Deep snow, a waterfall and a host of flowers compliment an idyllic Old Ski Bowl.
Like much of the rest of California, the Mount Shasta area has been blessed with a winter that produced a deep snow pack. On top of that, this has been a wet May and even more snow has been deposited on Mount Shasta and the surrounding mountains. This will likely mean that the road up to the Old Ski Bowl will open later than the traditional date of July 1st. The delayed opening of the gate means that the highest trailheads on the mountain, leading to some of the most beautiful and spectacular destinations on Mount Shasta will not be accessible by car until later in the summer. This includes the Old Ski Bowl Trail, Panther Meadow, Gray Butte and South Gate Meadow as well as numerous excellent destinations that do not have trails leading to them.
Of course, whether or not the gate is open does not mean there is no access to the Old Ski Bowl. From Bunny Flat it is possible to hike up to the end of the road and the upper trailheads via either the road itself of along the unofficial yet well established use trail that connects Bunny Flat to the Old Ski Bowl. Both of these are equally good options to reach the end of the road or push further to some of the spectacular high-elevation destinations.
This raises the question as to why one ought to be so impatient to get up to the Old Ski Bowl as soon as possible. The bottom line is that, despite the Old Ski Bowl being spectacular no matter when one is able to get there, spring (whenever that actually reaches that part of the mountain, whether in actual spring or in the summer) is is a magical time on this corner of Mount Shasta. What sets this time apart is twofold: water and color. Most of the summer the Old Ski Bowl is a complex mix of gray and red rock punctuated by the dark green of a few trees scattered around the basin. In the spring, however, it is lush blanketed by green grass, purple lupines and the white flowers and Dr. Seuss-like tufts of the western pasque flowers. The water elevates the scene even further. Small streams flow down from the receding snow, filling the Old Ski Bowl with the sounds of cascading water. The apogee of the scene is a small 30 foot waterfall that forms on the west side of the bowl at the foot of Green Butte. The song of the waterfall can be heard from the picnic area and it is a magical sight, dancing in the wind as the water falls.
In 2017 the winter was heavy, perhaps even more so than this past winter. The road to the Old Ski Bowl did not open until August. When it did, there was a rare chance to drive up and see the bowl in its spring ideal. Whether the road is open or not, this fantastic time in the Old Ski Bowl can be reached by foot. It is absolutely worth the effort!
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