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Jonathan Stull | 04.26.2017

The hulking mass of Mount Shasta is one of Northern California’s most noticeable landmarks along the I-5 corridor, and at over 14,000 feet it is one of the highest peaks in the Cascade Mountains. There is far more here than meets the eye—probably, in part, because the mountain’s 85 cubic-mile mass blocks your view, and all the weather. Within 50 miles of Mount Shasta, a diversity of ecoregions offers a wide spectrum of beautiful day hikes ranging from rambles in the high desert in the volcano’s rain shadow to alpine ascents above tree line and musty trails in old-growth forest to climbs to granite spires and a descent into an underground lava tube. Among the perks of Shasta’s mass: its hikes, despite being at elevation, remain warm enough to keep clear of snow, making Shasta a fantastic destination for hikes from spring to fall. Take advantage!


  • Faery Falls: Resort ruins and one of Shasta’s most photogenic waterfalls on a short 2-mile hike in Spring Canyon.
  • Burstarse Falls: Nestled on the Pacific Crest Trail, Burstarse Falls drops a combined 75 feet over two cascades above Castle Creek Road. Should be fantastic after this wet winter.
  • Three Falls Hike: Can’t beat the three waterfalls along the McCloud River for volume, and the river has carved out cliff jumping and swimming holes. Though it’s probably best to wait for summer, there is old-growth forest here that includes wildflowers, and of course the waterfalls themselves.

Shasta Ascents

  • Avalanche Gulch: The summit is out of reach for a day hike, but Helen Lake is within reach for those who want to appreciate the California volcano up close.
  • Clear Creek: The 6 miles from the trailhead to Clear Creek Meadows echoes with the roar of Mud Creek Falls and ends in an alpine meadow at 8,500 feet with views of the Klamath Mountains. This is gentler and less busy than Avalanche Gulch.

Alpine Hikes

  • Castle Lake trail system: With myriad options, the Castle Lake trail system can stretch from a half to a full day. Heart Lake is a long mile to views above Castle Lake of Shasta and Black Butte. Continue on to the Castle Lake Overlook for more great views over the Siskiyous and onward to Little Castle Lake, which offers mild temperatures for summer swims, the option to climb surrounding peaks, and more great views of Shasta and beyond.
  • Castle Crags: Awe-inspiring geology, diverse flora, and fantastic views make Castle Crags one of the best overall destinations in the Shasta area in any season, including a winter snowshoe. The crags can be summited without technical gear, though the ascent is hairy.
  • Yellow Butte: In the dry ecoregion north of Shasta, there are few better places to grasp the size and scale of the volcano—with virtually no one to obstruct your view.

What Goes Up

  • Pluto’s Cave: Part of an ancient network of lava tubes, Pluto’s Cave offers a rare subterranean hike in the high desert.


Thanks for the great tips! We hit four of these during our recent trip to the area. The mail trail to Yellow Butte appears to be fenced off with "Private Property" signs, but the view from the front crest was still superb! We posted more about our trip on our blog:
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