Brought to you by Discover Siskiyou
It’s wintertime in NorCal, with fresh snow draping the beautiful mountains of California’s Far North and giving a brand new perspective on the beauty of Northern California. For some, it’s a time to nestle up next to a fire and enjoy some relaxing time. For others, it’s time to try out a brand-new batch of adventure.
To see the best outdoor destinations in the winter, snowshoeing is the perfect way to get around. In fact, some people prefer to see these destinations in the winter when the crowds aren’t in full force. Of course, you should always check conditions and be prepared for everything during the winter months.
If you don’t own snowshoes, the number of places that offer rentals limit your excuses for trying it out. Our favorite place to rent them in the Siskiyou area is McCloud Outdoors and Gear Exchange, located right in downtown McCloud.
Here are five beautiful snowshoeing adventures near the mighty Mount Shasta:
Covered in a thick blanket of snow, Heart Lake virtually disappears in the winter. Familiar summer landmarks are transformed into barren beauty, and the relatively easy hike becomes more of a trudge. However, the views of Castle Lake and beyond are phenomenal as always.
We’ve determined that Heart Lake is possibly the best view in NorCal, and a trip in the winter, although a more difficult trek, provides a completely different and unique experience. You’ll most likely find yourself all alone, enjoying views of Mount Shasta, Black Butte and Castle Lake covered in snow. You’ll also encounter a frozen Heart Lake, which not many people will see in their lifetime. It might be a difficult trek to the top, but it’s well worth the winter experience.
If you go to the three tiers of McCloud Falls in the midst of summer, you’re bound to find droves of weekend warriors looking for a sunny day to see the spectacular waterfalls and cool off in the crystal-clear waters of the McCloud River. But in the winter, if you’re brave enough to snowshoe into the area covered in snow, you’ll probably have the entire place to yourself.
Depending on the road conditions, you may be able to drive right up to the overlook of Lower McCloud Falls, although be prepared to begin the hike at the Highway 89 turnoff if the road is covered in snow. Just remember: the more snow, the more remote your snowshoe adventure will be.
From the Lower Falls, you’ll snowshoe about a mile up the hill until you come to the biggest waterfall, Middle McCloud Falls. You can enjoy Middle Falls up close or get a panoramic view from the observation deck above. Another mile up the way is Upper McCloud Falls, which due to its location deep below a ravine, is difficult to see up close. But there are plenty of viewing opportunities from above.
Once you’ve made it to Upper McCloud Falls, the hike down to the car is a relaxing trek to rediscover all of the beauty you witnessed on your way up. And just a reminder, you’ll probably have the whole pace to yourself.
If you want to get up close and personal with Mount Shasta, Bunny Flat may be your go-to destination. Sitting near the end of the Everitt Memorial Highway, Bunny Flat is known to many as the gateway to the Mount Shasta wilderness. A convenient parking lot can give you access to the popular ski areas on the mountain like Avalanche Gulch, and an easy snowshoe hike is a great way to get high up on the mountain.
The trailhead sits at 6,950 elevation on the south side of Mt. Shasta and is easily accessed from Mt. Shasta City. The area will likely be busy, but once head up the mountain, people tend to disperse. On a massive mountain like Mount Shasta, it’s easy to find snowshoe solitude.
Hedge Creek Falls
If you’re new to snowshoeing and want a beginner experience, Hedge Creek Falls is the best hike for you. The trailhead is located right off Interstate 5 in Dunsmuir and the entire hike is less than a mile roundtrip with little elevation change. The payoff at the end includes a 35-foot waterfall cascading over a 12 foot cave.
If the weather’s bad, you can hike all the way down to the waterfall and take cover in the cave with the waterfall flowing right in front of your eyes. Not only is this a great adventure in the beautiful town of Dunsmuir, but you can trek the entire hike, with time to relax, in under an hour.
The flows of this waterfall can be slow during the summer months, but it comes alive in winter. It’s a must-see experience in Northern California.
There are many snowshoeing opportunities in the Mount Shasta area, but the trek to Faery Falls may be the most accessible of them all. While you may not be able to see the 19th century ruins of Ney Springs Resort if there is a lot of snow accumulation, the hike still provides plenty of beauty.
The trail is only 1.3 miles roundtrip, so even if you’re snowshoeing through heavy snowpack, it’s still an adventure that won’t take very long. And the waterfall payoff of the nearly 50 foot Faery Falls is well worth the price of admission (free). You could even make it a double trip by taking your snowshoes over to the nearby Lake Siskiyou, which offers unparalleled views of Mount Shasta.