Mount Shasta and Mount Eddy are seen from Cory Peak in the Scott Mountains.
Some big changes are afoot for land administration and trail development here in the Mount Shasta area. In the next few months, the Shasta-Trinity National Forest will be closing a deal that will transfer 19 parcels of land from private ownership to the Forest Service. These parcels, totaling around 10,000 acres, are spread across the Scott Mountains and the Eddy Range portion of the Trinity Divide. This is prime mountain real estate, filled with lakes, rocky peaks, lush meadows and expansive forests. In the coming years, trails will likely be developed through this new real estate, adding miles of hiking opportunities.
The impetus behind this transaction is the Pacific Crest Trail. Nearly every parcel is traversed by the PCT. The land owner was gracious to permit construction of the trail on their land but there was always a tenuous status for the trail and access rights. The funds necessary to complete this sale were secured largely through the agency of supporters of the PCT, thus enabling hikers, the PCTA and the Forest Service to have more control and flexibility in how the trail is routed and what kind of spurs and loops can be developed off of the PCT.
This land joins over 2,500 acres recently purchased on Mount Eddy. One section of this additional land includes a lengthy segment of the PCT while the rest of the land includes lakes, awesome cliffs and meadow-fringed ponds. Equally important, these additional parcels will permit legal access – and the subsequent development of trails – to many of the prettiest features on Mount Eddy. The possibilities for exciting and spectacular new trails are vast.
The red areas denote the new sections being acquired. The orange sections are those on Mount Eddy that were recently purchased. The Pacific Crest Trail is marked in yellow.
This may not seem like a big deal to hikers who already explore this area via the PCT or off trail. The land owners don’t seem to make a fuss about people crossing the land. This may be the case, but the transfer of land from private to public hands means that a whole new generation of trails may now be developed. Right now, only the Pacific Crest Trail crosses these mountainous areas. In the future, it is possible for new trails to be developed that will access lakes, the PCT, meadows, passes and peaks. The Eddy Range and the Scott Mountains have the potential be the home of a fantastic trail network for both backpackers and day hikers.
Following the acquisition of the land, the current plan is to take it slow. A large reason for this is that all the resources devoted to new trail construction are being consumed by the awesome Gateway Phase II project. However, once that is completed, if a Phase III is not imminent, then energy can be refocused onto the Scott Mountains. The desire is there to construct new trails, trailheads and campgrounds and to make this area a vibrant recreation destination. Several lakes, previously privately owned, will be opened up and accessed via trail. One excellent example of this is Rock Fence Lake, which will surely become a popular hike. Other lakes, including Cabin Meadow, Bluff, Bull, Masterson Meadow and Grouse Creek Lakes will all be added to the national forest and trails to them will be developed. The Little Trinity River, a seldom appreciated creek, will also be open to hiking.
Another awesome feature is the intended resurrection of a long segment of the Sisson-Callahan Trail. This was the original, 19th-Century route that connected the town of Callahan to Mount Shasta. At the time, Highway 3, which passes through Callahan, was the primary north-south route through this part of California. This made the SCT a critical transportation route. Currently, the section running from the near Lake Siskiyou up to Deadfall Basin is an active trail. In the near future, we may see the original pass at North Fork Sacramento/Bear Creek put back to use and then have the trail continue west along Bear Creek, cross the Trinity River and then climb up to Bull Lake. From there the plan is already forming to have it continue through nearby Robbers Meadow and then reconnect to the Pacific Crest Trail.
The Scott Mountains present the biggest opportunity to develop a fantastic trail network. The following gallery is a sample of the land potentially explored by a new trail network. Click to enlarge:
Below is a map with a hypothetical trail network in the Scott Mountains based on conversations with the forest service. The proposed trails are marked purple. The blue line is the original route of the Sisson-Callahan Trail, which will likely be restored.
The Eddy Range has also seen significant additions of land. The previous land acquisition on the east side of Mount Eddy brings the potential for a host of new trails that access areas like Eddy Bowl. Also, the holy grail of lost areas, Dobkins and Durney Lakes, are now potential destinations for new trails coming from the Morgan Meadow and Eddy Bowl areas. Even more enticing, the section of land just east of Parks Creek Pass is being added. This yields the opportunity to actually construct a loop around Mount Eddy, connecting Deadfall Basin, the North Fork of the Sacramento Basin, Eddy Bowl and the Dobkins and Durney Basin, as well as a nice side trip up to Little Crater Lake. This would be an absolutely spectacular backpacking trip!
Below is a gallery of some of the lands added the transfer. Note that Toad Lake is already part of the national forest but the cliffs behind it and to the north of Porcupine Peak were not.
The potential for new trails in these areas is astounding. It is a significant opportunity to develop the recreational resources this area has to offer. Both locals and visitors will benefit from the construction of new trails and the creation of new campgrounds. The potential to complement a world class mountain like Mount Shasta with a world class trail network to the west would be an awesome boon to all who enjoy the Mount Shasta area.
I should close with a word of caution. The building of trails in new areas always means the introduction of more people to areas previously minimally impacted by hikers. There is always a tension between use and preservation and I feel that tension in the very existence of this website. In the end, I tend to favor more trails and, hopefully, robust Leave No Trace training, though I remain sympathetic to those who think no or fewer trails is better for the land.