Mt. Shasta Recreation Report
Mt. Shasta Recreation Report
The Mt. Shasta Ranger Station is still temporarily CLOSED. During this closure, you can still contact me at the remote information line. It is open Monday through Friday, 8 am to 4:30 pm at 530-440-4509. You can also e-mail me at email@example.com
- Everitt Memorial Highway: (A10): OPEN to Bunny Flat.
- Castle Lake Road (2M020): OPEN to the lake.
- Parks Creek Road (17): CLOSED past Stewart Springs but blocked by snow several miles from the trailhead.
- South Fork Road (26): CLOSED past Lake Siskiyou near the Bear Creek road turnoff due to snow.
- Whalan Road (25): OPEN to Whalan Summit and the East Fork of the Trinity River. No report for Ramshorn Summit.
- Toad Lake Road (40N64): CLOSED due to snow past the Middle Fork crossing.
- North Fork Road (41N53): Should be open to Morgan Meadows with high water crossings at Middle Fork and North Fork.
- Bear Creek Road (40N45): CLOSED due to snow.
- Military Pass Road (43N19): CLOSED due to snow about two miles past the North Gate turnoff.
View Recreation Opportunity Guides at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/stnf/recreation/?cid=fsm9_009084&width=full
For information about conducting retreats, workshops, weddings, and group events on Mt. Shasta:
And also this site:
Check out this link for the 7-day forecast for Mount Shasta City:
For weather conditions on the mountain, check the weather links under Climbing.
For the full report go to:
Important notice for climbers: The Ranger Stations are still temporarily CLOSED. You should plan in advance to obtain your Wilderness Permit and Summit Pass by self-issuing them outside the Mt. Shasta Ranger Station or the McCloud Ranger Station. You can also self-issue at the trailheads that are open and stocked. The Wilderness Permits are free of charge and provide critical information. Summit Passes are $25.00 per person and are issued using a fee envelope system. You will need correct cash or a personal check, so plan ahead.
For weather geeks and especially climbers
This first link is to the spot forecast specifically developed for Mt. Shasta by the National Weather Service based in Medford Oregon. The text part is targeted for 7,000 feet (the trailhead elevations) and then the chart below that is the forecast for the upper mountain. The snow level figures are for the freeze line, not where the snow pack begins. This forecast is posted daily on our website at shastaavalanche.org
This next link is the forecast discussion for the entire area for the next few days, also produced by Medford NWS
For a look at the actual computer forecast models that the forecasters work from, check out this site. It takes a bit of explanation and practice to figure it out.
This link should take you to the NCEP Central Operations page.
Click on Model Guidance and it will take you to a menu of models.
You’ll notice the Model Area and the Model Type.
Although all these models have their particular strengths, I generally chose NAMER (North American) under Model Area and NAM (North American) under Model Type. This will lead you to the North American options. Look under “Upper Air Params” for the 500_vort_ht. and click on it. The page will reload with an additional section at the bottom that shows “Forecast Hours”. You’ll notice 0300, 0600, 0900, etc. which are individual panels that are 3 hours apart. You can look at any particular panel for any day, but I simply chose the “loop” option and let that load up. When the animation starts, you can adjust it or stop on any panel in the loop using the control buttons at the top. I usually run the loop in animation to see what the general pattern is, then go through the panels one by one for closer analysis.
This 500 millibar map is showing what is going on in the atmosphere at approximately 18,000 feet. Since that is where most storm energy takes place (vorticity) it is the best model for determining winds affecting upper slopes and ridges.
You’ll see two “Date/Time Lines” at the top of the panel. The date/time on the left is the date/time the model was created (the start point). The date/time on the right indicates which panel you are viewing.
Remember each panel or frame is a 3 hour interval and you must adjust for your time zone. It's a little confusing at first as to how to read the time in UTC (Universal Time) converted to local time (subtract 6 hours for PST and subtract 7 hours for PDST. For example, 1800 UTC equals 11 am for us on local daylight savings time.)
There is a shading scale on the left to indicate cloud density and percent of precipitation (likelihood of rain/snow).
The arrows indicate wind direction; the feathers or “barbs” indicate speed. One full barb equals 10 knots; a half barb equals 5 knots; a delta (triangle) equals 50 knots.
You can convert knots to mph, i.e. 35 knots equals 40 mph; 55 knots equals 63 mph, etc. but when you factor in the additional orographic effect that this mountain imposes (think wind foil) the conversion really isn’t necessary. Just read the value as MPH.
Generally speaking, below 35-40 mph is OK for most good climbers; 40-50 mph is still do-able for experienced climbers with favorable snow conditions; over 50 mph is not recommended as you can easily get blown off stance.
Next, check the 700_rh_ht model. This 700 millibar map shows what is going on in the atmosphere at approximately 10,000 feet. This is a better model for evaluating mid-elevation winds and potential precipitation.
Green shading indicates chance of precipitation, not the expected amount. Darker shading means not only rain or snow, but also poor visibility due to clouds.
I would also go through the same process for the GFS/NAMER model because it extends out much further, 10 to 16 days. Just remember that it tends to be less accurate the farther you extend in time.
Most of our trails are closed for the winter.
Mt. Shasta Wilderness Trailheads (Updated 5/16/22)
- Bunny Flat: OPEN.
- Sand Flat: CLOSED due to recent snow. Register at Bunny Flat.
- Old Ski Bowl: OPEN for access from Bunny Flat but the kiosk is still closed. Register at Bunny Flat.
- Clear Creek: CLOSED due to snow about 2.5 miles from the trailhead.
- Brewer Creek: CLOSED due to snow about 10 miles from the trailhead.
- North Gate: OPEN. The kiosk is stocked with permits and passes for the season.
- Bolam / Whitney Falls: OPEN to high clearance vehicles.
Other Area Trailheads (Updated 5/16/2022)
- Parks Creek: CLOSED due to snow about 3 miles from trailhead.
- Gumboot Trailhead: CLOSED due to snow about one mile from trailhead.
- Black Butte: OPEN.
- Castle Lake: OPEN.
- Soda Creek (PCT crossing at I-5): OPEN with some snow on the trail at the higher elevations near 7 Lakes Basin and Girard Ridge.
- Dog Trailhead (Access to the PCT): OPEN with some snow on the trail at the higher elevations near 7 Lakes Basin.
- Cabin Creek Trailhead (Access to Squaw Valley Creek Trail and the PCT): OPEN.
Campsites in developed campgrounds generally have a picnic table, delineated parking, campfire ring, usually a bear box, toilets and usually drinking water available. Most have a fee, payable on-site using a self -issue registration system and fee envelopes that require exact cash or a personal check for payment. These registration stands are located at the campground entrance with instructions. Most of our developed campgrounds also have hosts to assist with visitor needs and questions during the busy season
Developed Campgrounds See additional camping information below.
- Sims Flat: OPEN.
- McBride Spring: OPEN. 14 sites. $10/night. No water. 7 day stay limit. First come only.
- Castle Lake Campground: CLOSED. Scheduled to open June 1st.
- Panther Meadows: CLOSED due to snow. Scheduled to open July 1st.
- Gumboot Lake: OPEN. Several user-created sites. No water. No fee. 7 day stay limit.
- Cattle Camp Campground: OPEN. 24 sites. $15/night. 14 day stay limit. first come only.
- Fowlers Campground: OPEN. 31 sites by reservation at recreation.gov. 8 sites available on a first come basis. $15/night. 14 day stay limit.
- AH-DI-NA: OPEN. 20 sites. $10/night. 14 day stay limit. first come only.
- Trout Creek C.G.: OPEN. Several user-created sites. No water. No fee. 14 day stay limit. first come only.
Developed Campgrounds on the Mt. Shasta Ranger District
Castle Lake Campground (elevation 5350')
Description: This small primitive campground is nestled in a thick mixed conifer forest approximately a quarter mile below Castle Lake. There are 6 sites with tables, fire-rings, and vault toilets. Bring your own water. 7-day stay limit. No fee, but campers must self-register at the campground entrance. No reservations. Dogs must be leashed. Not recommended for large vehicle or trailers. There is an undeveloped “overflow” area about a half a mile below the campground on the east side of the highway where there used to be a Nordic Center. The leveled off parking pads are still usable and there is a great view of Mt. Shasta, however it is mostly brushy with little or no shade. There are no facilities and fires are generally prohibited. ALL CAMPING IS PROHIBITED WITHIN A HALF MILE OF CASTLE LAKE, INCLUDING HEART LAKE. DAY USE AREA ONLY.
Features: Visitors may walk or drive the short distance to the lake. Castle Lake is a pristine glacial cirque lake with granite cliffs and clear water, one of the most popular attractions in the Mt. Shasta area. Hiking, swimming, fishing, and flat-water kayaking are favorite activities here. There are a few hiking trails to explore including the short and easy Shoreline Trail on the west side of the lake.
Directions: From exit 738 off I-5, head west on Lake Street to the intersection with Old Stage Road. Turn south then stay right at the fork in the road. In 2 miles you will cross the dam that forms Lake Siskiyou. Immediately after the dam, turn left on Castle Lake Road and drive 7 miles to the lake. The campground is about a quarter of a mile below the lake.
Gumboot Lake (elevation 6,000')
Description: Technically this is an undeveloped camping area, not an official campground, but the area on the north side of this shallow alpine lake is open for camping from June to October, depending on snow. There are at least 4 undeveloped sites (no tables) with user-created fire-rings and a vault toilet. Bring your own drinking water or purify the lake water. Suitable for tents and mid-size RV’s or trailers. No fee. Dogs must be leashed. Campfire permit required all season.
Features: This is one of two alpine lakes on the district that can be reached by passenger car. The lake sits in a broad open bowl surrounded by grassy areas and mixed conifer forest. A smaller lake lies only a short distance to the west. Fishing and non-motorized boating are the most popular activities. Hikers can hike ½ mile to the west or drive 2 miles from the lake to the Gumboot Trailhead to access the Pacific Crest Trail. Views of Mt. Shasta and the Trinity Alps abound. It is an easy 2 ½ miles (one-way) south on the PCT to view and explore the Seven Lakes Basin.
Directions: From exit 738 off I-5, head west on Lake Street to the intersection with Old Stage Road. Turn south then stay right at the fork in the road. In 2 miles you will cross the dam that forms Lake Siskiyou. Stay on the main road around the lake and past the Lake Siskiyou Camp Resort. In 2 more miles you will see the Forest boundary sign. For the next 8 miles, the road follows the South Fork of the Sacramento River. At the top of the watershed, there will be a fork in the road. Stay left and continue ½ mile to Gumboot Lake. The right fork continues 1 ½ miles to the Gumboot Trailhead for the PCT.
McBride Springs Campground (elevation 5,000')
Description: Situated on the lower slopes of Mt. Shasta at an elevation of 5000 feet, this popular campground has 12 sites with tables and fire-rings, suitable for tents and small RV’s. Vault toilets and drinking water are available. 7 day stay limit. $10 per night. Campers must self-register at the campground entrance. No reservations. Dogs must be leashed. There is NO DISPERSED CAMPING allowed outside of this campground.
Features: Pleasant, shady, mixed conifer forest setting. Conveniently located on Mt. Shasta only a few minutes from I-5, services and supplies. A miniature spring-fed seasonal creek flows through the campground, and a hand operated pump provides well water.
Panther Meadows (elevation 7,400')
Description: This is a walk-in campground located near timberline on Mt. Shasta at 7500 feet. There are 12 sites, all within a short walk of your vehicle. Tables, fire-rings, and vault toilet. Bring your own water or purify the creek water nearby. 3 DAY STAY LIMIT. No fee, but campers must self-register at the campground entrance. No reservations. DOGS MUST BE LEASHED. There is NO DISPERSED CAMPING allowed outside of this campground.
Features: Highest campground on the mountain with open views and vistas. There are two small sub-alpine heather meadows a short distance from the campground. Because of the fragile nature of the meadows, great care must be given by all who visit not to incur damage. In recent years a major effort has been made by local tribes, volunteers, and the Forest Service to re-vegetate the native species and improve the trail system to minimize erosion.
Directions: From the town of Mt. Shasta, take Lake Street east toward the Mountain. The name will change to Everitt Memorial Highway. Drive approximately 14 miles and look for the campground and parking area on the right side of the road.
Sims Flat Campground (elevation 1,600')
Description: This campground is situated alongside the Sacramento River at an elevation of 1600 feet. There are 19 sites with tables and fire-rings suitable for tents, and mid-sized RV’s or trailers. Flush toilets and piped drinking water available. 14 day stay limit. $15.00 per night. Campers must self-register at the campground entrance. No reservations. Dogs must be leashed. There is no dispersed camping outside of this campground.
Features: Historic location of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in the 1930’s. Interpretive signs depict the camp and a foot access suspension bridge spans the river, also built by the CCC. World renowned fishing on a classic trout stream. Train buffs enjoy watching Union Pacific freight trains as they make their way through the canyon. Also popular with whitewater boaters during the high water of spring runoff.
Directions: Take I-5 south (towards Redding) approximately 25 miles. Take the Sims exit and turn left under the freeway. Drive one mile downhill, cross the train tracks and the bridge over the river. The campground entrance will be on the right.
Developed Campgrounds on the McCloud Ranger District
There are additional campgrounds located on the McCloud Ranger District nearby. Call the McCloud Ranger Station at 530-964-2184 for additional information.
Fowlers Camp (elevation 3,400')
Description: This campground is located on the McCloud River 5 miles east of the town of McCloud, just south of Highway 89, at an elevation of 3500 feet. There are 39 sites with tables, fire-rings, water, bear lockers, and toilets. $15.00 per night. 14 day stay limit. 31 sites can be reserved in advance at recreation.gov. 8 additional sites are available on a first-come basis. Dogs must be leashed. Dispersed camping in this area is prohibited.
Cattle Camp (elevation 3,500')
Description: This campground is also located on the McCloud River 10 miles east of the town of McCloud, just south of Highway 89. There are 27 sites with tables, fire-rings, water, and toilets. $15.00 per night. 14 day stay limit. Campers must self-register at the campground entrance. No reservations. Dogs must be leashed. Dispersed camping is prohibited in this area.
Camping in the winter is limited to dispersed camping on National Forest lands that do not have special restrictions. There are three restricted areas on our unit. No camping is allowed within a 5-mile radius of Mt. Shasta City; no camping within a half mile of Castle Lake; and no camping south of Hwy. 89 in the McCloud River Loop area.
What is dispersed camping?
Some people call this “dry camping” and the RV folks commonly refer to it as “boon docking.” The Forest Service identifies it as dispersed camping, the idea being that campers are dispersed across the forest instead of being more concentrated in a regular campground.
Unlike a regular campground that offers common amenities, such as tables, fire rings, water and toilets, dispersed camping means that you are out on the forest, totally on your own, with no facilities whatsoever. That means you will need to prepare in advance as to how you will deal with your garbage, bring all of your own drinking water, a portable toilet or other means of dealing with sanitation issues, cook stove (generally no fires) food storage, portable table and/or chairs, and whatever else you may need. Although there is no fee to disperse camp, there are a number of restrictions to be aware of.
Remember, most dispersed sites will be affected by campfire restrictions starting sometime in July, possibly sooner. When restrictions are in effect, you may still operate a gas stove and/or a gas-only barbeque with a valid campfire permit. Wood fires and charcoal barbeques are strictly prohibited. Campfire permits are free of charge and available at any Ranger Station, or go to http://www.preventwildfireca.org/Permits/ to obtain one online.
Most National Forests regulate the amount of time you can camp on their forest. Typically there is a two week maximum stay in one location, and even if you move to a new site there is a total maximum stay of 28 days in a calendar year. On the Shasta-Trinity National Forest the general stay limit is 15 days in one location and not to exceed 30 days total in a calendar year. There are however some high use areas, mostly on the Mt. Shasta Ranger District, where the stay limit is reduced to 7 days in one location with a 30 day maximum stay for the year. The reason for this is simply one of supply and demand.
Over the years, the number of visitors seeking to disperse camp has dramatically increased. In 2020, because of the pandemic, it really skyrocketed because most National Parks and State Parks were closed, and most National Forests had closed their camping facilities. Social media and the internet promoted dispersed camping as a viable and safe option for folks wanting to escape the urban areas. Now that people have discovered dispersed camping, there is competition to find vacant campsites on our district. In order to provide a more equal opportunity for all forest visitors, the stay limit has been reduced to 7 days for the most popular areas on the District. Most of the affected area is west of Interstate 5, including the South Fork of the Sacramento River, Castle Creek, and the Parks Creek corridor. Additionally, there are areas on Mt. Shasta, such as the Bunny Flat trailhead and the Sand Flat area that are also limited to 7 days.
Most of the National Forest lands on the Mt. Shasta and McCloud Ranger districts are open for dispersed camping, but there are four notable exceptions. There is NO open or dispersed camping within a 5 mile radius of the City of Mt. Shasta. This includes the lower section of the Everett Memorial Highway heading up Mt. Shasta until you are past the 7 mile marker. There is also NO camping south of Highway 89 in the McCloud River Area. Castle Lake is a DAY USE ONLY recreation site with a restriction on all open camping within a half mile of the Castle Lake shoreline, including Heart Lake. The Everitt Memorial Highway corridor past Bunny Flat all the way to the end of the road at the Old Ski Bowl is also closed to dispersed camping, including the Panther Meadows area. Camping is allowed ONLY in the official Panther Meadow campground and the Lower Ski Bowl Parking lot, and only for 3 days.
Popular Dispersed Sites
On Mt. Shasta the two most popular sites are Sand Flat and Bunny Flat. Bunny Flat has a toilet but no water. There are several user-created sites located on the south side of the highway.
Sand Flat is located approximately a mile below Bunny Flat. Take either of two dirt access roads about a mile into the remote flat. This is a good location to get away from the traffic along the highway, but it is also very dusty during the dry season. Please drive slowly to help minimize dust affecting other visitors. This area is also good for larger groups, although you will need to provide your own sanitation (rented toilets are a good idea) and provide garbage containers.
On the Castle Lake road, the National Forest boundary begins two miles uphill from the turnoff to the lake just past the dam at Lake Siskiyou. There are a few dirt roads off the main paved road that are suitable for camping. One of the best areas is the site of the old Nordic Center about one mile below Castle Lake. This location has an excellent view of Mt. Shasta. The old parking landings make level sites for small RV’s. Better tent sites are found back near the trees where there is more shade and privacy.
On the South Fork Road (26) there are numerous dispersed sites starting about two miles west of Lake Siskiyou at the National Forest boundary. Most of these sites are located off short spur roads on the right side of the road along this section. About three miles from the Forest boundary is the first of two bridges you will cross. After the first bridge the road narrows and the canyon is steep for about 3 miles to the second bridge. Between the second bridge and Gumboot Lake is another 3 mile section with more sites located off spur roads on both sides of the road. There are also sites around Gumboot Lake as well.
On the Whalan Road (25) there are a few sites on National Forest land as you travel west from I-5. Between the Castle Crags State Park boundary (2.6 miles from I-5) and the bridge at North Branch (3.6 miles from I-5) there are several creek side sites all located on the left side of the road. There is no dispersed vehicle camping allowed on the right side of the road because it is designated wilderness.