In the late 1800s, the famous naturalist John Muir wrote of Mount Shasta, “When I first caught sight of it over the braided folds of the Sacramento Valley… my blood turned to wine and I have not been weary since.”
More than 100 years later, on a post-college road trip, Chris Carr laid eyes on the mountain and was similarly moved. “The first time I saw it, it kind of blew my mind. I immediately fell in love,” he remembers. In his heart, Carr knew he’d found a forever home.
The 14,180-foot snow-capped peak seems to have that effect on people. The town of Mt. Shasta, located at the mountain’s base, attracts adventurers, spiritual seekers, and off-the-grid aficionados from all over the world. “It’s just a really special place,” Carr says.
After moving to Mt. Shasta as a guide, Carr met his now-wife, Jenn, and fell in love. Together, they purchased Shasta Mountain Guides as equal partners in 2003. The couple now operates the Siskiyou County business year-round, employing close to 40 guides who help adventurous sorts cross the Shasta summit off their mountaineering bucket list. The company also offers alpine climbing courses, avalanche-awareness training, guided rock-climbing, and backcountry ski trips.
Carr believes Mt. Shasta is one of the world’s best mountain towns—and you don’t need to be a high-caliber athlete to enjoy its natural splendor. “We have this tremendous outdoor resource. No matter what you’re into, you can find it here,” he says.
Keep your stoke high without breaking (too much of) a sweat with the popular 2.2-mile Castle Lake hike. “I’ve been there hundreds of times and it still takes my breath away,” says Carr. Or enjoy a magical vista along the Everitt Memorial Highway with pull-off spots to watch the sun set behind Mount Eddy. In the winter, Carr takes his 12-year-old daughter to Mt. Shasta Ski Park, and in the summer they head to Lake Siskiyou Camp Resort for “water features like inflatable trampolines and waterslides that kids just love.”
All that adventure requires hearty fuel—and luckily, Mt. Shasta has some exceptional options. Start your day at Seven Suns for coffee and the famously massive breakfast burrito. “Our guides say just one can get them through an entire day on the mountain,” says Carr. For dinner, go casual at The Garden Tap where you can enjoy wood-fired pizza inside a local nursery. Or treat yourself in nearby Dunsmuir at Café Maddalena, where the seasonal menu rotates every few weeks.
Go to Mt. Shasta for a weekend and stay for a week—or follow Carr’s example and simply never leave. “There’s so much to explore, and we’re just so grateful that we get to do that here,” he says.
FIVE MORE FAVORITES
Carr says that Shasta has something for everyone, “except for shopping malls.” Check out a few more of his favorite local spots:
Best hotel: “We love LOGE. They bought an old motel and completely refurbished it with a cool outdoor theme. The hotel rooms have really neat little features like hammocks inside, and there’s a place for campers as well as a European-style bunkhouse. In the outdoor space, they host movie nights and live music on Saturdays. They are really trying to build community and create a space for people to hang out and socialize.”
Perfect sandwich: “The Mount Shasta Supermarket is a classic, old-school market with a deli sandwich that is the local go-to. Twelve o’clock every day there’s a line out the door. My order is a turkey and swiss on a deli roll—hard to go wrong. On Fridays and Saturdays, they do a tri-tip sandwich, and you can smell the barbecue from two blocks away.”
Unforgettable swimming hole: “McCloud Falls is an area highlight with good swim holes. It’s actually three different waterfalls that you can hike to: middle, upper, and lower. The lower falls are really accessible with handicap access, and they are pretty spectacular.”
People-watching: “Shasta attracts an eclectic group of travelers, folks from all over the word, spiritual seekers, and van-lifers. Go to Mt. Shasta City Park and you’ll get a sense of the scene right at the headwaters of the Sacramento River.”
Outfit your adventure: “I’m like a kid in a candy shop at The Fifth Season. It’s a local gear shop with great staff and a small-town vibe. They have the best gear—everything you need for climbing, skiing, hiking, or swimming in the river. I could easily spend my entire paycheck there. They also rent equipment, which is a great resource for guests.”