of the falls was no sure thing either.

But let’s first start with the Mud Creek Falls and Clear Creek Falls themselves.

Mud Creek Falls was said to be over 100ft in dramatic settings, so why did we only give this falls a “1” rating?

Well, as you can see in the photo above, the reason was that we never really got close enough to the falls to truly feel its presence.

But when you see how unstable and rough the canyons carved out by both Mud Creek and Clear Creek were, then it was pretty obvious to us to just settle for the distant views.

Mud_Creek_Falls_052_06202016 - Looking down towards a different drainage at the Clear Creek Falls
Looking down towards a different drainage at the Clear Creek Falls

It wasn’t worth risking life and limb (even if you’re equipped with technical climbing gear) just to get closer to it.

Of course, we learned pretty quickly that hardly anyone was crazy enough like us to visit this place only for the waterfalls.

Indeed, it was the view of the southeastern slopes of Mt Shasta that dwarfed this waterfall as well as nearby Clear Creek Falls that made this place as dramatic as it was.

In fact, the Clear Creek Trail that we were on was merely one of the handful of climbing routes for people to summit Mt Shasta if they’re well-prepared and lucky with the weather.

And believe us when we say you must be both prepared, lucky, and willing to turn back if attempting to summit Mt Shasta.

Mud_Creek_Falls_078_06202016 - Full context of Mud Creek Falls and the summit of Mt Shasta
Full context of Mud Creek Falls and the summit of Mt Shasta

That’s because before we started our hike, a ranger requested that if we heard or saw anything regarding a missing hiker on Shasta, please dial 911.

We took that as a warning though we were only hiking for two miles round trip and going nowhere near the glaciers and the snow still atop Shasta.

Hiking to a view of Mud Creek Falls and Clear Creek Falls

So from the Clear Creek Trailhead, which was an adventure in itself just to drive up there on some really beat up roads (see directions above), we proceeded to hike along a fairly obvious trail amidst a fairly sparsely dense forest.

The going was pretty easy at first even though we were generally climbing at altitude.

Mud_Creek_Falls_007_06202016 - Mom hiking within a forested trail as we made our way towards Mud Creek Falls from the Clear Creek Trailhead
Mom hiking within a forested trail as we made our way towards Mud Creek Falls from the Clear Creek Trailhead

However, when we started to encounter large snow patches, that was when we started to lose the trail and had to pay real close attention to clues like footprints and cut logs to regain the trail.

I’m sure if the snow wasn’t here, then surely this trail would be much easier to follow.

Anyways, as a result of this route-finding, the going was slower than usual.

We’d eventually find enough footprints though, which led us towards the end of the snow patches and thus we regained the Clear Creek Trail.

Mud_Creek_Falls_018_06202016 - Mom traversing some large snow patches where it was real easy to lose the trail en route to the Mud Creek Falls view
Mom traversing some large snow patches where it was real easy to lose the trail en route to the Mud Creek Falls view

The trail remained pretty easy to follow as we started to leave the forest cover and walk onto the fringes of Mud Creek and Clear Creek Canyons downslope to our left.

As the scenery continued to open up, we were able to start seeing the peak of Mt Shasta as well as the context of the canyons carved out by both Mud Creek and Clear Creek.

It was at this point that we started paying even more attention to possible waterfalls within these canyons.

That was when we started to train our eyes to streaks of falling water that might not look like much from our vantage point, but they were still on the order of 100ft or so tall.

Mud_Creek_Falls_032_06202016 - Mom on the trail with the summit of Mt Shasta in context up ahead
Mom on the trail with the summit of Mt Shasta in context up ahead

Thus, we were able to get fleeting glimpses of the Mud Creek Falls across the deep ravine carved out by the aptly-named Mud Creek itself.

It was where Mt Shasta would continually erode as glaciers and subsequent the waters of Mud Creek would carry the debris further downstream giving the water a bit of a muddy look.

As we scanned the distant scene (as the falls was said to be about a mile away from our vantage point), we managed to catch even more elusive glimpses of a waterfall on Clear Creek, which I’m calling Clear Creek Falls.

This other waterfall was quite easy to miss since it would only show itself if we paid attention looking between some trees in the way.

Mud_Creek_Falls_041_06202016 - Context of the drainage containing Mud Creek Falls with some of the slopes of Mt Shasta above it
Context of the drainage containing Mud Creek Falls with some of the slopes of Mt Shasta above it

As much as it might have been tempting to continue hiking up the mountain closer to the summit of Mt Shasta, we were content with our distant views and headed back the way we came.

Once again, on the return hike, we had to pay real close attention to signs of people passing through as the snow made following the trail difficult.

In fact, we almost strayed too far from the path we had taken until I noticed the deviation on my handheld GPS.

Anyways, when all was said and done, we had spent a little over two hours away from the car to go the two miles round trip.

Authorities

Mud Creek Falls and Clear Creek Falls reside in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest near Mt Shasta in Siskiyou County, California. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Mud_Creek_Falls_006_06202016 - Mom and I were joined by this backpacking fellow who was intending to summit Mt Shasta
Mud_Creek_Falls_014_06202016 - However, it started to get tricky when we encountered extensive snow patches obscuring the Clear Creek Trail en route to Mud Creek Falls and Mt Shasta
Mud_Creek_Falls_020_06202016 - Still making our way up along the Clear Creek Trail obscured by snow in pursuit of the Mud Creek Falls
Mud_Creek_Falls_025_06202016 - When we finally got past the snow, the scenery started to open up a bit as Mt Shasta was revealing itself and we regained the Clear Creek Trail
Mud_Creek_Falls_028_06202016 - Mom enjoying the view of the summit of Mt Shasta from the Clear Creek Trail
Mud_Creek_Falls_045_06202016 - This picture provided some context as to how tiny Mud Creek Falls was compared to the greater mountain of Mt Shasta
Mud_Creek_Falls_042_06202016 - Looking across the deep canyons towards Mud Creek Falls
Mud_Creek_Falls_046_06202016 - At this point, the backpacking fellow continued on his journey up the Clear Creek Trail to the summit of Mt Shasta
Mud_Creek_Falls_089_06202016 - Mom starting to head back on the Clear Creek Trail to the trailhead after getting our fill of Mud Creek Falls
Mud_Creek_Falls_092_06202016 - Looking back towards the right drainage down into the elusive Clear Creek Falls
Mud_Creek_Falls_095_06202016 - When we had our fill of the waterfalls and the views of Shasta, we headed back down into the tree cover en route to the Clear Creek Trailhead
Mud_Creek_Falls_097_06202016 - It didn't take long before the snow kind of conspired to make us go off course en route to the Clear Creek Trailhead
Mud_Creek_Falls_101_06202016 - Fortunately, we recognized our mistake and regained the Clear Creek Trail
Mud_Creek_Falls_104_06202016 - Approaching the end of the hike as we could start to see the Clear Creek Trailhead between the trees
Mud_Creek_Falls_107_06202016 - Now it was time to go back onto the rough forest service roads as we were to make our way back to the paved Pilgrim Creek Road and ultimately Hwy 89

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From the town of Mt Shasta, we would take the I-5 south from the town at Lake Street.

Then, in less than two miles we’d take the junction with Hwy 89 leaving the I-5 and heading east.

From there, we followed Hwy 89 for just under 13 miles to Pilgrim Creek Road on our left (a little over three miles east of the town of McCloud).

Turning left onto Pilgrim Creek Road, we then drove for about 5.3 miles to forest road NF41N15 on our left.

At this point, we turned left to leave the pavement and go right onto the unpaved forest service road.

Next, we kept going straight on the forest service road for the next 5 miles (ignoring some forks and confusing detour signs along the way).

Eventually, we started to see some brown Clear Creek Trailhead signs letting us know when to turn.

Mud_Creek_Falls_108_06202016 - Finally approaching the Clear Creek Trailhead
Finally approaching the Clear Creek Trailhead

That was a good thing because the conditions of the road deteriorated pretty quickly as we definitely appreciated the high clearance of Mom’s vehicle.

She also said that she had replaced the tires just a few days prior to this trip so it should be able to handle the sharp rocks on the ground.

So upon the next sign that we saw, we turned left to go onto forest road 41N61, then persisted as the rock became rockier and more undulating along the way.

The signs eventually led us onto road 41N25Y, which we then took for the final 3 miles to the Clear Creek Trailhead.

It took us about an our to make this drive, but the road conditions definitely led to some anxious moments as my Mom feared her car wouldn’t make it.

Mud_Creek_Falls_002_06202016 - We were one of just a couple of cars parked at the Clear Creek Trailhead on the southeastern slopes of Mt Shasta
We were one of just a couple of cars parked at the Clear Creek Trailhead on the southeastern slopes of Mt Shasta

Incredibly, when we made it to the trailhead, we saw two other low clearance passenger cars already parked here.

How on earth did they make it without damaging their car?!?

One person there said he merely just took the roads really slow.

So even though it took us about an hour to make this drive, I’d imagine for someone with a more ill-equipped vehicle, it might be another 20-30 minutes longer.

Finally, to give you some more geographical context, the town of Mt Shasta was 62 miles (over an hour drive) north of Redding. As for Redding itself, it was 217 miles (over 3 hours drive) north of San Francisco, 162 miles (about 2.5 hours drive) north of Sacramento, 150 miles (2.5 hours drive) south of Medford, Oregon, and 546 miles (over 7.5 hours drive) north of Los Angeles.

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Checking out the context of Mud Creek Falls with mt shasta before zooming in on the falls then back out checking out the surrounding scenery


Context of Mt Shasta then zooming in on Clear Creek Falls first before panning over to zoom in on Mud Creek Falls

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Tagged with: mt shasta, mount shasta, wilderness, mccloud, siskiyou, northern california, california, waterfall, croquette falls, mud creek falls, clear creek, pilgrim creek



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Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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