With the warm weather expected over the weekend, the next few days will be a wonderful opportunity to get outside and enjoy the mountains one last time before the cold weather really begins to set in. However, with the road past Bunny Flat closed, there is sometimes a sense that the season has passed and the high country is now out of reach. While this may be true for the trails that begin up at the Old Ski Bowl, there are still plenty of fantastic high country trails that are waiting to be enjoyed. Some of the higher elevation may have some snow on the ground but in most places, there isn’t much more than a very thin layer of ice. Despite the lateness of the season, there is still a tremendous diversity of high country trails to hike. Whether on Mount Shasta or in the Trinity Divide, there is still time to get out and enjoy the Mount Shasta region’s incredible scenery! The following are five great options for excellent high country hiking this weekend.
The giant volcanic cone of Black Butte is prominently visible throughout much of the Mount Shasta area. At 6,358, it is not among the tallest peaks around the great mountain but it does have a tremendous amount of relief, towering over 2,000 feet above surrounding area. It would be a major landmark in its own right if it were not for the obvious and overshadowing presence of Mount Shasta. Hiking to the summit of Black Butte is often impossible in the winter, when snow covers the trail and the exposure is very dangerous. Making matters worse, the snow lingers on the trail for a long time because of the route’s location on the peak’s north side. Right now the way is clear and this is a great time to enjoy the hike’s incredible views.
While the last stretch of the Everitt Memorial Highway may be closed, it is still easy to drive quickly to high elevation at Bunny Flat. From here, you can hike either the Green Butte Ridge Trail or the short path to Horse Camp. The latter is preferable at this point because Green Butte does have some snow on it. Horse Camp, on the other hand, is below the current snow line and is reached quickly. From there you have numerous options for climbing higher. While the hikers headed to Helen Lake and Hidden Valley must contend with some of the white stuff, there is plenty of room to explore the lower areas of Avalanche Gulch without having to deal with any snow.
This is one of the best trips in the Mount Shasta area and it is still a great option even though we are moving into the cold season. The hike follows the Pacific Crest Trail along the top of the Trinity Divide, with fantastic views in all directions. The vista is particularly awesome to the west, where the sawtooth towers of the Trinity Alps form a spectacular horizon. Not to be outdone by the western vista, the view to the east is utterly dominated by Mount Shasta. After a couple of easy miles on the PCT, the view of the Seven Lakes Basin unfolds beneath the trail. Many of the lakes are visible from here and the towering cliffs, Boulder Peak and the brooding Grey Rocks make a memorable scene. Hikers can continue further and visit Helen Lake or descend down into the basin to explore the rest of the lakes.
The journey on the Clear Creek Trail is one of the most spectacular trails in California. Even though there may be some snow higher up near the springs, the lower section is still an awesome trail with some of the best views of Mount Shasta, Mud Creek Canyon and Mud Creek Falls. The trip starts in old growth red fir forests and climbs onto the east rim of Mud Creek Canyon where there are epic views. Higher up the trail climbs into a large basin containing the headwaters springs of Clear Creek. The Konwakiton, Watkins and Wintun Glaciers all cling to the cliffs above the basin. Volcanic spires loom high overhead, marching inexorably toward Mount Shasta’s summit. While there may be a bit of snow in the basin right now, the odds are good that the going will still be easy.
Often overlooked because of Mount Shasta, Mount Eddy is a tremendous mountain in its own right. The view from the summit is among the finest in Northern California and certainly the best north of Lake Tahoe. There is just a thin layer of snow near the summit and the rest of the trail is generally clear. With Mount Shasta white and the way clear to the top, now is a fantastic time to climb to the view. If that were not enough, the hike passes through awesome Deadfall Basin, where the trio of lakes is an incredible destination on their own. Just hiking to the lakes is a fantastic high country trip; perfect the warm weather this weekend. While the summit of Mount Eddy may be a bit too much for little legs, the hike to the lakes via the PCT is a great outing for kids.