Mount Shasta Recreation Report

 

 

 

 

Mt. Shasta Recreation Report

Updated 5/26/2020

 

Special update:  If you call the Mt. Shasta Ranger Station at 530-926-4511 you will get a recording stating that the office is closed, but you can contact me at the new Remote Virtual Front Desk phone number, which is 530-440-4509, or contact me at my work e-mail. That e-mail address is don.lee@usda.gov.  Feel free to contact me with any and all questions, whether recreation oriented or otherwise.

***COVID-19 UPDATE***

 

ALL DAY USE AND SOME CAMPGROUNDS ARE OPENING WITHIN THE SHASTA MCCLOUD  MANAGEMENT UNIT.

 

GENERAL FOREST AREAS and TRAILS ARE  OPEN

 

Gatherings of groups of more than 10 people should be avoided and maintaining at least 6 ft

of space from others not part of your immediate family group.

 

Local managers are committed to the health and safety of recreational visitors and our staff. We are following the guidelines from our department and the CDC regarding COVID-19, closely monitoring the situation and responding to current conditions.

 

PLEASE BE PREPARED WHEN VISITING GENERAL FOREST AREAS and PRACTICE LEAVE NO TRACE PRINICIPLES.

 

PACK OUT TRASH: Trash service has been suspended until further notice. 

 

DISPOSE OF HUMAN WASTE PROPERLY:  Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished. Pack out toilet paper and feminine hygiene products.

 

We appreciate your patience and understanding as we all work together to minimize the impacts and spread of the COVID-19

 

 

General Information Topics

Weather

Climbing     

Hiking

Camping

Road report (at bottom of page)

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:

https://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/stnf/home/?cid=stelprdb5360169&width=full#Retreats

And also this site:  

https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/stnf/passes-permits/?cid=stelprd3827217 

 

Weather

Check out this link for the 7-day forecast for Mount Shasta City:

https://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?lat=41.31618880000002&lon=-122.31296079999993#.XkbMZmbsb5p

For weather conditions on the mountain, check the weather links under Climbing.

 

Climbing

The mountain has re-opened for the 2020 climbing season. Nick Meyers, the lead Climbing Ranger, reported this last Friday:

Avalanche danger has subsided. Snow conditions punchy, post holing an issue. Windy this weekend and cold, but warming up. Breakable crust two days ago near Helen Lake. Several feet (newish) snow mid-mountain. Coverage decent but folks still hitting rocks. With the post-holing, it’s not dangerous, just makes it harder.

 

For the full report go to:

https://www.shastaavalanche.org/

Important notice for climbers: The Ranger Stations are still closed. You will need 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. Currently, only Bunny Flat and North Gate trailheads are stocked with permits and passes. 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. Additionally, check with the Fifth Season mountaineering store in Mt.Shasta to see if they are selling Standard Summit Passes and Annual Summit Passes.

 

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

http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/mfr/TextProduct.php?wfo=mfr&pil=REC&sid=MFR&version=0

This next link is the forecast discussion for the entire area for the next few days, also produced by Medford NWS

http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/total_forecast/getprod.php?prod=XXXAFDMFR&wfo=MFR

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.

http://mag.ncep.noaa.gov/

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.

 

Hiking

As you might expect, all trails above 7,000 feet in elevation are buried in snow. They are not marked in any way, so it is a test in orientation skills or a wander-at-will situation. Some suggestions for this time of year include:

 

Mt. Shasta Wilderness Trailheads (Updated 5/26/20)

  • Bunny Flat: Open.
  • Sand Flat:  Approximately .7 mile of snow covered road to the trailhead from the Lower Sand Flat road and 1.5  mile from Upper Sand Flat road. Kiosk at trailhead not stocked at this time.
  • Old Ski Bowl:  Access road is closed at Bunny Flat. Approximately 2 miles of snow covered road to the trailhead.
  • Clear Creek:  Access road reported to be mostly clear of snow. The kiosk at the trailhead has been opened and stocked with permits, passes, and packout bags.
  • Brewer Creek:  Access road blocked by snow approximately 1.5 road miles from the trailhead. The kiosk at the trailhead has been opened and stocked with permits, passes, and packout bags.
  • North Gate: Open. The kiosk at the trailhead has been opened and stocked with permits, passes, and packout bags.
  • Bolam / Whitney Falls:  Open. The access road is very rocky. High clearance vehicles only. The trail to Whitney Falls has been obliterated for the first mile due to debris flows in the Bolam Creek drainage. Orientation skills may be needed to access this area and/or to pick up the remaining trail section to the Whiney Falls overlook.

 

Other Area Trailheads (Updated 5/26/20)

  • Parks Creek:  Last report was that the access road was blocked by a snow drift at the top of the Trinity Divide, just north of the Parks Creek trailhead. Hikers for the PCT, DEadfall Lakes, and Mt. Eddy can park and walk over this drift to the trailhead in 100 yards. Although this drift shouls be melted out by now, it has not yet been confirmed, so this road still may not be open to Highway 3.   IMPORTANT: Please use extreme caution when travelling the access road through the Stewart Springs residential area. The road is steep and narrow and there is a safety concern for residents. Please slow down!

  • Gumboot Trailhead (for the PCT): OPEN via Road 26 from Lake Siskiyou and also from the Whalan Road (Road 25).

  • Black Butte:  OPEN. The access road is a rough road, especially in the first mile. High clearance advised.

  • Castle Lake:  OPEN. 

  • Soda Creek (PCT crossing at I-5):  OPEN.

  • Dog Trailhead (Access to the PCT):  OPEN.

  • Cabin Creek Trailhead (Access to Squaw Valley Creek Trail and the PCT):  OPEN.

 

Camping

A word of caution regarding campgrounds on our unit. There is no question that demand outweighs supply when it comes to available campsites. Our recreation department monitors campground use throughout the open field season, and statistics show a universal 100% occupancy rate in all of our developed campgrounds except during the "shoulder seasons" that occur in the early spring and late fall. Since the majority of sites are only available on a "first come, first served" basis, this can create problems for folks, especially those who arrive late in the day or show up on a weekend expecting to find vacancies. The one exception to the first come situation is Fowlers campground on the McCloud River. Here there are 31 sites that are reservable in advance with the remaining 8 sites available on a first come basis. To check on availability, go to recreation.gov. Many people want to have the ability to reserve sites in advance, so they know they have a site without having to go through the routine of searching for a vacancy upon arrival. Conversersely, there are also those folks who want the flexibility of spontaneously camping according to their last minute schedules or to avoid inclement weather.

But here's the issue. There are simply not enough campsites on our unit for all who wish to camp in developed campsites with facilities.  I hear this question all the time: "What do I do if I can't find a site?" To which I respond that their only other option is to come prepared to disperse camp (see below). The problem has become applified over the years as more and more people want to go camp, but the number of developed sites remain the same. That means that the usual dispersed sites scattered across the forest are being continuosly used and competition for existing sites can be fierce. And again, many people are not prepared or willing to account for the extra requirements dispersed camping demands. It has become commonplace for visitors to experience lots of trash left behind by unscrupulous campers, and even worse, exposed human feces in and about many sites. In addition, there are many folks out there who are trying to reside long-term on the National Forest, which is strictly prohibited. They tend to have a major impact on sites and other campers, frequently compounded with alcohol and/or drug use, other instability issues, and dogs that are unleashed and un-managed, sometimes agressive and problematic. I get complaints all the time about this and unfortunately there is little that can be done, as law enforcement and patrols are infrequent and irregular. In the worst case scenarios, where active violence or immediate threat of violence is occuring, especially during the night, the advice is to call 911 (if you can get a cell signal) and be connected to the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office to respond. Just something to keep in mind when deciding if dispersed camping is for you.

 

Dispersed Camping

Dispersed camping is simply camping on your own on public land, such as BLM and National Forest. There is no charge or special permit required to do this, other than a free California Campfire Permit which covers not only the use of campfires (during the non-restriction season) but also other ignition sources, such as your campstove. To get a free campfire permit go to http://permit.preventwildfiresca.org/

Dispersed camping is not for everyone. There are some people who are simply not prepared to provide for their needs, such as drinking water, managing their garbage, and sanitation concerns. Dispersed camping therefore can be viewed as a cross between the self-sufficiency of backpacking, following Leave-No-Trace principles, and innovative ways in which to deal with you own sanitation needs, such as bringing and using some form of port-a-potty. This requires advanced planning to prepare for this. Others find this to be a more desirable way to camp and accept the personnal challenge in order to benefit from the remote and uncrowded advantage that dispersed camping provides.

Dispersed camping has been a mainstay of the multi-recreational theme of the U.S. Forest Service since its inception. Most of the National Forest lands on the Mt. Shasta and McCloud Ranger districts are open for dispersed camping, but with three 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 leading up Mt. Shasta until you are past the 7 mile marker. Camping and Fire Restrictions for the Mount Shasta Plantations Closure Area  There is also no open or dispersed camping south of Highway 89 in the McCloud River Area. Castle Lake is now a DAY USE ONLY recreation site with a restriction on all open camping (including backpacking) within a half mile of the Castle Lake shoreline, including Heart Lake.

Remember, most dispersed sites will be affected by campfire restrictions starting sometime in July. 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://permit.preventwildfiresca.org/ to obtain one online.

See popolar dispersed sites further down. Please use proper sanitation methods for human waste, pack out all of your garbage, and leave no trace of your visit.

 

Developed Camping

Developed Camping is the opposite of Dispersed Camping. Here you will be in an official campsite that generally has at least 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.

 

Developed Campgrounds (Updated 5/26/20)   See additional camping information below. 

  • Sims Flat:  OPEN. 19 sites. $15.00 per night. First come first served. 14 day maximum stay limit. Tables, toilets, fire rings and water.
  • McBride Spring:  OPEN. 14 sites. $10.00 per night. First come first served. 7 day maximum stay limit. Tables, toilet, fire rings and water.
  • Panther Meadows:  CLOSED due to snow. Usually opens July 1st.
  • Castle Lake:  CLOSED. Due to open May 29th.
  • Gumboot Lake:  OPEN. Primitive camping conditions. Toilet but no tables. Approximately 6 user-created sites. No fee. Bring your own drinking water.
  • Cattle Camp:  OPEN. 24 sites. $15.00 per night. First come first served. 14 day maximum stay limit. Tables, toilets, fire rings and water.
  • Fowlers Camp:  OPEN. 31 sites by reservation at recreation.gov. 8 sites on a first come first served basis.$15.00 per night. 14 day maximum stay limit. Tables, toilets, fire rings and water.
  • AH-DI-NA:  CLOSED. Due to open June 1st.

 

 

Developed Campgrounds on the Mt. Shasta Ranger District

(For reference when campgrounds are open)

 

Castle Lake Campground

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. 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

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    

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

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

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

(For reference when the campgrounds are open)

 

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

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, and toilets. Most sites have bear lockers. $15.00 per night. 14 day stay limit. 32 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

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 24 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.

 

 

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. This is one of the only dispersed sites that allow campfires with a valid campfire permit when restrictions are in effect. Bring extra water (5 gallons) to douse your fire.

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 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. About two miles west of Lake Siskiyou is the National Forest boundary. There are numerous sites located off spurs 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 lots of 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.

 

Road Conditions   (Updated 5/26/20)

  • Everitt Memorial Highway (A10):  OPEN to Bunny Flat. The road to Panther Meadows and the Old Ski Bowl remains snow covered. Due to open July 1st.

  • Castle Lake Road (2M020):  OPEN to the lake.

  • Parks Creek Road (17): CLOSED. Last report was that this road was still blocked by a snow drift just north of Parks Creek trailhead. It should be melted out by now but has not yet been confirmed. May not be open to Highway 3.      IMPORTANT: Please use extreme caution when travelling the access road through the Stewart Springs residential area. The road is steep and narrow and there is a safety concern for residents. Please slow down!

  • South Fork Road (26):  OPEN to Gumboot Lake and Gumboot trailhead for access to the PCT.

  • Whalan Road (25): OPEN to the intersection with road 26. No report past this point. May not be open over Ramshorn Summit to Highway 3.

  • Toad Lake Road (40N64):   OPEN to the trailhead. 

  • North Fork Road (41N53):   OPEN to Morgan Meadows.

  • Bear Creek Road (40N45):  No report.

  • Military Pass Road (43N19):  OPEN around the mountain. Rough road. High clearance recommended.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





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