At A Glance
This short hike enters a lush canyon; home to 19th century ruins, a well-developed rock climbing area, a crashing creek and a beautiful waterfall.
Length: 1.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 300 feet
Season: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
The Road And The Ruins
The Ney Springs Canyon Trail is in fact an old dirt road. The fact that the road can still be driven on should not discourage hikers from travelling the route on foot. In truth, the road is quickly becoming a trail as it degrades more and more each year. Moreover, it would not be a pleasant or easy drive for low clearance vehicles. Now, having gotten the nitty-gritty out of the way, what does this old road offer? It enters into a densely forested canyon through which raucous Ney Springs Creek crashes over boulders and small cataracts. At the upper end of the road are ruins of 19th century Ney Springs Resort. Little remains other than some walls, cisterns, fountains and some steps leading down into the creek. Nonetheless, these ruins are a fascinating glimpse into the type of tourism that used to be found throughout the Mount Shasta area. Beyond the ruins are found a series of crags, home to numerous rock climbing routes, and Faery Falls, an attractive waterfall at the end of the Ney Springs Canyon Trail. A bonus is that this area is easily accessed from Mount Shasta City and is low elevation, making it a good trail in the off season.
The old road that makes up the Ney Springs Canyon Trail begins at a road junction in a clearing (see directions). The main road crosses Ney Springs Creek and continues east on the south bank of the creek. The trail heads west, staying on the north side. It is a short trail, directly above the creek. The grade is very slight, just enough to let you know it is there. The forest canopy is dense. It is probable that much of the vegetation was absent when the resort was active. After 0.4 miles of climbing the road reaches the ruins of the Ney Springs Resort. The first section of the ruins is difficult to make out of all the vegetation. If one is interested in the ruins, find the more obvious retaining walls, cisterns and fountains and such, then backtrack to find the large foundations from what was likely the carriage house.
In its heyday, the resort boasted an extensive complex and drew guests for many years. John Ney discovered the springs in 1887 and within a few years the resort had been established. At its height, the resort boasted a hotel that could accommodate 50 people, a bathhouse, and various outbuildings including a barn and a carriage house. Water was also piped into small structures to house the spring water. Boardwalks were reportedly constructed through the forest as well. Today, little remains of the resort. The forest has reclaimed the site, leaving little of the resort’s remnants visible to the naked eye. The most obvious sections are a large retaining wall that once housed a fountain and another retaining wall leading down to a stone platform next to the creek. The platform holds a couple of cisterns. Some of the pipes used to transport the spring water can still be found and in places they have broken and the water continues to flow out of the breach. A hundred yards or so below the primary ruin, a level, raised area created by piling rocks can be discerned. Though unconfirmed, this was probably the barn or carriage house. There seems to have been little effort to uncover more of the resorts ruins. The way the forest has reclaimed the area gives it an attractive, eerie quality.
Access to the falls is simple. The old road passes through the resort area. The old fountain is on the north side of the road. The cisterns are on the left, south, side of the road, down by the creek. A short distance from the Ney Springs Resort ruins is Faery Falls, an attractive, 40 foot cataract. Today, the falls is what draw most people into Ney Springs Canyon, though its proximity to the resort suggests it was equally popular to the canyon’s guests in the 19th century. The fall has two tiers. At the top of the second tier, the creek splits in two and fans out over the rock. In low water half of the fan disappears.
To reach the falls, continue past the resort ruins for 0.25 miles. Pass a cairn-marked use trail leading down to a small fall on the creek just after the ruins. Beyond this point, note an old road turning right off of the main road. Just beyond this junction another cairn-marked use trail heads down to the creek, the falls now being quite audible. There are several good vantages for the falls and it is possible to climb all the way to the base.
Ney Springs Climbing
A well developed climbing area has been established at some crags on Ney Springs Canyon’s northern wall. The area has a couple dozen routes. The Ney crags are an excellent option for climbers during winter. Being on the north wall of the canyon, the crags get a full days sun, which keeps them free of ice and melts the snow off quickly after a storm. Furthermore, the area is relatively low elevation snow does not build up too much on the access routes. If the road to the springs is impassable, which is atypical, it is also possible to access the area by rappelling down from above. To do so means parking on Castle Lake road and hiking a short distance cross-country. The only drawback to this option is that it means a short jaunt across some private land.
To access the crag from the canyon, hike past the resort ruins. Just before the falls, an old road branches off to the right and begins climbing. A hundred yards or so off the main road there will be a large clearing on the left. Head into the clearing and look for the use trail heading uphill to the left. There are usually cairns marking this spot but the trial is pretty obvious from the clearing. Eventually the use trail will split, leading to different sections of the crag.
More detail on climbing at Ney Springs can be found here.
From the town of Mt. Shasta, head west on W. Lake, crossing over I-5. At the stop sign, turn left onto Old Stage Road. After 0.25 miles, veer right onto WA Barr Road. Continue south, crossing over the dam that impounds the Sacramento River and forms Lake Siskiyou. Just past the dam, make a left hand turn onto Castle Lake Road. Immediately make another left turn onto gravel, well maintained, Ney Springs Road. Continue straight at 1 mile, passing the turn to the Ney Springs/Cantara Wildlife area. The road will turn to the west. After another 0.5 miles there is a large clearing on the left. Park here and hike up the road on the right. It is possible to continue driving up the road and some do, but it seems sensible to leave the car at this point, as the road degrades significantly beyond the clearing.