How To Explore the Mount Shasta Region

Experience the 7 best activity options of this Northern California hotspot for outdoor adventure.

Dominating the skyline for a hundred miles in every direction, glacier-decked Mount Shasta is the crown jewel of this out-of-the-way Northern California region. But the 14,163-foot peak is far from the only attraction in this ‘hood. The area is surrounded by the conifer forests, big rivers, and waterfalls of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest; speckled with refreshing, high-altitude lakes and rock climbing hotspots; and laced with primo trails for hiking and mountain biking. When you’re done with your activity of choice, the nearby small towns of Mount Shasta, Dunsmuir, McCloud, and Weed (less than 90 minutes south of Medford, Ore., on Interstate 5) offer coffee, microbrews, and burgers topped with jalapenos, fried onions, or peanut butter. In short, it’s paradise for outdoor lovers. 

Mount Shasta (the mountain) is a dormant volcano in the Cascade Range (its last documented eruption was 3,200 years ago). It ranks No. 1 in volume and No. 2 in height (behind Washington’s Mount Rainier) among the Cascade volcanoes, and is the fifth-tallest peak in California. No marked trails lead to its summit, but strong and experienced hikers can make it to the top. The Mount Shasta Wilderness covers the peak’s topmost slopes; the area’s second wilderness, Castle Crags, features granitic spires and steep canyons. The Pacific Crest Trail, one of the country’s most beautiful long-distance paths, passes through the area. And local residents include bald eagles, deer, black bears, mountain lions, and river otters.

The Mount Shasta region could keep you busy for many seasons to come. So, consider the following top-adventure options as simply your jumping-off point for exploring the area’s many attractions.

1. Summit Mount Shasta

If you’re the mountaineering type, it’s tough to resist the call of this siren peak. Many of the routes to the top of this snowy summit are nontechnical, but you’ll still need a helmet, crampons, and an ice axe to do it. The routes are demanding and steep, climbing thousands of feet from the trailheads, so most climbers make the trip in two days by camping on the upper slopes. The shortest, easiest, and most popular route is Avalanche Gulch; also consider Clear Creek. Peak season is mid-May through June, when weather is generally good and sufficient snowpack remains. Red tape: You’ll need to purchase a required $25 summit pass

2. Go Whitewater Rafting

Take your pick from the many floatable rivers slicing through the area. From the mellow Tree of Heaven section of the Klamath River to the Class III rapids on the Trinity and Upper Sacramento rivers to the wild whitewater of the Upper Klamath, there’s a stretch of water for everyone. Trip options range from half-day jaunts to multi-day river tours. Go with a guide: River Dancers and Living Waters Recreation, both based in the town of Mount Shasta, run a variety of trips in summer.

Entrance to the Lake Shasta National Natural Landmark in Shasta County, Northern California

3. Rock Climb Castle Crags

The 2,000- to 7,000-foot granite towers (geologically speaking, they’re plutons) of this iconic area beckon climbers of all skill levels with a variety of routes, from simple sport climbs to multi-pitch ascents. Castle Crags State Park borders the wilderness, offering camping options and hiking trails, too. Go with a guide: Shasta Mountain Guides conducts climbing trips for all levels.

4. Mountain Bike 

Dozens of miles of bike trails cruise around the region, from technical routes to flowy singletrack. One popular choice is the Gateway Trail Loop, a 10-miler that circles through ponderosa pine forests with views of Mount Shasta and surrounding peaks. The Sisson-Callahan route, a 3.3-mile stretch along the North Fork of the Sacramento River, provides a bigger challenge with its boulders and steep drops. Level up: The Mount Shasta Bike Park (the summer option at the local ski resort) has more than 20 miles of lift-served trails.

5. Explore Lake Shasta Caverns

Wander among fantastical stalactites and stalagmites (plus dozens more types of cave formations) on an underground tour of this national natural landmark. The 250 million-year-old caverns are cool and comfortable year-round, making them a great summer retreat. Go with a guide: Lake Shasta Caverns owns and operates the site and runs tours of the caverns that include a scenic boat ride on Lake Shasta.

6. Dip a Toe in Lake Siskiyou

This sparkling, 430-acre reservoir is the spot for swimming, paddleboarding, kayaking, and fishing, all with perfect views of Mount Shasta. Sandy shorelines make lounging and splashing easy, and the angling is good for rainbow and brown trout. Need an extra boat? Lake Siskiyou Camp Resort rents several different kinds of crafts for paddling and floating.

7. Ski and Snowboard Mount Shasta Ski Park

This small, friendly ski resort on the southern flanks of Mount Shasta boasts 425 acres of terrain, 32 trails (many of them beginner-friendly), and a respectable 1,435 vertical feet. Ski-hill bonus: There are also two terrain parks and a tubing hill to occupy skiers and riders of all levels. 

Refresh & Refuel 

Start your adventure day off at Seven Suns Coffee & Café in Mount Shasta for java and hearty breakfast burritos and egg sandwiches. Afterwards, refuel with one of the creatively loaded burgers from Yaks on the 5 in Dunsmuir (there’s also an outpost, Yaks Shack, in Mount Shasta).

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.

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