Here in Mount Shasta, my family tends to have a stratified hiking program. In the winter, we hike at the lowest elevations, mostly in the Shasta Valley, along the Sacramento River and around town at places like Lake Siskiyou. In the summer, we head high into the mountains where the lakes and mountain tops beckon. In the spring, however, we head to numerous places hidden at the mid-elevations in the mountains where there are few trails. Indeed, most of what we enjoy are cross country outings in these parts and they are some of our favorite hikes of the year. While we are always looking for new ones to explore, some are classics to which we return again and again. Chief among these is the hike along Survey Creek.
Western idyll: Mount Shasta rises over a lush field and a herd of Arabian horses.
This year, prior to going to the creek, we had to take my daughter to see the Arabians that live at the very southern edge of the Shasta Valley. She is a horse-junkie of the first order and these are her favorite horses. I only mention this because the unexpected puddle gave me a great reflection of Mount Shasta looming above the field were some of the horses were grazing. All I could think of that scene was “the west is the best”!
Back to Survey Creek, the thing we like about this hike is how it combines all the best elements of a trip into one tight, incredibly enjoyable package. This hike has waterfalls, rock scrambling, lush meadows, solitude, ample room for exploration and a great view of Mount Shasta. Could you need anything else?
Mount Shasta, visible from Survey Point.
We typically climb the first few hundred feet along the crashing creek but then veer off and climb up the rocks to Survey Point, where get a great view of Mount Shasta. The rocks here are serpentine and peridotite. Not only are they striking visually but they are the tackiest rock I have ever been on. You can go up steeper grades on this rock than even granite or sandstone.
A chunk of serpentine amidst peridotite.
What makes this area unusual is how the peridotite is not broken up but is one giant slab of rock. Most places around here it is manifest as a pile of talus. The serpentine runs through it in large, beautiful veins. Climbing up the rock is one of my kids’ favorite part of the hike.
From Survey Point, we drop down to the meadow, which is enveloped in a large amphitheater. The meadow is filled with darlingtonia and numerous spring fed streams winding through the lush grass. It isn’t large, but it is beautiful and there are very, very few signs anyone has ever been there.
After lingering in the meadow for a while, we head back. Rather than scrambling down the rocks, this time we follow Survey Creek. All the small streams in the valley combine into one channel and as it leaves the meadow it enters a rocky channel through which it cascades a few hundred feet.
We normally hike this in April but this year our April was extremely busy so we did not make it until mid-May. The water was a little lower but still quite beautiful.
The trip did provide an interesting perspective on the snowpack on Mount Shasta. From Survey Point, we could see the mountain clearly and compared to 2021, it has much more snow on it than it did last year. It is still not a great snowpack but it is definitely an improvement!
Mount Shasta from Survey Point May 2021.
Mount Shasta from Survey Point May 2022.