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.