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How to Prepare for Hiking Mount Shasta
Health & Fitness

How to Prepare for Hiking Mount Shasta

Climbing atop this 14,179-foot giant is an indescribable feeling, and the payoff atop can’t be replicated by anything.

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5 min read

November 26, 2021

Wish to go hiking on Mount Shasta? We don’t blame you—climbing atop this 14,179-foot giant through world-class treks is an indescribable feeling, and the payoff atop can’t be replicated by anything. Scrape the turquoise-blue skies north of Redding, where unspoiled vistas await. And while most Golden State mountains climb gradually, this one rises from the surrounding flatlands with such snow-capped majesty that the whole thing almost seems unreal.

Mount Shasta is a potentially active volcano at the southern end of the Cascade Range in Siskiyou County.

When is the Best Time To Climb Mount Shasta?

Most people attempt the Avalanche Gulch route on Mount Shasta somewhere between mid-May and mid-July. With optimal weather conditions and snowpack coverage, this is believed to be the best time to attempt this route. If you wait until it’s too late in the summer, the snow will melt and there might be a lot of loose scree, which naturally makes the hike more challenging. Even if you’re an expert hiker, this time of year can be more dangerous since there’s a higher chance of rockfall in the Gulch.

Despite the mild weather forecast, you should always be prepared for rapid weather changes. Come prepared with rain gears and pack a few extra layers while you’re at it. Mount Shasta has a tendency to jump from optimal to stormy real fast, sometimes even in a span of a few hours. Also, the higher you ascend, the stronger the winds, so don’t forget your windbreaker; better safe than freezing.

Mount Shasta has an estimated volume of 85 cubic miles, which makes it the most voluminous stratovolcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc.

Do You Need A Permit For Hiking Mount Shasta?

Yes, two of them, in fact—you need a Wilderness Permit and a Summit Pass before climbing Mount Shasta. Anyone attempting to reach the summit of Mount Shasta needs to fill out their own free wilderness permit. A summit pass, however, is a little different. If you climb above 10,000 feet, then this pass is required; otherwise, you’re climbing illegally.

And while you’re required to get a permit for entry in the Mount Shasta Wilderness Area year-round, currently there’s no set quota system or advanced reservations required. This basically means you can show up and grab your permits the day of or a day before your attempt of climbing Mt. Shasta. However, a few special regulations apply to those cases.

Where Can You Get Your Mount Shasta Permit? 

You can pick up your permits at either the Mt. Shasta Ranger District Office or Shasta McCloud Management Unit during their working hours, or you may ‘self-issue a permit outside the front door of the same offices (if your visit falls after their closing). Alternatively, it’s possible to self-issue a permit at the Mt. Shasta trailheads.

Mount Shasta is connected to its satellite cone of Shastina, and together they dominate the landscape.

How Much Will it Cost to Get a Permit?

The fee for a Mount Shasta Summit Pass is $25 per person, and if you’re self-issuing, make sure to have the exact amount of cash or personal check on you. This makes the whole process faster and stress-free—plus, with all that bureaucracy out of the way, you’ll have way more time for hiking.

If you live in the area and plan to summit Mount Shasta often, grab an Annual Summit Pass from one of the Ranger Stations for $30. These are valid until December 31st of the year you bought them.

On a clear winter day, the mountain can be seen from the floor of the Central Valley 140 miles to the south.

Other Things to Consider While Climbing Mt. Shasta

Planning on backpacking Mt. Shasta with a group of friends? Remember that groups are limited to 10 people or less; maybe ditch the plus-ones and go as the core group this time. Additionally, camping is restricted to seven nights within a 30-day window.

Much like Mount Whitney, Mount Shasta has its fair share of visitors—it’s considered a highly trafficked peak. In order to preserve the pristine conditions of this striking beauty, the Mt. Shasta Wilderness Rangers and Climbers have developed a Waste Disposal System, much like the mandatory W.A.G.-Bag system at Mt. Whitney. To put it plainly, act responsibly regarding your surroundings and plan to do your part in keeping Shasta as majestic as possible. Pick up one of the ‘pack out’ bags at any of the ranger stations or the Bunny Flat Trailhead.

The Best Mount Shasta Hiking Trails

Endlessly beautiful vistas are one of the great joys of hiking on Mount Shasta. The far-reaching panoramas are abundant along every trail you’ll find on the mountain. This, in large part, is due to the incredible amount of terrain that lies just above the timberline—Mount Shasta hiking trails have to be seen to be believed.

Mount Shasta's surface is relatively free of deep glacial erosion except where Sargents Ridge runs parallel to the U-shaped Avalanche Gulch.

John Everitt Vista Point 

This Mt. Shasta trailhead walks you through a large, old-growth conifer forest with panoramic glimpses of the Sacramento River Canyon (a haven for every water activity you can think of). Named after the late ranger John S. Everett, the trail snakes through several lookout points—expect to snap photos of stunning Lassen Peak, Trinity Alps, and the towering China Mountain.

Sisson Meadow Loop

If you’re looking for a novice-friendly Mt. Shasta trail map, this little-effort-high-reward hike is for you. Sisson Meadow is part of the Siskiyou Land Trust; it sits upon 7.5 acres of preserved and restored wetland. The paved beauty boasts 360-degree views of the mountain and its surrounding peaks—you’ll get to see views of Mt. Eddy, Black Butte, and Castle Crags Wilderness.

The first reliably reported land sighting of Mount Shasta by a European or American was by Peter Skene Ogden in 1826.

McCloud Waterfalls Trail

Winding through a canyon of basalt and lava rock, the McCloud Waterfalls trail is the most fun you’ll have when backpacking in Mt. Shasta. This well-maintained trail boasts summer swimming opportunities, unmatched fall foliage, and an early spring thaw—safe to say it’s a year-round treat. You’ll come across the Lower Falls first when trekking along the trail. But the most mesmerizing section is the 50-foot-high and 80-foot wide Middle Falls, which tumbles down into a swimming hole; the perfect way to cool down from the scorching summer heat.

Panther Meadow Loop

Similar to Sisson, Panther Meadow packs in plenty of views into very little distance. Striking glimpses of the mountain are especially scenic via this trail; in many areas, you can also see the Trinity Divide. Weaving through a small yet delicate alpine meadow, this Mount Shasta hiking trail uncovers a seasonal (but unbelievably scenic) creek. It’s important to note that many consider Panther Meadow to be a sacred site, and it’s very common to see people meditating or performing spiritual rituals in the area.

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