Once Upon a Trail
By Paul Boerger
The Fairest Hikes of All
Mount Shasta offers an incredible variety of hiking and biking experiences, from the sublime to the extreme. In the highly accessible sublime category is the seven-mile trail that circumnavigates Lake Siskiyou.
There are trails that have lake views, meadows, forests, bubbling streams, places to swim, bicycling, hiking or a casual stroll, snow-capped mountain views, dog walking and the occasional picnic table. Lake Siskiyou has all of the above with convenient parking and trail access only a few miles from the city of Mount Shasta.
There are many options for beginning the trail, including parking at North Shore Road, but the most popular are the dedicated parking lots off WA Barr Road on either side of the dam. Local folks do short sections from a variety of entry points.
The trail in both directions from the parking lot south of the dam is an enjoyable, non-strenuous adventure that older kids can negotiate. The easiest route heads west toward the campground first. If you head toward the bridge first, a steady uphill climb is required at the Lake Siskiyou Resort and Camp. Whatever way you go, approximately 90 percent of the trail is basically flat, making for a fun, scenic seven-mile circuit. Entry points for a swim are too numerous to count.4
Heading toward the campground from the parking lot south of the dam, the trail is wide and flat. At the pond and bubbling stream, where many people simply take a break and head back, the trail narrows and swerves up and around toward the campground.
At the campground, the trail can get confusing, but heading down toward the lake to the end of road will get you to the next section. At the lake dock, a sign sends you north to a section of the trail where seasonal temporary bridges (placed when the winter melt flow has eased) take you across three streams.
Past the streams, the trail heads through the woods to the meadows area, past Kids Lagoon, so named for a sheltered area of the lake that offers safe shallow water for kids to play, and on to the bridge. The trail sign is not obvious past the lagoon, but look for it nearer the parking lot than North Shore Road. If you miss it, North Shore Road will take you to the bridge.
The bridge was only built two years ago, the final section that completed the trail all the way around the lake. Initially disliked by some for its modern configuration, the bridge has become a popular gathering spot. Be aware, however, that it is unlawful to jump off the bridge.
Across the bridge, the trail heads up and parallels WA Barr Road to the dam. Crossing the dam is the only section of the trail that requires using a road. A stop on the bridge on the other side of WA Barr Road provides a great view down a steep river canyon, one of the beginning tributaries for the mighty Sacramento River.
The trail offers sweeping vistas of the lake, fall colors in season, clear rushing streams, and narrow tree lined paths amid the woods, all overshadowed by 14,179-foot, snow-covered Mt. Shasta. More than a decade in the making, the Lake Siskiyou trail has become a Mount Shasta landmark that should not be missed.
Getting there: Interstate 5 to the main city of Mount Shasta exit. Head west to South Old Stage Road, south on South Old Stage Road, taking the WA Barr Road right fork when the road splits. For the described trail, cross the dam and park in the lot on the right just around the bend. The parking lot offers a trail map.