A Gourmet Guide to Siskiyou's Trails
Trail PairingsApril 2016
Story and Photos by Tim Holt
The Mount Shasta region features an abundance of antastic trails, and I have collected a number of favorites in my 20 years of hiking experience.
I recently discovered a little gem of a trail, the one-mile Elsa Rupp Trail. It starts at the Sisson Museum just west of the city of Mount Shasta. Rupp was a longtime Forest Service employee who donated the land for the trail in memory of her parents and her brother. It winds through wooded groves on both sides of Old Stage Road, and, near its end, reaches a “sweet spot” at a shaded creek crossing. You can rest at a bench thoughtfully placed at creekside and enjoy the picturesque setting. It's a nice, cool place for sitting and dreaming on a hot summer’s day.
Another cool hike is the short one down to Hedge Creek Falls at the north end of Dunsmuir. You will hike right under the falls and can continue a half-mile further to a promontory with a panoramic view of the Sacramento River.
Spring is a good time to head up the slopes of Mount Shasta and enjoy its blooming wildflowers. Along the streams that run through Panther Meadows, at 7,500 feet, you’ll find red Indian paintbrushes and wild onions with their bluish-white blossoms. Continue a couple of miles farther to South Gate Meadows, where you’ll find more wildflowers and some enchanting waterfalls.
Then there’s the eight-mile loop around Lake Siskiyou. I recommend the North Shore part of the trail, which provides some wonderful scenery. For the most part, it’s a nice wide path, with benches along the way where you can sit and enjoy the views of the lake and mountains looming in the background. Best place to start the trail is at the parking lot across from the tennis courts on W. A. Barr Road.
If you’re a mountain biker, you’ll definitely want to check out the 11-mile Gateway Trail on the lower slopes of Mount Shasta. The trailhead is located on the right side of Everitt Memorial Highway after you’ve passed the high school and the railroad tracks. It was designed with mountain bikers in mind, with lots of tight, challenging switchbacks.
You can also have a good mountain biking experience on the recently completed 37 miles of the Great Shasta Rail Trail. It starts three miles east of McCloud, at Esperanza Road. When completed, it will total 50 miles, with additional side trails, and stretch from the outskirts of McCloud to Burney. The rails of the old McCloud River Railroad have been removed, but not the crushed cinders of its roadbed, so it’s recommended for hikers and mountain bikers, but not for road bikes.
There are hundreds of miles of accessible stretches of the Pacific Crest Trail in our area. One of my favorites runs just west of Castle Crags State Park. Drive three miles past the park’s entrance to a “borrow,” or gravel pit, on the right side of the road, park your car, and hike up a short but steep trail that starts on the west side of the parking area. When you get up to its junction with the PCT, make a left. Depending on how much time you have and how far you want to hike, you can get your fill of cascading creeks and spectacular, up-close views of the rugged Crags. With a little scrambling off the main trail, where it meets Burstarse Creek, you can enjoy close-up views of the creek’s three waterfalls.
And there are even more trails in the works, at various stages in the planning process: trails linking the city of Mount Shasta to Lake Siskiyou, Lake Siskiyou to Dunsmuir, Castle Lake to Lake Siskiyou, and Snowman’s Hill near McCloud to Dunsmuir.
There’s a big push right now for the long-awaited trail to Mossbrae Falls near Dunsmuir. Currently hikers have to stumble along Union Pacific’s tracks to get to the falls. Preliminary designs have been completed for a much safer route through the spacious grounds of the Saint Germaine Foundation.
Barry Price of the Trail Association sums up the economic benefits of building new trails: “If you’ve got 10 miles of trails, people will come up here and stay a night. If you’ve got 100 miles, they’ll stay a week.”