Winter sunrise

Winter sunrise

We’ve felt a strong desire, after our recent trips to the northern California regions, to continue exploring these beautiful lands of deep woods, firs, wilderness and volcanoes.

Mount Shasta  and its surrounding wilderness is famously known for its ancient spiritual healing powers and have been a popular destination for both adventurous hikers and rock-climbers as well as yogis finding their inner zen. For us, the opportunity of some quality photography time in the special winter light beneath the mountain, was well worth the 4 hour drive from Marin county.

January is considered off-season and it was quite easy to score a good rate at the Mount Shasta resort, nestled right next to Siskyou Lake below majestic Mount Shasta. The lodge must be even better in summer with its easy access to the beach and offering bike rentals, golf and tennis courts. We enjoyed one of their woodland rooms with an in-room hot tub for two – not bad! Mount Shasta town is located just a few miles further up the road with lots of offerings for either the sportive or spiritual traveller along with restaurants, cafes and the usual facilities.

There is an abundance of hiking opportunities on the mountain, however, due to our desire to shoot the mountain, we tried to get far away from it as much as needed. But if you’re looking for guidance on trails and hikes, we can highly recommend the local tourist information center which provided us with free maps for Castle Lake, our destination of choice for some mountain photography.

We had only 2 days in the area and wanted to see as much as possible. Lots of rain in the previous weeks and the time of the year offered ideal conditions for some waterfalls that would potentially lose some of its strength in the summer months. In addition, we’ve checked out some spots for sunrise and sunset featuring the mighty mountain. After arriving there in the early Saturday afternoon, we enjoyed a coffee at Has Coffee and planned our upcoming 24 hours in the area. The beautiful lakes were our first destination, especially Siskyou lake offers a great view on the mountain from the eastern shore at Scott Camp Creek, right after the crossing of W A Barr road and Castle Lake road. We stopped her for a quick scouting of the location and took a few shots in the glowing afternoon light but then headed up to Castle Lake.

Castle Lake is about 7 miles further up the road and is a beautiful glacial lake, surrounded by steep granite walls and fir woods. There is a steep trail going up on the western shore of the lake that leads up above the lake and to another heart-shaped lake, obviously called Heart Lake. We unfortunately had to turn around mid way as the trail got too icy to continue but this is on our list for a next trip in summer. You wouldn’t want to miss a sunrise with this panorama, overlooking Castle Lake with Mount Shasta in the background (props to Leon Turnball for this gorgeous shot).

Regardless, the beautiful light during golden hour and divine serenity of Castle Lake allowed us to shoot a few nice memories (as featured in the gallery below) before we headed to a great dinner at Lily’s in Mount Shasta.

Our next morning started early as we headed out up to Castle Lake road to a hidden spot overlooking the woods and featuring Mount Shasta. This location is approximately at mile 6 after the intersection of W A Barr road, just exit at a small turnout to the right before the street makes a steep left turn. The rest of this second and last day was dedicated to waterfalls. There are multiple waterfalls in the surrounding area, we’ve decided to go to start with Hedge Creek Falls before continuing on to McCloud and Burney Falls which are further down in Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

Hedge Creek Falls is easily accessible from the street and just a short hike down a path. It’s a nice one but not as impressive as nearby Mossbrae Falls which is currently blocked due to hazardous trail conditions. We couldn’t entirely figure out if its just the trail conditions or the fact that the alternate access as well as the surrounding area was completely fenced off by the Saint Germain foundation, claiming spiritual ownership of the property.

McCloud Falls is a bit farther away from the town of Mount Shasta, just take the highway 89 towards Lassen National Park to get there. McCloud Falls is actually a collection of falls that can be visited in a loop hike . We’ve decided to focus on the upper McCloud Falls, parked at the overlook and took some shots both from the upper overlook as also down at the pool in which the falls are gushing into. It must be beautiful to swim here in summer.

Our last stop before heading back home was Burney Falls in MacArthur State Park which is even further down road 89 towards Lassen. This waterfall can be viewed both from a upper viewpoint as also from below and is quite an impressive one, probably the one we enjoyed the most of all three. It’s a very wide waterfall and bursting with green moss and two falls evolving from the stop, supported by little streams where the water fought its way through the rocks and moss. There is a beautiful campsite next to it and a camper shop. Again, a great spot to spend some time outdoors with family and friends.

This was a short trip but quite inspirational and we’ll definitely be back in summer or spring when the wildflowers will be out and even more trails are accessible. Highly recommended for either a short weekend getaway from the Bay area or to combine in a longer trip with Redwoods and Lassen National Parks. Check out our posts about these two gems on the blog!

Mount Shasta