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Alpine Lakes and Castle Crags

Deadfall Lakes backgrounded bt Mt Eddy in the Trinity Alps Wilderness


Climbing Mt. Eddy - Begin at Deadfall Summit off of Parks Creek Highway, follow the Pacific Crest Trail to the intersection with the Sisson-Callahan Trail. From this point, follow the Sisson-Callahan Trail to the summit (from this point - about 3 miles round trip with a 1000 foot elevation gain). This is a beautiful hiking trail through tall pine and cedar forests, alpine meadows, numerous springs and streams, and around the Deadfall Lakes. The trail continues with a number of switchbacks to the summit of Mt. Eddy, bringing a rewarding view of Mt. Shasta to the east and the Trinity Alps to the West.

Castle Crags State Park


Castle Crags State Park - Elevation 2,100 feet. 12 miles south of Mt. Shasta on Interstate 5. Soaring spires of ancient granite that are reminiscent of Yosemite, with Castle Dome rising to 4,966 feet resembling Half Dome in Yosemite Valley. There are many trails throughout the park; some are gentle and others are strenuous with 7 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail running through the park. Most of Castle Crags is in National Forest Wilderness. Spectacular vistas of granite slabs and spires above the dense forest inspire hikers to continue upward on the trail towards the Dome where scenic overlooks provide breathtaking views.

The Castle Crags Wilderness was established in 1984 with the passage of the California Wilderness Act. This 10,500 acre addition to the National Wilderness Preservation System contains towering spires, steep- sided canyons, and a few alpine lakes. Most of the area is covered by high brushfields and rocky outcrops with a few wet meadows in the creek headwaters. Mixed conifer forests can be found on the north, east and west facing slopes.

Castle Creek


For thousands of years, the Indians living around the base of Castle Crags regarded this formation with awe and superstition, rarely if ever venturing up into its heights. After a few years of gold rush in the 1850's, the relationship between miners and Indians strained to a breaking point. The result was the 1855 Battle of Castle Crags, which marked the beginning of the long and drawn-out Modoc War. The primary location of this battle was at the very northwest end of the Crags between what is now known as Battle Rock and Castle Lake.

By 1886, construction of the Southern Pacific Railroad through the Sacramento River canyon was completed, resulting in extensive lumber and mining operations. Chromium mines were operating as late as the 1950's in one part of the Castle Crags. Today none are operational, and most mines have been swallowed up by the re-emerging wilderness. In 1933, concerned citizens succeeded in acquiring much of the land that became the Castle Crags State Park.

Numerous resorts and hotels also flourished throughout the late 1800's and early 1900's; many were built around the mineral springs discovered by the miners. Castle Rock Mineral Water won numerous awards regionally and statewide. Although most of these resorts no longer exist, a few of these historic buildings can still be found in the Castella area.



Castle Crags forms a small portion of the Klamath Mountains geological province. Rocks within the province consist predominantly of volcanic and sedimentary types. However, granite bodies (plutons) intruded many parts of the province during the Jurassic time. Castle Crags is one of these plutons.

The towering crags and spires from which the Castle Crags pluton derives its name are especially prominent to the west of Interstate 5 between the towns of Castella and Dunsmuir. Elevations range from 2000 feet along the Sacramento River to over 6500 feet at the summit of the highest crags.

The Castle Crags area has been heavily glaciated. As a result several lakes can be found in the western section of the Castle Crags Wilderness. Among them are Gray Rock Lake, Timber Lake, and Little Castle Lake.

Plants and Animals

Trees of the area range from mostly live oak in the lower elevations to red fir, Jeffery pine and weeping spruce (also known as Brewer spruce) near the Crags summit. Mixed conifer forests include western yew, Port-Orford cedar, incense cedar, sugar pine, ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, white fir and lodgepole pine. Broadleaf trees such as bigleaf maple, vine maple, black oak and Pacific dogwood can be found in the area. Poison oak is also common at lower elevations.

Shrubs include azalea, ledum, and tanoak in the moist areas, while the dry slopes are dominated by greenleaf manzanita, pinemat manzanita, wedge-leaf ceanothus, whitethorn, snowbrush and deerbrush.

The area contains over 300 varieties of herbaceous wildflowers. Indian rhubarb, tiger lily, pitcher plant and yellow monkey flower can be found in the moist areas. Cycladenia, yarrow, aster and eriogonum are found on dryer sites. The Castle Crags hairbell (Campanula shetleri) is a flower found only in the Crags.


Birds of the wilderness include jays, ravens, warblers and other common woodland species. Hawks, golden eagles and peregrine falcons are also known to inhabit this area.


Reptiles common to the area are lizards and rattlesnakes. Although the local variety of rattlesnake (Crotalis viridis) is neither as poisonous or aggressive as the southern variety, caution is still advised.

Mammals include the common ground squirrel, gray squirrel, coyote, mule deer, bobcat, mountain lion and black bear. Martins and fishers are rare but occasionally seen.



There are 27.8 miles of developed and maintained trails within the Castle Crags Wilderness, accessed by 9 designated trailheads. The Castle Dome Trail, Indian Springs Trail, Root Creek Trail, and Bob's Hat Trail are reached via the Castle Crags State Park. The Little Castle Lake/Mt. Bradley Trails are accessed from Castle Lake. The Cray Rock Lake Trail is reached by an unmaintained natural surface road that branches from the South Fork of the Sacramento Road.

The Pacific Crest Trail runs for 19 miles through the wilderness, giving many scenic views of the Crags. The PCT can be accessed from the Soapstone Trail and the Gumboot trailhead, both of which are reached from the South Fork of the Sacramento Road. The PCT is also accessible via Dog Trail (off of Whalen Road), the Soda Creek exit of Interstate 5, and through the Castle Crags State Park.

To reach the trailhead, take the Central Mount Shasta exit from Interstate 5. Cross the freeway and go west and south on South Old Stage Road and W. A. Barr Road. Arc around Lake Siskiyou as the way becomes Forest Road 26. Follow this paved road to Gumboot Saddle, 18.3 miles from the freeway and 2.5 miles beyond Gumboot Lake and its campground.

There is no trail through the spires of the Crags. And although the rock formations look tempting to rock climbers and other recreationists, safety factors would limit this activity to only a few areas. Most of the Crags formation exhibits a geologic process called exfoliation -- the peeling off and crumbling of the ancient granitic rock, leaving unstable surfaces.

Seven Lakes Basin

See Large Image Seven Lakes Basin

Providing maximum scenery for minimal effort, trip along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) to the Seven Lakes Basin is one of the finest hikes in the Mount Shasta area. Far-reaching views are constant throughout the entire trip. While Mt. Shasta is scenery nonpareil, it is complimented by Mt. Eddy, the Trinity Alps, the Russian Wilderness, the Castle Crags, Grey Rocks and the many lakes found in the Trinity Divide. Boulder Peak, the rugged sentinel towering above the Seven Lakes Basin is not the least of these spectacles. After departing the PCT, the hikers have the option of descending down into the basin or continuing along the rim high above the Seven Lakes. From here there is a rough cross-country route that leads to the excellent summit of Boulder Peak. The PCT also passes beneath the summit of Many Lakes Mountain, which sits at the nexus of three different lake basins; the Mumbo Lakes, Cliffs Lakes and Seven Lakes Basins. A total of 14 named lakes and several unnamed tarns are found beneath the craggy summit of Many Lakes Mountain. The view from the top of the mountain is potentially the finest in the Trinity Divide, after only the spectacular view from Mount Eddy. A hike to the Seven Lakes Basin can be augmented by a quick scramble up to the summit of Many Lakes Mountain. Doing so combines for a truly spectacular hike.

Mt. Eddy from Deadfall Lakes (0000). Photo by Mark McCormick. Mount Eddy (9025 ft) from Deadfall Lakes. Photo by Mark McCormick.

Helen Lake

Click To Enlarge View

Species present: Rainbow and Brook Trout

Seasons: Open all year. Bag limit: 5 per day, 10 in possession.

Date of usual ice out: July 1 (6,700' elevation)

Access roads: This lake is located in Section 1, T38N, R6W. The Seven Lakes Basin is about 20 miles by road and trail from Mt. Shasta City. Access is via the South Fork Road (Road 26) from the W.A. Barr Road. One route to the basin is via the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) which crosses Road 26 after about 12 miles (Gumboot Trailhead). Park here and walk south on the PCT for 2.25 miles to the divide between Seven Lakes and Mumbo Basins. At the divide, take the Seven Lakes Trail (an old jeep road) to the south.

Alternative access to this area is by continuing on Road 26 for an additional 2.5 miles past the Gumboot Trailhead, to road 38N61.

Turn left and go about a mile to where an unmarked private road goes to the left into the head of Seven Lakes Basin, just above Helen Lake. Do not attempt to drive this private is extremely steep and eroded and becomes very loose in the summer. It is about a mile walk from this point to the Seven Lakes Basin.

Camping: 2 fair campsites. Wood hard to find due to high elevation (permission for a campfire must be obtained from Sierra Pacific Industries).

Surface acres: 2.5 acres and 15' deep

Comments: Fair fishing for Brook Trout. The shore is open enough for fly fishing.

This lake is owned by Sierra Pacific Industries. They say, "Motorized access may be restricted at any time. Pedestrian access is allowed at your own risk. No campfires during fire season. Outside of fire season, campfires are by permit only. Trash and garbage should be carried out."

Castle Lake

Castle Lake is located in the Castle Crags Wilderness. At an elevation of 5,400 feet, Castle Lake is one of the most popular lakes in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. At the size of 47 acres and depths of 140 feet, Castle Lake is one of the largest alpine lakes in the Castle Crags Wilderness. Castle Lake is a good lake for fishing, it is stocked with Rainbow and Brook trout, and has good fishing all year round. Castle Lake is surrounded by a variety of trees such as, pine, fir, cedar, and oak. Some of the various wildlife around the lake are, birds, like the ravens, blue jays, hawks and golden eagles. Deer such as the black tail deer and the mule deer. There are also reptiles like lizards and rattlesnakes. The black bear, mountain lion and the bobcat are also present too.

Castle lake


Little Castle Lake is located about a mile away from Castle lake, also located in the Castle Crag Wilderness, Little Castle Lake is at an elevation of 5,600 feet, a size of 4 acres and depths up to 9 feet. This lake is fairly small. Surrounding the lake are variety of trees such as, pine, fir, cedar and some oak. Little Castle Lake is stocked with Brook trout and is fairly good fishing, at the right time of the year. The wildlife around the lake are birds, like the raven, blue jays, hawks and golden eagles. There are deer such as the mule deer and the black tail deer. There are also black bears, mountain lions, and bobcats, lizards and rattlesnakes. Squirrels are present too.

Species present: Rainbow, Brook and Brown Trout. There are also Golden Shiner minnows.

Seasons: Open all year. Bag limit: 5 per day, 10 in possession.

Date of usual ice out: June 1 (5,400' elevation)

Access road: This lake is located in Section 19 and 24, T39N, R5W. Drive to it, about 11 miles from the town of Mt. Shasta, on the paved Castle Lake Road, usually open on Memorial Day.

Camping: A Forest Service campground is about 0.75 miles away. Camping within 200 feet of the water is prohibited. Due to the fragile environment around the lake, camping outside of this zone is discouraged. Camping is also not allowed on private land.

Surface acres: 47 acres and 120' deep.

Comments: This lake offers spectacular scenery and and is popular. Fishing is fair to good for various sizes of trout, particularly in May and June, but there are also the less desirable Golden Shiners. The lake is mostly on National Forest land...about 3 acres are private. The Department of Fish and Game has conducted trout management experiments at Castle Lake since 1938.

Special Destinations

Stuarts Fork

Offering up some of the grandest mountains and lakes of the Trinity Alps, the Stuarts Fork trail is a prime destination for hikers of all abilities and interest. From the crystal clear river to the towering dug firs and sugar pines you will have a pleasant hike in a shady forest.


Swift Creek Trail

Also see

The trail is reached by taking Swift Creek Road out of Trinity Center . From here a good trail with easy grades heads into the primitive area. One passes through timber and meadows, sees the Swift Creek Gorge and is surrounded by towering mountains. You can take the Granite Creek trail turnoff (just a mile in on Swift Creek) which leads to a wonderful day hike experience to Granite Lake. The distance from the trailhead to Granite Lake is 5 miles.

Eleanor/Shimmey Lake Trails


The trail starts by traveling to the end of the Lake Eleanor Road off of Swift Creek Road. Here one begins the trip and within one mile reaches Lake Eleanor. Past this picturesque mountain lake you continue until you finally reach Shimmey Lake, and observe towering Ycatapom Peak. The trip is relatively easy and will be enjoyed by the less experienced hiker. Shimmey Lake is just 3.6 miles from the trailhead. Lake Eleanor pictured below.

This is one of the few Lakes that have Golden Trout. Please release what you catch as this is a little fishery.


Stoddard/McDonald Lake Trails

The trail to these double lakes makes for an excellent day in the woods. You get to the trailhead by taking a gravel road off of Highway 3, just 3 miles past Coffee Creek Ranger Station. The hike itself is only 3 miles through meadows and thick forest. This trail is enjoyed by all, as it provides a comfortable walk and exquisite scenery.

You have a choice of trailheads from which to start. The recommended route begins at the Scott Mountain Campground just off Highway 3 at Scott Mountain Summit. This route is 4 miles longer than the alternative, but it is all on the well-graded Pacific Crest Trail. The other choice is to begin at the Mosquito Lake/Marshy Lake road and hike one-and-a-half miles from the wilderness boundary along the dusty road to an intersection with the PCT. The terminus of your trip as described is at Carter Meadows Summit on Forest Highway 93.Scott Mountain Campground Trailhead: The Pacific Crest Trail crosses Highway 3 at the very top of Scott Summit, and continues west just north of Scott Mountain Campground. Park well off the highway, but not in the campground, and look for signs and emblems marking the trail where it crosses old roads between the campground and Forest Road 40N63 on the north side of the summit. This is where we started and enjoyed a day hike with lunch on the trail.


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