Mt. Shasta Wilderness

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Located in the Shasta National Forest in California.

The Mt Shasta Wilderness was established in 1984 with the passage of the California Wilderness Act. This 38,200 acre addition to the National Wilderness Preservation System contains many unique geologic and scenic features: a hot sulfur spring, seven glaciers, lava flows, waterfalls, buttes and canyons. Mt. Shasta is the second highest (to Mt. Rainier) of the Cascade Range volcanoes. Rising to an altitude of 14,162 feet, Mt. Shasta is a landmark that dominates the aerial view for several hundred miles in all directions. Although it is believed the last eruption was in 1786, geologists still term Mt. Shasta as an "active" volcano.

Origin of the Name "Shasta"

Popular as this name has become, historians are indefinite about its origin. "Shasta" could be derived from several sources: the Russian word "tshastal" meaning white or pure, the French word "chaste" also meaning pure, or some obscure Indian word used by native tribes which could have been picked up and adopted by white travelers. "Shasta" was also the reported name of an Indian tribe living near Yreka in the 1840's, adding to the belief that the name is most likely of Indian origin.

Early Explorers

In 1817, Fray Narcisco Duran, a Spanish explorer, made the first recorded sighting of the mountain and called it "Jesus Maria" In l841, the Wilkes Expedition named the mountain "Shasty Peak" and published the earliest known illustration. In 1847, Captain John Fremont, on his way to Klamath Falls, saw the mountain and called it "Shastl". In 1855, Robert S. Williamson, a U.S. topographer reporting on a possible railroad route between the Columbia and Sacramento Valleys, called the mountain "Shasta Butte".

Plants and Animals

Trees of the area include picturesque stunted red and white fir along with whitebark pine at the 8,000-foot elevation near timberline. At lower elevations one can find stands of pure red fir and mixed conifer forests that include hemlock, incense cedar, sugar pine, Jeffrey pine, white fir and Douglas fir. Some juniper, mountain mahogany and aspen exist on the northside lava flows. Shrubs such as pinemat manzanita, greenleaf manzanita, tanoak, chinquapin, and snowbrush can be seen with mixed conifer forests.

The majority of Mt. Shasta's wildflowers are found below timberline. They are unusually brilliant in July and early August. Eriogonum, lupine, aster, and yarrow are the most common.

Reptiles include the alligator lizard and fence lizard, commonly seen in the mixed conifer forests. Rattlesnakes are rarely encountered. Mammals include ground squirrels, coyotes, bear and deer. Finches and ravens are occasionally seen on and above the glaciers. Golden eagles, prairie falcons and red-tail hawks are occasionally seen at lower elevations.

Weather

Mt. Shasta's weather is variable. The exposure to storms from the Pacific results in high winds and heavy snow accumulations. Major storms can occur at any time of the year. Like many other solitary mountains, Mt Shasta intensifies existing weather conditions. With respect to weather, we recommend that you go prepared, be observant and anticipate dangers.

Climbing Mt. Shasta

A Mt. Shasta climb can be a rewarding adventure, challenging your physical and mental abilities with a long and strenuous hike. Pre-trip planning and conditioning will help towards your success.

Permits

Permits are required for entry into the Mt. Shasta Wilderness. There is a self-issue permit station located outside the east end of the Mt. Shasta Ranger District office at 204 West Alma Street in Mt. Shasta City. This can be used in summer for day use and for all use in winter. Summer camping permits must be obtained from the Mt. Shasta or McCloud Ranger District Offices. Information requested on the permit may be vital should a rescue operation become necessary.

Climbing Season

June and July are the best months for climbing Mt. Shasta. Some climbers prefer the early summer months so they can take advantage of smoother going over ice and snow. On the south side, rockfall danger increases during late summer and fall. Glacier routes are often safest in late summer and early fall when crevasses tend to be more visible and more easily avoided. Check the weather forecast for incoming storms or unsettled weather. Avalanches can pose a hazard both in winter and spring.

For further information contact: McCloud And Mt. Shasta Ranger Districts, Shasta-Trinity National Forest


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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