A spectacular morning view of Mount Shasta from the proposed Konwakiton Trail.
For the last several years, I have been highlighting the trails in the Mount Shasta area. We are blessed with a number of great tracks that lead to some truly stunning destinations. However, there remain a host of places that lack trails accessing them or the trail network is incomplete and could be significantly enhanced by the presence of a few more miles of trail. Some of these are in wilderness areas and the approval of construction in the protected land seems unlikely. Others are just not interesting enough to attract the effort necessary for the labor and money to be invested in these projects. This is OK, since it leaves these areas to the motivated and adventurous and promises that these secret spots will remain as they are. That said, there are still some places that I think warrant the effort to build. I believe these trails would instantly become classic Mount Shasta area trails and get significant use. Their addition would make an already great Mount Shasta hiking experience even better than it already is.
Unfortunately, the likelihood of many of these ideas coming to fruition are minimal. The Forest Service suffers from a lack of funding that impairs the possibility of many improvements to the trails. They want to make the hiking experience around Mount Shasta as good as it can be but the obstacles are great. Volunteer contributions are absolutely necessary. This ranges from actual trail construction to the commitment of significant funds to pay for the NEPA process (which is a major problem on its own!). Working through organizations like the Mount Shasta Trails Association is the best way to bring new trails into being.
I may expand on each of my proposals in individual posts. I would be interested in feedback you may have on any of these suggested trails.
5. Trinity Vista Trail
Deadfall Basin and Mount Eddy are classic destinations for hikers in the Mount Shasta area. The basin is filled with gorgeous lakes, awesome wildflowers and fascinating geology. There are two options for reaching the Deadfall area. Most hikers follow the Pacific Crest Trail from the Parks Creek Trailhead while others begin at the Deadfall Meadow Trailhead. The former is longer but requires almost no elevation gain. It has good views of the Scott Mountains and some particularly lush wildflowers as well as refreshing springs. The latter route is shorter but requires more climbing. It ascends into the basin through Deadfall Meadow, which is filled with creeks and even more impressive wildflowers and lush mountain gardens. These two routes each have much to recommend them. Unfortunately, they cannot be combined into a single trip without walking on the steep paved road that connects the trailheads. However, the two trails make up 75% of what could be a really excellent loop hike.
To complete the loop, it would be necessary to construct about 1.75 of trail across the slopes that lie between Deadfall Creek and the road descending from the Parks Creek Trailhead. The addition of this trail would afford hikers the chance to hike into Deadfall Basin (and continue on to Mount Eddy if desired) by way of either the PCT or the Deadfall Meadow Trail and then return by the other route. This would allow for a much more diverse and scenic trip. What would the addition offer in terms of scenery? The area is mostly wooded but there are opening where vistas would be available. What is most notable is the opportunity to look out to the west where there is a spectacular view of the Trinity Alps. From the trail, the Bear Lake Basin is only 12 miles to the west and presents an grand foreground to the sawtooth-like horizon of the Trinities. This is particularly true near the top of the climb. Not only would the trail allow for the loop option to be employed, but for hikers only looking for a quick outing, the upper section, with its views of the Trinity Alps, would be an excellent easy walk.
4. Upper Sacramento Trail/Lake Siskiyou Trail Extension
For several years now I have been discussing the need to build trail sections that would allow for a backpacking loop that combined the Sisson-Callahan Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, the Castle Lake Trail and the Lake Siskiyou Trail. I dubbed this proposed circuit the Headwaters Loop since it would completely encircle the three headwaters forks of the Sacramento River. Most of the loop is already built. An unofficial but established loop trail connects the PCT and Castle Lake. Though less than ideal, a dirt road follows much of Castle Lake Creek’s journey down to Lake Siskiyou. The most obvious hole in the loop is the section that would connect the Lake Siskiyou Trail with the Sisson-Callahan Trail at the North Fork of the Sacramento.
While this section of trail would be a key piece of the Headwaters Loop puzzle, I have a bit of a grander conception of what it offers. I propose building trail 1.75 miles from the inlet at Lake Siskiyou along the Sacramento River to the Sisson-Callahan Trailhead. However, more ambitiously, I propose building a sturdy wooden bridge (I will elaborate extensively on the bridge when I expand on this trail in a future post) across the Sacramento River and adding a section of trail that loops back to the inlet along the southern side of the river. This would accomplish several things. Naturally it would help complete the bacpacking loop I have suggested. More importantly, it would extend the Lake Siskiyou Trail along a beautiful section of the Sacramento River. This would allow the loop around the lake to be hiked all year when the seasonal bridges are not in place. When the seasonal bridges are in position, it would give hikers the option of doing a beautiful loop hike around a lovely section of the Sacramento River. A new trailhead could be built on South Fork Road at the place where the road makes a sharp turn to the west and begins to parallel the river. This would add more access to the Lake Siskiyou Trail and provide a good starting point for hikers sticking to the shorter river loop. This would have the further benefit of cutting down on vagrant encampments in this area. All in all, this has the potential to become one of the most popular sections of trail in the Mount Shasta City area.
3. Mount Shasta Bowl Trail
The upper reach of Everitt Memorial Highway has several awesome trails. Whether heading to the numerous destinations from Bunny Flat or Panther Meadow or the Old Ski Bowl, hikers are guaranteed spectacular scenery. The area is actually rather dense with trails, though they are generally divided between the lower ones originating at Bunny Flat and the upper trails that begin in the Old Ski Bowl area. The two sets of hikes are not connected by any maintained path. Whats more, the road to the Old Ski Bowl remains closed much of the year and the upper destinations are not accessible. This brings up my third proposed trail, which would run parallel to the Everitt Memorial Highway and connect Bunny Flat to the Old Ski Bowl. It would also be possible to add a spur trail that would split off and reach the road across from the entrance to the Panther Meadow parking area. Up until now, I have dubbed the route the Bowl Trail since it would pass beneath Sun Bowl and Powder Bowl, which lie on the south side of Green Butte Ridge.
This trail would accomplish several things. First, it would allow motivated hikers to reach the upper destinations earlier in the year. Obviously this is contrary to why the road remains closed but I believe the number of people heading up there on foot would be dramatically less than would reach the area in cars. Furthermore, hikers can already simply walk on the road to Panther Meadow. An established trail would be a much more pleasant way to channel people there. In fact, if the path simply went to the Old Ski Bowl without a spur to Panther Meadow, it would probably reduce the number of people who went to the meadow, since that area would be bypassed and lead straight to the Old Ski Bowl. The other benefit would be a fantastic loop that would connect both the Horse Camp Trail and the Green Butte Ridge Trail with the Old Ski Bowl Trail and facilitate a truly fantastic loop hike that would circumnavigate Green Butte. This route would require some rock scrambling over Green Butte Ridge but for those prepared of such a journey, it would be an epic hike.
2. China Basins Loop
The high point of the Scott Mountains and the 4th highest peak in the Mount Shasta area, China Mountain is a criminally overlooked alpine destination. The tall peak rises at the eastern end of the Scotts, like the prow of a massive ship overlooking the Shasta Valley, which lies a mile below the summit. It is perhaps overlooked since it lakes a distinctive profile and much of its flanks are covered with dense forests. However, this hides the true character of the higher portions of the mountain. The summit of China Mountain is surrounded by three lake basins. While none of them house large lakes, the lakes themselves are still scenic and the rugged terrain that looms above them as very scenic. In many ways, the loop around China Mountain would be similar to the excellent Four Lakes Loop in the Trinity Alps. None of the lakes on China Mountain rise to the spectacular level of beauty as the four that lie around Siligo Peak but they are nonetheless beautiful. What the loop around lakes on China has, though, is eye-in-the-sky vistas that reach for great distances in every direction. These views would take in much of southern Oregon, Mount Shasta and a vast span of the Klamath Mountains including the Trinity Divide, Scott Mountains, Trinity Alps, Russian Wilderness, Marble Mountains and the Siskiyous. Take that Four Lakes Loop!
China Mountain is flanked by three basins that contain lakes as well as a 4th that has some large meadows in place of a lake. A 5th basin, High Camp Basin, lies immediately to the south and the highest corner of it makes the best passage for the trail. Two lake basins, the West Park Lakes and the Caldwell Lakes are headwaters for Parks Creek, which is a major tributary of the Shasta River. Crater Lake has no out let, but along with the meadow-filled basin, is in the Scott River watershed. High Camp Basin is one of the two sources of the mighty Trinity River. The ups and downs of the loop around the mountain, which would include a spur up to the summit of China Mountain would cross through three major watersheds! I think this trail would be destined to become a classic Mount Shasta area adventure!
1. Konwakiton Trail
In many ways, this is the trail that I have the grandest vision for and excites me the most. This trail combines an unusual creek, interesting volcanic and glacial geology, lush meadows and staggering views of one of Mount Shasta’s most beautiful profiles. The genesis of this trail concept began with the frustration over the lack of trails in the McCloud area. Basically all the hikes near the town were along the McCloud River. Squaw Valley Creek is an outlier but offers similar scenery to what is found along the river. Equally frustrating was the near total lack of views of Mount Shasta from any of these trails. I have written about how McCloud is an under-rated hiking destination but the lack of diversity and views of the mountain continued to nag at me. I have hunted around for features and places that would offer some interest to highlight this beautiful area. The one place I kept coming back to was infamous Mud Creek.
Mud Creek begins high on Mount Shasta and flows through the mountain’s largest canyon. It then flows south through the McCloud Flats before suffering indignity and finally reaching the McCloud River. The creek’s name comes from the silt and glacial till in the water that gives it a muddy or chalky appearance. The name Konwakiton is the Wintu word for “muddy” and the creek’s ultimate source is the Konwakiton Glacier that lies just below Mount Shasta’s summit. The proposed trail would run parallel to the creek until it reaches the Great Shasta Rail Trail. It would then follow back along the creek before veering east. It would cut through forest until it reaches the edge of a large meadow, where hikers are greeted with an incredible view of Mount Shasta. It would then follow much of the meadow’s perimeter before cutting through the grassy fields back to the trailhead. My vision for this area is not limited to trails but also to the development of a new Forest Service campground, picnic area as well as possibly a walk-in campground and a mountain biking area. By way of the Rail Trail, it would also be accessible by foot, horse or bike from McCloud. I see this as possibly becoming a flagship area for Mount Shasta, which I tentatively refer to as the Konwakiton Recreation Area. The amazing thing is that much of the trail already exists…
Overview Map (click to enlarge)