You'll come across views of Mt Shasta either peaking over a ridge or completely dominating the landscape, from the Oregon border and even into the east toward Tule Lake. It's part of the Cascade Range that extends into Oregon and Washington and although it looks peaceful now, it's still active. Smoke was seen puffing out of the crater on the summit as recently as the 1850s.
The mountain has two cones: the main cone has a crater about 200yd across, and the younger, shorter cone on the western flank, called Shastina, has a crater about half a mile wide.
You can drive almost the whole way up the mountain via the Everitt Memorial Hwy (Hwy A10) and see exquisite views at any time of year. Simply head east on Lake St from downtown Mt Shasta City, then turn left onto Washington Dr and keep going. Bunny Flat (6860ft), which has a trailhead for Horse Camp and the Avalanche Gulch summit route, is a busy place with parking spaces, information signboards and a toilet. The section of highway beyond Bunny Flat is only open from about mid-June to October, depending on snow, but if it’s clear, it’s worth the trouble. This road leads to Lower Panther Meadow, where trails connect the campground to a Wintu sacred spring, in the upper meadows near the Old Ski Bowl (7800ft) parking area. Shortly thereafter is the highlight of the drive, Everitt Vista Point (7900ft), where a short interpretive walk from the parking lot leads to a stone-walled outcrop affording exceptional views of Lassen Peak to the south, the Mt Eddy and Marble Mountains to the west and the whole Strawberry Valley below.
Climbing the summit is best done between May and September, preferably in spring and early summer, when there’s still enough soft snow on the southern flank to make footholds easier on the nontechnical route. Although the elements are occasionally volatile and the winds are incredibly strong, the round-trip could conceivably be done in one day with 12 or more hours of solid hiking. A more enjoyable trip takes at least two days with one night on the mountain. How long it actually takes depends on the route selected, the physical condition of the climbers and weather conditions (for weather information, call the recorded message of the Forest Service Mt Shasta climbing advisory on 530-926-9613).
The hike to the summit from Bunny Flat follows the Avalanche Gulch Route. Although it is only about 7 miles, the vertical climb is more than 7000ft, so acclimatizing to the elevation is important – even hearty hikers will be short of breath. Additionally, this route requires crampons, an ice axe and a helmet, all of which can be rented locally. Rock slides, while rare, are also a hazard. If you want to make the climb without gear, the only option is the Clear Creek Route to the top, which leaves from the east side of the mountain. In late summer, this route is usually manageable in hiking boots, though there’s still loose scree, and it should be done as an overnight hike. Novices should contact the Mt Shasta ranger station for a list of available guides.
There’s a charge to climb beyond 10,000ft: a three-day summit pass costs $25; an annual pass is $30. Contact the ranger station for details. You must obtain a free wilderness permit any time you go into the wilderness, whether on the mountain or in the surrounding area.