Even first-time visitors to the area have no trouble identifying Mount Shasta. Dominating the landscape for several hundred miles in all directions, the mountain looms 14,179 feet, a beautiful snow-cloaked massif, second only to Mount Rainier in height among the famous Cascade Range volcanoes. Although the last documented eruption occurred in 1786, geologists classify Shasta as an active volcano. Most of the Wilderness lies on the upper slopes of the mountain. Below the seven glaciers that drape the mountain's slopes, you'll find a land of scenic wonder: ancient lava flows, a hot sulphur spring, waterfalls tumbling down deep canyons cut through rugged buttes. Stunted and picturesque red and white fir and whitebark pine grow near the tree line (around 8,000 feet). They preside above a forest of pure red fir and mixed conifers that include hemlock, cedar, sugar pine, Jeffrey pine, white fir, and Douglas fir, with an understory of shrubs. On the north side of the mountain, where the lava once flowed, you'll find some aspen, mountain mahogany, and juniper. In July and early August, meadows below timberline explode with wildflower color. Deer and black bears live here with an abundance of ground squirrels and coyotes. The mountain's outstanding views attract many human visitors armed with crampons and ice axes. No trails lead up Mount Shasta, but trails provide access to the Wilderness and the foot of the mountain. The Avalanche Gulch Route (six miles) is considered the easiest, but the elevation gain is over 7,000 feet, and at least 8 to 12 hours should be allotted for the round-trip. The glaciers are cracked by crevasses and are more visible in late summer and fall. On the south slopes, rockfall becomes a danger after midsummer. Major storms off the Pacific Ocean can send high winds and snow across the mountain any time of year. Sound preparation is a must.
Leave No Trace
How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Mt. Shasta Wilderness.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.