Shasta-Trinity National Forest

Shasta-Trinity National Forest, an immense timberland of about 2.2 million acres in Northern California, is the largest forest in the state. It rests just to the east of Klamath National Forest and contains a great variety of terrain due to its extremes in elevation. For example, the land begins at a mere 1,000 feet above sea level and touches the sky at Mt. Shasta: 14,162 feet. The second tallest point is the largest volcano in The Cascade Range. Sound like your kind of challenge?

You are welcome to climb Mt. Shasta, as long as you are aware that this wild trek does not have any trailheads to point you in any particular direction, so you’ll have to find the routes created by cross-country goers. Don’t worry, it’s worth the climb to the top of California to take a deep breath of that heavenly mountain air among the clouds and to observe Shasta’s magnificent population of bald eagles! Seriously, have you seen photos of this place?

Mt. Shasta in Shasta-Trinity National Forest
Mt. Shasta, the highest point in Shasta-Trinity National Forest – Image by David Mark from Pixabay

About the Forest

To give you a better idea of just how massive Shasta-Trinity’s acreage is, remember that the land contains 57,927 acres of lakes, 4,461 miles of streams, and 1,538 miles of scenic, adventurous trails. There’s so much room for everyone to enjoy themselves here, you don’t have to choose any heavily trafficked trail if you don’t want to. The same thing applies to those looking to stay the night. The forest hosts 76 developed family-size campgrounds and 10 large group campgrounds. Not looking to stay the night, or even leave your car? Exploring the forest on four wheels is easy thanks to the 4,651 miles of road that runs through, up, around, and down the diverse terrain.

State Route 299, California’s third longest highway, is also known as Trinity Scenic Byway. The forest service describes this road as taking you “From the Valley Oaks to the Redwood Coast.” You can drive this gorgeous route in the footsteps of the gold rush miners who first carved out parts of the path. The total mileage for the highway is 120 miles. The minimum elevation is 2,000 feet above sea level and the maximum is 6,500.

History of Shasta-Trinity National Forest

President Theodore Roosevelt created Trinity Forest Reserve in 1905, and Shasta Forest Reserve later that same year. In 1954, the two reserves were combined to create one Shasta-Trinity National Forest measuring over 2 million acres. Today, the forest is headed in Redding, California. From here, the forest service works with thirteen different Native American tribes who still use the land. Visitors should know that any Native American artifacts found on the land should be left where they are.

Mountains in Shasta-Trinity National Forest
A panoramic view of Shasta-Trinity National Forest – Photo by Ande Baldwin on Unsplash

Recreation in Shasta-Trinity National Forest

If you would guess that a place with so many beautiful mountains would be big on rock climbing, you’d be right! Mt. Shasta itself is a difficult climb that requires full gear and an experienced climber, though there are several routes to choose from. Looking for a slightly less intense ascent? Call The Shasta Ranger Station or The McCloud Ranger Station to get information on the best rock climbing sites! Another tried and true option known for its popularity is Castle Crags Wilderness; contact Castle Crags State Park for all climbing questions.

Winters come with skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. There are a total of three miles of marked ski trails, and an infinite expanse on which to ski cross-country. Visit Mt. Shasta Nordic Station for current information on all things winter sports-related, including closures, news, and special features.

Are water sports more your thing? This forest harbors twelve different boat launching sites, which isn’t exactly surprising. The forest actually has many mountain lakes decorate the landscape with pristine, sapphire waters. Lake, pond, river, and stream fishing are all available, where you can expect to catch anything from smallmouth bass to rainbow trout.

Pond Lily Lake is a location you can drive to that is open year-round. This fishing destination, partially owned by Sierra Pacific Industries (theirs is one of the private roads you will need to travel to reach the lake) is well stocked with brook trout and harbors three beautiful campsites near its shores.

A mountain lake- Shasta Trinity National Forest has many such lakes.
Shasta-Trinity National Forest has many beautiful mountain lakes – Photo by Lesly Derksen on Unsplash

Wilderness Areas

The Shasta-Trinity National Forest protects 498,150 acres of designated wilderness areas. These wilderness areas are not allowed to be logged, mined, harvested, or altered in any way from its natural state. So, if wildlife viewing is on your to-do list, then visiting the Trinity Alps Wilderness is a must!

The Trinity Alps Wilderness Area features summits up to 9,000 feet tall and over 600 miles of walking trails: all the space one needs to view the parks many spectacular native species. You could see anything from black bears and alligator lizards to leopard lilies and pitcher plants. With bursts of color from the flora and songbirds against the California sky reflected in the mountain lakes, your eyes will behold dazzling outdoor beauty. Who doesn’t need more of that in their life?

The USDA specifically recommends trails located in the Hayfork Area, McCloud, Mt. Shasta, Shasta Lake, and Trinity Unite National Recreation Area. For specific trail names and locations, click here.  

Visit Shasta-Trinity National Forest

We all need a break from city life every once in a while, even small-town life. Everyone needs to get away from the noise of traffic and the shuffling of everyday humanity just to relax to the sounds our ears were designed to hear- babbling brooks, leaves rustling, birds singing. Shasta-Trinity National Forest, and it’s neighbors like Klamath and Modoc National Forest, can provide the respite every person needs.

Be sure you have up-to-date information about the parts of the forest you plan to visit by visiting the USDA’s Alerts and Notices page for Shasta-Trinity. And of course, keep The National close by so you’ll always have a connection to America’s national forests. Have fun, be safe, and leave no trace!

– By Heaven Morrow   

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