The trail to Whitney Falls has consistently been the most popular trail on Mount Shasta that does not begin on the Everitt Memorial Highway. Compared to the other backcountry trailheads, it has a short and simple drive that is easy to reach off of the highway. It is a beautiful hike through remote territory and ends at an incredible overlook near awesome Whitney Falls. It is no wonder the trail is one of the most frequently listed trails in hiking and waterfall guides. Unfortunately the trail has suffered significantly since it was first damaged in a major glacial outburst debris flow in 1997. The Forest Service effectively condemned the trail and went unmaintained for nearly two decades. Hikers still wanted to reach the falls and a series of use trails were beaten into the loose volcanic soil. It was not until earlier this year that the Mount Shasta Trails Association worked hard to reestablish the trail and make it a functional, easy-to-follow route again. Their efforts were much appreciated and it seemed that the Whitney Falls Trail was going to be restored to its former condition. While much of the original path on the west side of Bolam Cree was retained, the new trail crossed over the creek and traveled on the east side before recrossing and continuing on the west.
Ironically, no sooner had it been rebuilt that there was a major flow of some type through Bolam Creek that wiped out the critical first crossing point. Where the original crossing required a six foot descent down a sloping grade to the creek it would now take a 12 to 15 foot drop down a sheer, loose, boulder-filled wall. This is not only completely unrealistic, but also a dangerous move to attempt. The second crossing survived the heavy flow thanks to a series of large boulders in the creek bed that buttressed the walls of the creek’s channel. For those looking to hike the Whitney Falls Trail now, an alternate route has been established. It crosses the creek much earlier than before, and travels through Bolam Creek’s channel for extended periods of time before climbing up onto the east side and making its way to the still extant second crossing. This route is poorly marked and quite dangerous in high water situations. It is completely unrealistic as a long term route for the trail.
Thankfully, there is another option for restoring the Whitney Falls Trail. The original route of the trail (view it here) followed the current path but at the point where the new route made the crossing over Bolam Creek, the trail climbed above the channel and traveled along the high, brush covered divide between Bolam and Whitney Creeks. This route had staggering views of Mount Shasta. The views were unique among the trails on the mountain since it takes in the awesome north side and includes the Bolam and Whitney Glaciers. Now the path has been abandoned and much of the route is getting choked with overgrowth. However, the way is still easily discernible and would not require too much work to make it passable and enjoyable again. Even better, realigning the trail along this original route would make any crossings of Bolam Creek’s unstable channel unnecessary. I hiked this route back in 2007 and it was generally easy going in most places. I hiked it again back in September and it was in pretty rough shape and really overgrown. The last 7 years have not been kind to the original Whitney Falls Trail.
It should be noted that even though the creek crossing is gone and the original trail is overgrown, there is still a relatively easy goat trail to follow that stays on the west side of Bolam Creek and connects the sites of the first and second crossings. If the sides of the creek channel were more stable, this would make the obvious location for a new trail but the loose soil makes this a temporary route at best. The original trail, high above the creek, is still the best option for a long term route.
I am thinking that it would be a great project to get some folks with loppers out to the trail next spring and cut back the growth that has encroached on the trail. A few people, some loppers and a little motivation would be all it would take to restore the Whitney Falls Trail and make it one of the prime routes on Mount Shasta it has always been. Would anyone be interested in helping in this endeavor?
Man I wish sometime I lived over there! If I ever make it out that way Id love to come help out!
I would be happy to help and bring my own loppers. I hike the Colorado Trail a lot and it is all volunteer maintained with a wonderful organization that has volunteer crews working on different sections of the 500 mile trail, every year. I haven’t done the Whitney Falls hike yet, but now I will. Thanks for your great postings!
Thanks! I will check in in the spring when the weather is good and see if we can get some folks together to fix the trail.
“Even better, realigning the trail along this original route would make any crossings of Bolam Creek’s unstable channel necessary. ”
Instead of ‘necessary’, did you mean ‘unnecessary’?
thank you so much for your informative, detailed and inspiring posts!
You are correct. Thanks for catching that.
Bubba – thanks for the update! I guess the expression “no good deed goes unpunished” holds true! The Trail Association is also interested in fixing the trail (again) next spring.
Thanks John. I would love to work with y’all on this and other projects. Do you know if there has been any consideration to restoring the old route of the trail? I think that all that would need to be done is lop the encroaching brush to restore the route. It would keep clear of the unstable creek bed and offer awesome views of Mount Shasta.
Your photos really help me to understand how the trail is made impassable by the washout. Yes, do check back in closer to Springtime, and if I can make a trip over there, it would be fun to help out on one of the trails that lead people into the mountains.
I would be glad to help out if I can. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would love to help also. email@example.com
Awesome! Thank you. We will probably organize something in the fall.
What are the updates on the trail since all the rain and snow?
There are none right now, other than that the trailhead is snowed in yet.
I just returned from hiking Bolam and final destination was to be Whitney Falls. Following the directions was difficult as it starts out with the description of the old trail and then speaks of alternative routes….well everything went well,but we made the sharp right to the west where trail dissapears/is washed out perched high above Bolam Creek….this had us in thick brush and sidewinding “the goat trail” on the side of steep embankment and heading west….eventually it opened up and we found a large rock to surrounded by dense Manzanita to amble up…incredible views of the Mountain and the valley below to the north. Whitney falls was visible but off in the distance…the views did not dissapointed but our distance from the falls was a let down…unable to make our way any closer due to thick Manzanita cover between us and the falls(the old over grown trail is where we ended up,I think)..where did we go wrong? Should we have proceeded down into Bolam Creek where the trail washed out up on the shoulder of Bolam Creek and not made the sharp right to the west? You could clearly see the way down into the creek was a travelled trail. If proceeding that way….do Whitney Creek and Bolam Creek meet/join farther up? Would preceeding down into Bolam Creek and continuing to follow this up towards the mountain bring us closer to Whitney Falls? I definately would go back and try a different route….any information would be helpful…..
Hello I just went today and it was horrible. The road was choked with manzanita and brush. The road was bad even in a 4×4 (2016 4Runner) I made it up to the top but missed the last right hand turn and ended up high up in the Bolam Creek and ended up just hiking to Coquette Falls. I would not want to do that again. Sad there is no signs or even a very usable road.
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Was your starting point from Military Pass Road?
Hi! Was this trail ever scaped?? I’m considering hiking to the falls, and am no stranger to bushwhacking but just want to know it’s status. I would love to help if anyone is still intetested.
I am not sure what you mean by scaped. I can tell you this trail is in the burn zone from the Lava Fire last year. In some ways, this probably helped it out but it has not been maintained since before the fire so the conditions are uncertain at this time. That said, this is not the time to head to Whitney Falls. It doesn’t run until the glaciers start melting at the peak of summer.
The Aug 2, 2022 thunderstorms wiped out the road from Hwy 97 to the trailhead. Union Pacific Railroad has equipment fixing the road from the highway to the railroad grade but not beyond. Let’s hope USFS fixes the rest. Now would be a good time to re-assess the best route to the falls considering it burned in the 2021 Lava Fire.