Hiking & Backpacking

Backpacking, photo © Kevin Lahey
Backpacking, photo © Kevin Lahey

Local hiking trails offer spectacular scenery and, occasionally, a glimpses of deer, eagles, black bear and other wild animals. Day hike trails are generally open from June 1st until late October depending on snow and weather conditions. Most trail are closed during winter due to snow. Time estimates for trail hikes listed below indicate round trip and return to the trailhead but do not include Trails listed as strenuous should only be taken by people in good physical condition. Topographic maps are suggested for the more remote, less traveled trails.

Mt. Shasta is a dormant volcano rising 14,179 feet high and is the dominant geographic feature of Northern California and Southern Oregon Cascade Range. Water from five glaciers provide moisture for wildflowers, great pine and red fir forests before finally flowing down the Sacramento Valley to San Francisco Bay. To the west, rises Mt. Eddy (9000 feet) with many alpine lakes and tumbling streams to explore. Castle Crags State Park to the southwest provides a complete system of maintained trails plus challenging cliff climbing too. The trails in the Shasta Trinity Forest near McCloud off Highway 89 features dramatic waterfalls, clear mountain rivers and streams.

There are U.S. Forest Service user fees for entrance to Wilderness Areas, mountain climbing on Mt. Shasta. For fee information and payment, please contact the Mt. Shasta Ranger District. For further hiking information, visit the Mt. Shasta Trail Association.

Photo by Mark Gibson

Popular Trails on Mt. Shasta

SHORT HIKES (15-45 minutes)

John Everitt Vista Point
Walk through large, old growth conifer forest to volcanic rock outcropping with panorama of area south to McCloud and Sacramento River Canyons. Look for botanical tree signs.
Time: 20 minutes Length: 1/2 mile RT Elevation: 5000′ to 5100′
Difficulty: Easy. Climbs then levels to easy grade.
Trailhead: 9 miles up Everitt Memorial Hwy. to parking lot.

Panther Meadow Loop
Spring water flows in rivulets through fragile alpine meadow full of wildflowers. Peaceful loop trail allows great view of mountain. Sensitive plantlike; please stay on trail. No drinking water. Note: Only accessible after snow melts, typically June 1.
Time: 45 minutes Length: 1.5 miles RT Elevation: 7500′ to 7900′
Difficulty: Easy. Rocky path is well-marked.
Trailhead: 12.5 miles up Everitt Memorial Hwy. to marked trailhead.

MEDIUM HIKES (1-2 hours)

Old Ski Bowl Trail
Outstanding views up to Mt. Shasta’s summit. Unmarked trail meanders through volcanic rock gulch between Green Butte and Sargents Ridge. Trail has no destination. No water. Cover in snow unitl June usually.
Time: 1 hour (varies) Length: 1 mile Elevation: 7800′ to ?
Difficulty: Easy, steady uphill climb on rocky path.
Trailhead: 14 miles to end of Everitt Memorial Highway at uppermost parking lot.

McCloud River – Lower, Middle and Upper Falls
Access to all three falls has been greatly improved in recent years by the Forest Service. There is a trail connecting all three, which is partially wheelchair accessible. The trail is approximately 1 ½ miles long, one way. There are picnic tables and restrooms at the Lower Falls area. There is a parking area and restrooms at the Middle Falls. From the parking area you can choose to walk just a short distance to an overlook above the falls or travel down the trail to the pool.

All three of these waterfalls are within about one mile of each other, yet each is uniquely beautiful, and has their own personality. At Upper Falls, the quiet river gathers itself into a massive rock chute, charging the water full of energy before it spills into a pool far below. Middle Falls spreads a sheet of falling water over a lava cliff, into a large pool. The water is icy cold, but in the summer you will find people frolicking in it. Lower Falls is a small chute spilling into a pool below.

Directions: From Mt. Shasta, go about a mile south of town to the beginning of Highway 89. The sign will say to McCloud, Susanville, or Reno. Travel over the hill about 10 miles to the town of McCloud. Continue traveling east on highway 89 five miles beyond McCloud, slow down when you see a McCloud River Access sign. Turn right at the Forest Service sign “Fowler’s Campground Lower Falls” Go straight past the entrance to the campground to reach the Lowers Falls area in about ½ mile. If you want to go to Middle Falls take the paved road to the east and travel about ½ mile. To reach Upper Falls by car, travel about another ½ mile past the Middle Falls parking area. This road is actually a loop and continues on to Lakin Dam and Cattle Camp, then back to Highway 89 in about 6 miles.

LONGER HIKES (2 hours or more)

Bunny Flat Trail
Major trailhead for both mountain climbers and day hikers. Trail ascends south flank through open conifer forests to Sierra Club Hut at Horse Camp. Bathrooms at parking lot and Horse Camp. No drinking water except at Horse Camp spring. Wilderness Permit required.
Time: 3-4 hours Length: 4.5 miles Elevation: 6900′ to 7900′
Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous in spots. Steady uphill with moderate grade. After Horse Camp is rock causeway to protect fragile vegetation. Trail not suitable for children under 6 years old.
Trailhead: 11 miles up Everitt Memorial Hwy. to Bunny Flat parking lot. Kiosk for self-issue Wilderness Area use permits.

Sand Flat Trail
Ascends through Avalanche Gulch and connects with the Bunny Flat Trail, then up to the Sierra Club Hut at Horse Camp. Impressive views upward to Mt. Shasta’s Red Banks area. Spring water and restroom at Horse Camp.
Time: 3 hours Length: 4 miles Elevation: 6800′ to 7900′
Difficulty: Strenuous. Climbs steeply through forested area.
Trailhead: 9.5 miles up Everitt Memorial Hwy. to Lower Sand Flat Road. Turn left on unpaved ; drive .8 miles to junction. Continue straight ahead and take fork to the right for .4 mile to trailhead.

Grey Butte Trail
Marked trail crosses bottom of meadow, then climbs up through notch to west side of Grey Butte through conifer forest. Panoramic summit views east, south and west plus the summit of Mt. Shasta. Radio transmission equipment and earthquake sensors are located here too.
Time: 3 hours Length: 3 miles Elevation: 7600′ to 8000′
Difficulty: Moderate.
Trailhead: Begins at Panther Meadows Campground parking lot about 13 miles up Everitt Memorial Hwy. from Mount Shasta City.

Squaw Meadows Trail
Ascending over Grey Butte saddle, it opens up to unique “moonscape” of volcanic outcrops as it skirts north side of Red Butte. Drops into green Squaw Meadows.
Time: 4-5 hours Length: 4 miles Elevation: 7600′ to 7800′
Trailhead: 14 miles up Everitt Memorial Hwy. to Old Ski Bowl parking lot. Rock-lined trail begins there.

DAY HIKES (2 hours or more)

There are only a few trails within the wilderness. Most of these trails are old jeep roads that are now closed to vehicle traffic. Please remember wilderness permits are required within the Mt. Shasta Wilderness. For day hiking, you may self-issue your permit at the trailhead permit station. Camping permits are available at the Mt. Shasta and McCloud Ranger District Offices.

Horse Camp
From the Sand Flat or Bunny Flat trailheads, follow the trail to Horse Camp (2 miles or 1.5 miles, respectively, one way). Spring water and sanitation facilities are available at Horse Camp. The Sierra Club Foundation maintains the historic Horse Camp Lodge, built during the 1920’s and still used as emergency shelter by climbers and backcountry travelers. From Horse Camp, the Olberman Causeway extends another half mile up the gulch. This stone walkway was constructed in the 1920’s by Mac Olberman, the first Horse Camp caretaker, out of large boulders from the area.

Whitney Falls
From the Bolam Trailhead, follow the old jeep road up the hill. After the first switchback, you will be able to see Whitney Falls about one mile ahead and to the west. It is approximately 1.5 miles (one way) to the falls, and the trail does not go all the way.

Clear Creek
From the McCloud Ranger Station, drive east on Highway 89 for 2.8 miles to the Pilgrim Creek Road. Turn left and drive 5.2 miles to the Widow Springs Road. Turn left and proceed 5 miles to the junction of McKenzie Butte Road (Road 31). Cross the McKenzie Butte Road and proceed 1.3 miles on the one-lane dirt road until you come to a Y intersection. Turn left and continue approximately 2 miles to the Clear Creek Trailhead. This trail follows the rim of Mud Creek Canyon for 1.5 miles. The trail ends near Clear Creek Springs and provides views of Konwakiton Glacier and of Mud Creek Canyon and Falls.

Trails on the Eddy Mountain Range

Mt. Eddy dominates the mountain range across the valley to the west of Mt. Shasta. Mostly covered mixed conifer forest, granite rocks,and many small streams and alpine lakes, it offers a delightfully different hiking experience.

SHORT HIKES (15 to 45 minutes)

Box Canyon Dam and Trail
Stand 209 feet above a jagged river gorge and view the Sacramento River rush from Lake Siskiyou. On the way to Lake Siskiyou you’ll pass over Box Canyon Dam, where you may park off the road on either side of the dam for an awesome view. Walk the beautiful Box Canyon trail that begins just north of the gorge. This 3/4 mile trail skirts the north rim of the dam, winds through dense forests, crosses a number of tiny mountain creeks and offers opportunities to view the dam and canyon from a number of different vantage points.

Castle Shore Trail
Meandering along the lake shoreline along north side through pine forest, the trail ends at a sheer, impassable granite wall. You will pass the UC Davis Water Research Lab.
Time: 1/2 hour Length: .5 mile Elevation: 6400′
Difficulty: Easy. Fairly level trail but watch for tree roots in trail.
Trailhead: 10 miles from Mount Shasta City via W. A. Barr to Castle Lake Rd. At lake parking lot, trail begins on right (north) side.

MEDIUM HIKES (1-2 hours)

Castle Lake Trail
Climbs steeply along forested granite bowl slope giving excellent views of Castle Lake and portions of Mt. Shasta. Trails splits to either Heart Lake or Little Castle Lake over the ridge. Heart Lake cut-off is unmarked and unmaintained.
Time: 2-3 hours Length: 3 miles varies Elevation: 6000′ to 6200′
Difficulty: Strenuous at first, then moderate rocky path.
Trailhead: From Castle Lake parking lot, trail begins to left (south) side of lake. Must ford shallow lake outlet to reach trail.

Sisson-Callahan National Recreation Trail

Spectacular mountain scenery can be found along the entire route of the nine-mile Sisson-Callahan National Recreation Trail. Mt. Shasta rises to the east and Mt. Eddy lies to the north. No less spectacular are the view of Castle Crags to the south and the Trinity Alps to the west as seen from Deadfall Summit.

The Sisson-Callahan is one of 47 National Recreation Trails in the National Forest in California. The National Recreation Trails system was established by Congress in 1968 to promote public enjoyment and appreciation of the outdoor area of the nation.

Route to Trailheads (15 to 45 minutes)

Deadfall Lakes
Take the Gazelle Exit off I-5 north of Weed. Cross under the freeway and turn right onto Old Highway 99. Follow Old 99 for approximately 1/2 mile to the Stewart Springs Rd. Turn left onto the Stewart Springs Road and follow it to the junction with Forest Road (FR) 42N17. Turn right on FR 42N17 and follow it for approximately 10 miles to Parks Creek Summit. Parks Creek Summit is where the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) crosses FR 42N17. You can start here and hike the PCT north 3.81 miles to Deadfall Lakes, or you can continue to drive on FR 42N17 to Deadfall Meadow and follow the trail 1.9 miles along the meadow up to Deadfall Lakes.

North fork of the Sacramento River
From W.A. Barr Road (southwest of Mt. Shasta City) drive 7 miles to the Toad Lake/Morgan Meadows turnoff. Drive 1/4 mile to fork and bear right to Morgan Meadows. Proceed 1 mile to ford crossing (middle fork of the Sacramento River) and continue 5 miles up and around the canyon of the north fork of the Sacramento River to the second ford crossing. Park and pick up the trail on the south side of the creek.

Photo by Mark Gibson

Black Butte Trail

From the summit of Black Butte (6,325′), you will get a spectacular view of the surrounding area. Mt. Shasta towers to the east. The city of Mt. Shasta and the Sacramento River canyon are to the south. Mt. Eddy and the Klamath Mountains are to the west. The trail to the summit was originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the late 1930’s. This trail provided access to a Forest Service fire lookout built at the summit. Pack animals were used to bring supplies to the lookout.

Hiking the trail (15 to 45 minutes)

From the Mt. Shasta Ranger Station drive east on Alma Street to the stop sign at Rockfellow Drive. Turn right and go one block to the stop sign at Everitt Memorial Highway. Turn left and continue approximately 2 miles up the Everitt Memorial Highway to the Black Butte Trailhead sign, located on the left side of the highway. Turn left and stay on the main dirt road for approximately 2.5 miles. Where the dirt road crosses under the overhead powerline, take the dirt road to the left. Go approximately .5 miles on this road to the trailhead. Parking at the trailhead is very limited.

The trail is about 2.56 miles from the trailhead to the summit. The trail is maintained annually, however, the trail surface is extremely rocky and steep in places. There is no water available along the trail. There are also few shady spots along the trail and heat can be a factor in having an enjoyable hike during mid-summer. The total vertical climb from the trailhead to the summit is 1,845 feet.

Wilderness Ethics & Backcountry Information

Our wilderness areas are becoming more important to us as refuges from the pressures of every day life. They offer great opportunities for “getting away from it all,” and for testing ourselves, physically, against rugged and isolated terrain. They are places where the natural scheme of things come first. As more people discover the wonders of the wilderness, however, pressure increases on these fragile areas and it becomes very important that every user practice “leave no trace camping.” We want everyone to share in a true wilderness experience.

  • Prepare well… Know about your route and the area. Be sure to have a map and compass. Take adequate food. Bring clothing and equipment that will keep you warm, dry and comfortable. Select footwear appropriate for comfort, safety and the terrain. Know the basics of first aid and navigation. Know what to do in case of frostbite, hypothermia or avalanche danger.
  • At the Trailheads… Don’t leave any food or deodorant or chapstick in your vehicle. If you have eaten in your vehicle recently be sure and air it out. Bears have broken into several vehicles at various trailheads looking for these things.
  • Trekking into the Wilderness… Please suppress the desire to shortcut trails. Doing so creates a scar on the hillside which causes soil erosion. Avoid traveling through meadows and wet areas.
  • Meeting livestock on the trail… When you meet livestock on the trail, politely move off the trail on the downhill side and stand still until the animals pass by. Allow the animals to see you. Offer a courteous greeting and conversation. This can reduce the chance of the livestock being scared by you and will allow the livestock to relax.
  • Camping… Select a campsite that has adequate water runoff, and use plastic under you tent to say dry without digging a ditch. In early spring, camp on the snow rather than on fragile, damp areas of earth. Stick to established camp sites and try and select a shelter site that has already been used in order to eliminate further expansion of the camp. Bears are present in the wilderness so hang your food will away from camp. Carry a gas or kerosene stove for cooking. Burn a campfire only in established firepits…don’t build a fire ring yourself…and only where there is adequate supply of dry, fallen wood. Do not build campfires in high, fragile alpine areas… there is not enough wood to spare in these environments.
  • Garbage… Carry out ALL of your garbage and burn only paper. DO NOT bury your garbage! Animals will dig it up and scatter it. Please pick up litter as you encounter it. If you can carry it in full you can certainly carry it out empty.
  • Sanitation… Choose a spot at least 200 feet away from trails, water sources and campsites. Dig a cat hole six inches deep, make your deposit and cover it with the soil that you removed.
  • Washing… Try a soapless cleanup for all but the toughest dirt. Be sure to use biodegradable soap. For health reasons wash dishes with hot water when possible. Do all washing at least 200 feet away from any water source. Even biodegradable soaps must be kept out of lakes and streams.
  • Water Pollution… Assume that giardia is present in most areas. You will need to boil, chemically treat or filter all drinking water.
  • Smoking… Smoke only where it is safe, around a fire or in a cleared area. Please carry out all of your cigarette filters.