Trails in Northern California

Trails in Northern California

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July 28, 2011

Trinity Alps Castle Lake Trail to Mount Bradley Lookout

Castle Lake, Shasta National Forest, California to 

Mount Bradley Lookout 

is a 12 mile day hike, excellent to 

view wildflowers, but best of all, Mount Shasta from 

numerous angles for fabulous photographs!

Mount Shasta 2011
Hike Difficulty: Strenuous and Difficult  (for miles and lack of trail maintenance, hard to find at times)
Distance Hiked:  just under 12 miles out and back
Elevation Change:  2582 feet per Garmin Basecamp
Trail Tread Types:  Pine needle covered packed soil, double tread to single tread, loose rocks, wet and dry stream beds.

     Along the trail Shasta would reward our efforts with stunning views, before the trail would turn or descend and hide her glory again and again.  I hope this post entices you to consider this hike soon! The trail head began at Castle Lake. 
Driving Directions:  We drove on I-5 to Central Shasta exit, then followed signs to Castle Lake. Go to Wikiloc Trails  for GPS tracks; a small map is shown below.

     The trail was mostly clear to follow but GPS helped us navigate since in some places it simply vanished.  Long sleeves and long pants (convertibles) with good hiking boots and poles are recommended due to thick overgrown manzanita.

      There were swimmers and fishermen and a crowded parking area when we arrived, but they filtered out quickly as evening approached and we found our first campsite by following the trail to the left toward a small creek crossing.


     Several campsites are available alongside this trail toward the east of the lake, but we veered left at a small fork and meandered until we found our more private site away from the lake and its visitors.  The creek (possible water source) near us was through this little bushwhacking shown in the left photo above.

     The trail starts at Castle Lake and climbs to the east of the lake.  
There is an unnamed pond and then you'll come to Little Castle Lake (not much more than a pond and difficult to get close to due to the thick brush.

     The trail ranges from rocky to meadows to forest to very old double tread and through unmanaged vegetation.  We had luck with breezes to cool us despite a hot day and areas without shade.


     Hike uphill through the forest and then you begin crossing the saddles and will find astoundingly beautiful views, one after another.

     The heavy manzanita is difficult to wedge through especially if you are wearing a pack.  It stood taller than us and caught on my pack, pockets, poles, shoes.....  but onward to the promising views that are as breathtaking as any hiker imagines.

"The Crags"
Sneak previews of Shasta along the trail ahead.

     Across the last two saddles we enjoyed the vistas in every direction!  We could see the trail far ahead going up and down the saddles over to the barely perceptible lookout.  The oddity was traveling all this way on foot and arriving at the dirt road leading into the lookout area!  Surreal!  Where is the holy grail now?

Black Buttes
More of Shasta tantalizing hikers onward!

Mount Bradley Lookout
     We put up our dusty feet and soaked in Mount Shasta and the surrounding views in the shade of the lookout.

     This hike could be satisfying and shorter if you stop at the last saddle.  It is a narrow old section of wide rocky trail but the views, in our estimation, were best from the top of the peak before the last saddle that crosses to the lookout.  If you're interested in the historic and now unmanned lookout, it was a pleasant resting place.

As we continued......

     Upon our return to camp, having hiked this as an "out and back", we found a closer camp than before and settled in.  The bugs must have bred while we were away...I was sure there were more of them!
Here are some shots of the lake (and flowers) before the breezes or people disturbed it in the morning:

     Castle Lake is very shallow at the side nearest parking, but is 120 feet deep across on the granite side of the bowl, and its surface covers 47 acres. It is classified as a glacial lake.

     Enjoy your hike and let me know how you fare!
     I read an account of this hike in Trinity Alps Vicinity by Mike White.  He offers a multitude of hikes in the area with directions and extensive details.  Note that it can't be updated about trail conditions so check out your interests with the Forestry and the internet before you set out on your hikes.

Trinity Alps (near Redding, CA)

·         Trinity Alps Coffee Creek Loop
Strenuous and Difficult
·         Trinity Alps (Hobo Gulch)
 and check out
Peachy Hiker's Table of Contents

Happy Trails!
Edited 7-2014