Star of photo and video, and perhaps the most iconic single mountain peak in all California, is majestic Mount Shasta. Gorgeous views of the tremendous dormant volcano are available along more than a dozen miles on I-5. In the wintertime, snow covers much of the huge mountain, while in the summertime glaciers decorate only the upper reaches near the peak.
To truly appreciate Mount Shasta, either come and camp in the cool forest or get a room at one of the quaint inns or relaxing retreat centers in the tiny town that also goes by the name of Mount Shasta. Numerous small towns spread out away from the mountain in all directions, providing a few minutes of sightseeing or a spot to eat or lay your head.
Shasta makes for a great weekend trip all on its own, or it can be a fun overnight (or more) stop if you’re making a trip up to the northern reaches of the California coast and want to loop back on a different set of roads.
Need a leg up on your visit to Shasta? Start at the Mount Shasta Visitors Bureau (300 Pine St., Mt. Shasta, 800/926-4865, http://mtshastachamber.com). Here you can get information about hotels, restaurants, and local recreation.
On the other hand, if you need wilderness permits and trail advice, head for one of the local ranger stations. The Mount Shasta Ranger Station (204 W. Alma St., Mt. Shasta, 530/926-4511) can supply you with both wilderness and summit passes, plus park maps and information about current mountain conditions.
Another station is the Castle Crags Ranger Station (Castle Creek Rd. and Castle Crags State Park Rd., 530/235-2684).
Mount Shasta is remote and to get here, you’re going to need a car. The main road to Mount Shasta is I-5. This major thoroughfare can get you to the mountain from the north or from the south, and it’s plowed constantly in winter to keep it open to trucking.
Parking in the town of Mount Shasta is usually easy—just beware of local events in town that might draw numerous visitors. The various parks and wilderness areas usually have parking lots, though some of the trailheads do not. In these cases, you can often park alongside the road, so long as you’re not on a major highway.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition