Little Castle Lake

Mount Shasta + Medicine Lake Area, California

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Little Castle Lake


  • The trail starts to climb from Castle Lake.- Little Castle Lake
  • Hug the left side of the first meadow on the way to Little Castle Lake. - Little Castle Lake
  • Little Castle Lake.- Little Castle Lake
  • Unamed Peak that lies South of Castle Lake. The first leg of the trail will level out onto the peak's saddle before descending left to Little Castle or rising to Heart Lake.- Little Castle Lake
  • Trail with the second meadow on the left side.- Little Castle Lake
  • Views en route to Little Castle Lake.- Little Castle Lake
  • Rising to the saddle.- Little Castle Lake
  • When you've reached the top of the saddle, keep the unnamed peak on your left.- Little Castle Lake
  • Shaded portion of the trail before the second meadow.- Little Castle Lake
  • Shasta viewed from the second meadow.- Little Castle Lake
  • Take a right at the trail fork after the second meadow.- Little Castle Lake
  • A backcountry campsite en route to Little Castle Lake.- Little Castle Lake
  • A second campsite lies just past the first campsite in a little clearing next to the waterfront.- Little Castle Lake
  • Water is a stone's throw away from the first site.- Little Castle Lake
  • Little Castle Lake from a backcountry campsite.- Little Castle Lake
  • Little Castle Lake.- Little Castle Lake
  • Leaving Little Castle Lake- Little Castle Lake
Overview + Weather
Warm water. Low traffic. Other close options.
Mount Shasta + Medicine Lake Area, CA
Pets allowed: 
Net Elevation Gain: 
300.00 ft (91.44 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
0.00 mi (0.00 km)
Trail type: 
Trailhead Elevation: 
5,400.00 ft (1,645.92 m)
Current Local Weather:
Hike Description

Hike Description


Little Castle Lake is a small trail-side lake in the Castle Lake Trail System on the way to Mount Bradley. During the summer, the sun warms the water in Little Castle Lake to extremely pleasant swimming temperatures, making it a great option for those who don't enjoy the cold of higher altitude swimming. The lakeside also offers room to pitch a tent or cook up a lunch up over a fire pit to fuel your daytime activities. Along the hike, panoramic views of Mount Shasta and Black Butte will keep your eyes wandering off trial. 

The lake itself is glacially formed like its bigger brother, Castle Lake, which you will pass at the trailhead. The hike to Little Castle is safe and short enough (barely over a mile) to do for an early sunrise/ day hike. Hikers can choose to continue on to Mount Bradley for a longer day hike or turn around to reach Heart Lake and Castle Lake Overlook in the opposite direction. It is recommended to hike to Little Castle Lake first, however, to enjoy the spectacular views from Heart Lake and Castle Lake Overlook later in the day for sunset.

Little Castle Lake offers much more swimming real estate than Heart Lake, and it stays much less crowded than Heart Lake and Castle Lake. To the north lies a small meadow with a view of Mount Shasta through the evergreen forest. While swimming, you will be looking at a glorious mountainside rising above you to the south. Because of the small grove of trees that separates the trail from the lake, the lake seems like its own little oasis within the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. 

To get to Little Castle Lake, start at the Castle Lake Trailhead and follow the self-explanatory trail for the first 0.6 miles until you reach the saddle. Once you have reached the saddle, take a left, and move southwest while keeping an unnamed peak on your left at all times. You will quickly find yourself at a meadow in which deer can sometimes be found during the early morning. Hug the left side of the meadow until the trail forks again, and keep right. You will descend for a few minutes through a shaded and narrow portion of the trail before a clearing is reached with a second meadow on your left. Make sure to look up and see Mount Shasta's peak beyond the pines. Take a right at the next fork and find yourself fronting upon the north side of Little Castle Lake. 

Immediately you will see a site to pitch a tent. For a better site, continue under the shade of the trees on your left to a site with more space and privacy as well as better water access. This small grove of trees is also perfect for hanging a hammock for an afternoon snooze. The lakeside can be somewhat muddy or brushy depending on the traffic that summer. 

To reach Heart Lake and Castle Lake Overlook, return to the saddle and turn left to hike uphill for 0.4 miles. Castle Lake overlook is just 0.3 miles past Heart Lake, and it provides uninhibited views of Castle Lake, Shasta, and Black Butte.

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Field Guide + Trail Map

Field Guide + Trail Map

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Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(5 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(29 within a 30 mile radius)

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