Soaring to 14,179 feet high, Mt. Shasta scrapes the turquoise-blue sky, north of Redding—acting as a totem from almost anywhere in the northern part of the state. And while some mountains climb gradually, this one rises from surrounding flatlands with such towering, snow-capped majesty that it seems almost unreal—like a child’s notion of what a mountain should be. Yet this is no childish vision—it’s a very real, very big volcano (last erupted in 1786). Famed naturalist John Muir wrote that his “blood turned to wine” when he first caught sight of the Fuji-esque peak.
Skiing and Mountaineering on Mt. Shasta
Mt. Shasta has long been on the bucket list of serious skiers and mountaineers. The esteemed book The Fifty Classic Ski Descents of North America characterized the mountain as “…a skier’s mountain…with so many fantastic ski lines on its flanks that it’s difficult to say which ones are best.” The relative lack of crevasse hazards on most summit routes, coupled with generally mild springtime weather, makes it ideal for ski mountaineering. Summiting the mountain is for the hardiest of climbers; ask about guide services at The Fifth Season outdoor store in the town of Mt. Shasta, a New Age-y enclave on the mountain’s west side. (Get the town’s vibe at The Crystal Room, a prism-filled visual feast.)
During winter months, the low-key and local Mt. Shasta Ski Park, on the mountain’s western slope, is the go-to resort for the region. Of the 38 trails spread out over 2,038 vertical feet, 20 percent are beginner level, 45 percent are intermediate, and 35 percent are advanced, so there are multiple runs for every level of skier. Non-downhill-skiers can take advantage of locations for sledding, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing (gear is available for rent at any one of the several stores in the area). The park even has backcountry cabins that can accommodate up to eight people so you can turn your daytime explorations into a cozy overnight adventure.
Summer, Spring, and Fall Activities on Mt. Shasta
Fortunately, you don’t have to bag the peak, or even have snow, to enjoy this alpine paradise. Easy paths loop through wildflower-filled meadows and into cool forests, where you should keep an eye out for eagles and deer, and just might catch a glimpse of a black bear or two. One of the prettiest trails, a mellow two-mile path along the McCloud River on the mountains south, leads to a trio of waterfalls—all beautiful, though Middle Falls is the real head-turner. Cycling is also a huge draw, as the area offers some of the most stunning scenery and least crowded cycling routes—for both road and mountain biking—in the West. (Rental rides are available at Bike Shasta and Cycle Siskiyou.) There’s camping, caverns, and world-class fly-fishing too.
Know before you go: Most Mt. Shasta hiking trails are closed during winter months due to snow. To fish, a current California Fishing License is required.
Things to Do Near Mt. Shasta
In addition to Redding, there are several attractions that should be on your itinerary while in the region. Drive south less than 10 miles on Interstate 5 and you’ll pull into the mountain hamlet of Dunsmuir, home of top fly-fishing streams, a railroad museum, and the nearby Castle Crags State Park. Farther away but worth the 70-mile drive, especially in the warmer months, is Whiskeytown Lake, a 3,000 surface-acre reservoir of crystal-clear water that’s perfect for sailing, kayaking, fishing, and windsurfing. If you prefer to stay dry, admire it from the shore and hike to the 220-foot Whiskeytown Falls. About an hour’s drive to the east are the fascinating steam vents, mud pots, fumaroles, and Sulphur Works of Lassen Volcanic National Park.