The Best Hiking Mt. Shasta Has to Offer - AdventureTripr

The Best Hiking Mt. Shasta Has to Offer

March 29, 2021
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Mt. Shasta Hiking
Mt. Shasta Hiking

“When I first caught sight of Mount Shasta over the braided folds of the Sacramento Valley, my blood turned to wine, and I have not been weary since.”

— John Muir, 1874

Located about 50 miles south of the Oregon/California border along the I-5 corridor, an active stratovolcano dominates the skyline. It’s Mt. Shasta, the fifth highest mountain in California, and the second highest mountain in the Cascade Range (Mount Rainier is 249 feet higher). While some mountains climb gradually, this one rises from surrounding flatlands with a towering, snow-capped majesty. It’s a bucket list peak for many mountaineers!

Fortunately, you don’t have to bag the peak to enjoy the mountain. Easy paths loop through wildflower-filled meadows and into cool forests, where you can keep an eye out for local wildlife. Surrounding the mountain are also five buttes (tall, flat-topped, steep-sided towers of rock) that provide plenty of opportunities for exploration. 

Here are some of the Mt. Shasta hikes you should be checking out! 

Panther Meadow Trail 

Distance: 1.5 miles 

Difficulty: Easy

This short, easy trail on Mt. Shasta is the perfect introduction to the mountain. Panther Meadow exists because of a spring that waters the volcanic soil, giving you a lush place to hangout and enjoy the stunning views of the snow-capped giant. It’s by the Old Ski Bowl trailhead, which has a few other trails you can always explore as well! 

Castle Lake Overlook 

Mt. Shasta and Castle Lake
Mt. Shasta and Castle Lake

Distance: 2.6 miles, round trip  

Difficulty: Moderate 

Castle Lake Overlook is one of those short, but very sweet hikes. You’ll get a major view payoff from the short distance you travel, with a clear look out to Mt. Shasta and Black Butte. You can also stop at the lake on your way back for a picnic or swim. 

Bunny Hills Trailhead 

Distance: 5.0 miles, loop

Difficulty: moderate

With lookout views to the south and the immense bulk of Mount Shasta towering overhead, Bunny Hills is a breathtaking spot. Just know that the snow probably won’t be melted enough to hike in this area until mid-June. 

There are two trails that you can take from this trailhead to enjoy the high alpine, Green Butte Ridge Trail and Horse Camp Trail. You can combine these two trails into a loop, with the summit being Green Butte, which is one of the five color-themed buttes that surround the mountain (the others being Black, Red, Gray and Yellow Buttes). 

RELATED: Mount Shasta Adventure

Girard Ridge 

Distance: 9 miles, round trip

Difficulty: Moderate 

If 9 miles feels too long for a day hike, break out the mountain bike and cruise along this flat ridgetop forest road. To the north there will be spectacular views of Mount Shasta, to the west the gray spires of the Castle Crags, and to the southeast a distant silhouette of Lassen Peak. You’ll reach an old firelook that was first built in 1931.

Pluto’s Cave 

Pluto's Cave, Mt. Shasta Area
Pluto's Cave, Mt. Shasta Area

Distance: 3.5 miles, round trip

Difficulty: Easy 

The Shasta Valley is a pocket of high desert, which gives you the unique opportunity to see the mountain contrasted against the desert landscape. On the north side lies an ancient set of lava tubes. They were formed by an eruption of basaltic lava, and you can safely hike about 1,200 feet (0.2 miles) into the cave. It’s not every hike you can check out part of a cave!

McCloud Falls 

Upper Fall on McCloud River, Mt. Shasta Area
Upper Fall on McCloud River, Mt. Shasta Area

Distance: 4 miles, round trip 

Difficulty: Easy 

The McCloud River Trail passes three beautiful waterfalls as it winds through a canyon of basalt lava rock. This smooth, well maintained trail is easy to hike, and offers summer swimming. If you want to shorten the hike, you can always turn around after you reach the first or second falls. 

Black Butte Trail 

Black Butte, Mt. Shasta Area
Black Butte, Mt. Shasta Area

Distance: 5.3 miles, round trip

Difficulty: Moderate 

The Black Butte Trail is one of the oldest and most well used National Forest trails near Mt Shasta. From the summit of Black Butte (6,325′), you will get a spectacular view of the surrounding area with Mt. Shasta to the east. 

Picayune to Porcupine Lake Via Pacific Crest Trail

Distance: 12.0 miles (roundtrip)

Difficulty: Strenuous 

This ridge hike along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) has breathtaking views of major northern California landmarks such as Lassen Peak, Mount Shasta, Mount Eddy, and the Trinity Alps. You’ll end at Porcupine Lake, a perfect stop for lunch and swimming. If you want to go even further, you can continue on to Toad Lake.

Or, if you want just the lakes, you can shorten this hike to 3.5 miles by starting at the other side. Be warned though: the drive up the canyon to the Toad Lake trailhead is a rough one! 

Yellow Butte 

Distance: 3.0 miles (roundtrip)

Difficulty: Easy 

In the dry ecoregion north of Shasta, there are few places where you can really take in the sheer size of the volcano but Yellow Butte is one of them! This easy out-and-back trail is mellow, with stunning views. It’s also one of the least visited and least traveled buttes in the Mount Shasta region. 

We hope you get a chance to explore some these incredible Mt. Shasta’s hiking trails. If you do, be sure to share it with us by tagging @adventuretripr. Happy exploring! 

Psst: We offer a three day, two night adventure at Mt. Shasta.

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