Brewer Creek flows down the lonely eastern flank of Mount Shasta.
With nearly 20 miles of base diameter, Mount Shasta is nearly a mountain range unto itself. It’s ridges and canyons are the equal of those of the neighboring Trinity Divide despite being a solitary peak. Like all mountain ranges, the mountain has its common vistas and its popular destinations but also its isolated and abandoned corners. On Mount Shasta, the eastern side of the mountain is almost entirely abandoned. Only a handful of climbers and hikers make it over to this side of the mountain. With no paved roads, few trailheads and no settlements on the east side, there is simply not a lot of draw to this area for most people. Yet, in spite of this, it is a magnificent and unique part of Mount Shasta, and certainly one of the prettiest. Two features of Mount Shasta’s east side are particularly noteworthy. First, Mount Shasta appears as a lone, massive and singular summit, absent the presence of Shastina or the tower-laden bulk of Sargents Ridge. Second, the east side of the mountain features the enormous Hotlum and Wintun Glaciers, California’s largest and 3rd largest glaciers respectively. These incredible sheets of ice make for a memorable and beautiful backdrop to east side hikes.
Yet, for all the gargantuan scale of Mount Shasta’s east side features, one of its most beautiful is the delicate but extremely scenic Brewer Creek. While most of the creeks on Mount Shasta’s east and north sides are opaque with glacial silt, Brewer Creek runs clean and clear, making it a delight in the otherwise sandy and semi-desolate volcanic plain. The creek emerges from beneath the Hotlum Glacier and flows down a steep ravine before winding its way across the vast, pumice-covered east slope of Mount Shasta. It eventually enters the forest and dissipates on the mountain’s lower flanks. Though Brewer Creek is perennial, it flows strongest after the spring thaw and in the heat of the summer, when the glacier melts. At this time, the banks are laden with moss and grass and wildflowers erupt in explosions of purple and yellow. It is a narrow ribbon of life in the midst of barren, volcanic terrain.
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Hiking to Brewer Creek is easy and follows a beautiful trail with excellent views of Mount Shasta. Reaching the trailhead is a little more difficult, as it requires driving on the dusty roads of the mountain’s east side. While there may be a few cars at the trailhead, the are almost certainly all belonging to climbers and there it is probable that you will have the creek and its beautiful environs to yourself.