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Mount Shasta

Aerial view of Mount Shasta from the west
Elevation 14,179 ft (4,321.8 m) NAVD 88[1]
Prominence 9,822 ft (2,993.7 m) Ranked 96th
Parent peak Mount Whitney [2]
Listing Ultra
Location Siskiyou County, California, USA
Range Cascade Range
Coordinates 41°24′33.11″N 122°11′41.60″W / 41.4091972°N 122.194889°W / 41.4091972; -122.194889Coordinates: 41°24′33.11″N 122°11′41.60″W / 41.4091972°N 122.194889°W / 41.4091972; -122.194889 [1]
Topo map USGS Mount Shasta
Type Stratovolcano
Age of rock About 593,000 years
Volcanic arc/belt Cascade Volcanic Arc
Last eruption 1786 [3]
First ascent 1854 by E. D. Pearce and party [4]
Easiest route Avalanche Gulch ("John Muir") route: glacier/snow climb [4]

Mount Shasta (Úytaahkoo in Karuk or "White Mountain") is located in Siskiyou County and at 14,179 feet (4,322 m)[1] is the second highest peak in the Cascades and the fifth highest in California. Mount Shasta has an estimated volume of 85 cubic miles (350 km3) which makes it the most voluminous stratovolcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc.[5][6]

The mountain and its surrounding area are managed by the U.S. Forest Service, Shasta-Trinity National Forest.


Memorable descriptions

Mount Shasta is not connected to any nearby mountain. It rises abruptly and stands nearly 10,000 feet (3,000 m) above the surrounding terrain. Because of this great prominence, it casts a gigantic shadow at sunrise.

The mountain has attracted the attention of poets, authors, and presidents. Shasta was memorably described by the poet Joaquin Miller:

"Lonely as God, and white as a winter moon, Mount Shasta starts up sudden and solitary from the heart of the great black forests of Northern California."[7]
Mount Shasta's west face. June 2009

Naturalist and author John Muir said of Shasta:

"When I first caught sight of it over the braided folds of the Sacramento Valley, I was fifty miles away and afoot, alone and weary. Yet all my blood turned to wine, and I have not been weary since."[8]

Theodore Roosevelt said:

"I consider the evening twilight on Mt. Shasta one of the grandest sights I have ever witnessed."[9]

Geology and climate

Mount Shasta from Mount Shasta City, CA. Taken July 2, 2009

The mountain consists of four overlapping volcanic cones which have built a complex shape, including the main summit and the prominent satellite cone of 12,330-foot (3,760 m) Shastina, which has a visibly conical form (see image at left). If Shastina were a separate mountain, it would rank as the third-highest peak of the Cascade Range.

Mount Shasta's surface is relatively free of deep glacial erosion except, paradoxically, for its south side where Sargents Ridge[10] runs parallel to the U-shaped Avalanche Gulch. This is the largest glacial valley on the volcano, although it does not presently have a glacier in it (see image below left).

There are seven named glaciers on Shasta, with the four largest (Whitney, Bolam, Hotlum, and Wintun) radiating down from high on the main summit cone to below 10,000 feet (3,000 m) primarily on the north and east sides.[4] •The Whitney Glacier is the longest and the Hotlum is the most voluminous glacier in the state of California. Three of the smaller named glaciers occupy cirques near and above 11,000 feet (3,400 m) on the south and southeast sides, including the Watkins, Konwakiton, and Mud Creek Glaciers.

There are many buried glacial scars on the mountain which were originally created in recent glacial periods ("ice ages") of the present Wisconsinian glaciation. Most have since been filled-in with andesite lava, pyroclastic flows, and talus from lava domes. Shastina, by comparison, has a fully intact summit crater indicating that Shastina developed after the last ice age.

About 593,000 years ago andesitic lavas erupted in what is now Mount Shasta's western flank near McBride Spring. Over time an ancestral Shasta stratovolcano was built to large but unknown height; sometime between 300,000 to 360,000 years ago the entire north side of the volcano collapsed, creating an enormous landslide or debris avalanche, 6.5 cubic miles (27 km3)[11] in volume. The slide flowed northwestward into Shasta Valley where the Shasta River now cuts through the 28 miles (45 km) long flow.

What remains of the oldest of Shasta's four cones is exposed at Sargents Ridge on the south side of the mountain. Lavas from the Sargents Ridge vent cover the Everitt Hill shield at Shasta's southern foot. The last lavas to erupt from the vent were hornblende-pyroxene andesites with a hornblende dacite dome at its summit. Glacial erosion has since modified its shape.

The next cone to form is exposed south of Shasta's current summit and is called Misery Hill. It was formed 15,000 to 20,000 years ago from pyroxene andesite flows and has since been intruded by a hornblende dacite dome.

Nearby Black Butte from Weed, California

Since then the Shastina cone has been built by mostly pyroxene andesite lava flows. Some 9,500 years ago, these flows reached about 6.8 miles (10.9 km) south and 3 miles (4.8 km) north of the area now occupied by nearby Black Butte (see image at right). The last eruptions formed Shastina's present summit about a hundred years later. But before that, Shastina, along with the then forming Black Butte dacite plug dome complex to the west, created numerous pyroclastic flows that covered 43 square miles (110 km2), including large parts of what is now Mount Shasta, California and Weed, California. Diller Canyon (400 feet (120 m) deep and 0.25 miles (400 m) wide) is an avalanche chute that was probably carved into Shastina's western face by these flows.

Shasta from the south, taken near Dunsmuir, California. Shastina is the satellite cone on the left.

The last to form, and the highest cone, the Hotlum Cone, formed about 8,000 years ago. It is named after the Hotlum glacier on its northern face; its longest lava flow, the 500 feet (150 m) thick Military Pass flow, extends 5.5 miles (8.9 km) down its northwest face. Since the creation of the Hotlum Cone, a dacite dome intruded the cone and now forms the summit. The rock at the 600 feet (180 m) wide summit crater has been extensively hydrothermally altered by sulfurous hot springs and fumaroles there (only a few examples still remain).

In the last 8,000 years, the Hotlum Cone has erupted at least eight or nine times. About 200 years ago the last significant Shasta eruption came from this cone and created a pyroclastic flow, a hot lahar (mudflow), and three cold lahars, which streamed 7.5 miles (12.1 km) down Shasta's east flank via Ash Creek. A separate hot lahar went 12 miles (19 km) down Mud Creek. This eruption was observed by the explorer La Pérouse, from his ship off the California coast, in 1786.[3]

Climbing and recreation

photo of Shasta Alpine Lodge at Horse Camp on Mount Shasta, CA
Shasta Alpine Lodge at Horse Camp on Mount Shasta. Avalanche Gulch is to the right of the chimney.

Many climbers attempt the summit of Mount Shasta. The summer climbing season runs from late April until October, although many attempts are made in the winter. The most popular route is Avalanche Gulch, also known as the John Muir Route. It begins at a Sierra Club Foundation hut known as the Shasta Alpine Lodge at Horse Camp, at elevation 7,900 feet (2,400 m) on the southwest side of the mountain, near the tree line. It involves 6,300 feet (1,900 m) of vertical gain over moraines and snowfields, with some danger from rockfall and a bergschrund.[4] All too often, inexperienced climbers have to be rescued.[citation needed] Hiking trails also exist in areas around the base of the mountain.[4]

Avalanche Gulch on Mount Shasta. Sargents Ridge is at center right. Casaval Ridge is at center left, and the west face is on the far left.

In winter, Sargents Ridge and Casaval Ridge, to the east and west of Avalanche Gulch[12] respectively, become the most traveled routes, to avoid avalanche danger. Mount Shasta is also a popular destination for backcountry skiing. Many of the climbing routes can be descended by experienced skiers, and there are numerous lower-angled areas around the base of the mountain.[4]

Volcanic hazards

Diller Canyon on Shastina near Weed, California

During the last 10,000 years Shasta has erupted an average of every 800 years but in the past 4,500 years the volcano has erupted an average of every 600 years. The last significant eruption on Shasta may have occurred 200 years ago, as noted above.

Mount Shasta can release volcanic ash, pyroclastic flows or dacite and andesite lava. Its deposits can be detected under nearby small towns totaling 20,000 in population. Shasta has an explosive, eruptive history. There are fumaroles on the mountain, which show that Shasta is still alive.

The worst case scenario for an eruption is a large pyroclastic flow, such as what occurred in the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. Since there is ice, such as Whitney Glacier and Mud Creek Glacier, lahars would also result. Ash would probably blow inland, perhaps as far as eastern Nevada. There is a small chance that an eruption could also be bigger resulting in a collapse of the mountain, as happened when Mount Mazama in Oregon collapsed to form what is now called Crater Lake, but this is of much lower probability.

The United States Geological Survey considers Shasta a dormant volcano, which will erupt again. It is impossible to pinpoint the date of next eruption, but it likely will occur within the next several hundred years.


The oldest known human habitation in the area dates to about 7,000 years ago, and by about 5,000 years ago, there was substantial human habitation in the surrounding area.

At the time of Euro-American contact in the 1820s, the Native American tribes who lived within view of Mount Shasta included the Shasta, Okwanuchu, Modoc, Achomawi, Atsugewi, Karuk, Klamath, Wintu, and Yana tribes.

The historic eruption of Mount Shasta in 1786 may have been observed by la Perouse, but this is disputed. Although perhaps first seen by Spanish explorers, the first reliably-reported land sighting of Mount Shasta by a European or American was by Peter Skene Ogden (a leader of a Hudson's Bay Company trapping brigade) in 1826. In 1827, the name "Sasty" or "Sastise"[citation needed] was given to nearby Mount McLoughlin by Ogden. The name was transferred to present-day Mount Shasta in 1841, partly as a result of work by the United States Exploring Expedition.

Beginning in the 1820s, Mount Shasta was a prominent landmark along what became known as the Siskiyou Trail, which runs at Mount Shasta's base. The Siskiyou Trail was located on the track of an ancient trade and travel route of Native American footpaths between California's Central Valley and the Pacific Northwest.

The California Gold Rush brought the first Euro-American settlements into the area in the early 1850s, including at Yreka, California and Upper Soda Springs. The first recorded ascent of Mount Shasta occurred in 1854 (by Elias Pearce), after several earlier failed attempts. In 1856, the first women (Harriette Eddy, Mary Campbell McCloud, and their party) were recorded as reaching the summit.

Clarence King exploring the Whitney Glacier in 1870. This was the first glacier in the continental United States discovered and named. It was named for Josiah Whitney, head of the California Geological Survey.

By the 1860s and 1870s, Shasta was the subject of scientific and literary interest. A book by California pioneer and entrepreneur James Hutchings, titled Scenes of Wonder and Curiosity in California, contained an account of an early summit trip in 1855.[13] The summit was achieved (or nearly achieved) by John Muir, Josiah Whitney, Clarence King, and John Wesley Powell. In 1877, Muir wrote a dramatic popular article about an experience in which he survived an overnight blizzard on Shasta by lying in the hot sulfur springs found near the summit (Muir article).

The 1887 completion of the Central Pacific Railroad, built along the line of the Siskiyou Trail between California and Oregon, brought a substantial increase in tourism, lumbering, and population into the area around Mount Shasta. Early resorts and hotels, such as Shasta Springs, grew up along the Siskiyou Trail around Mount Shasta, catering to these early adventuresome tourists and mountaineers.

In the early Twentieth century, the Pacific Highway followed the track of the Siskiyou Trail to the base of Mount Shasta, leading to still more access to the mountain. Today's version of the Siskiyou Trail, Interstate 5, brings thousands of people a year to Mount Shasta.

It was declared a National Natural Landmark in December 1976.[14]


Shasta and Shastina from the north, near Pluto's Cave

The lore of some of the American Indians in the area held that Shasta is inhabited by the spirit chief Skell who descended from heaven to the mountain's summit.

Italian settlers arrived in the early 1900s to work in the mills and as stonemasons, establishing a strong Catholic presence in the area. Many other faiths have been attracted to Shasta over the years—more than any other Cascade volcano. Mount Shasta City and Dunsmuir, California, small towns near Shasta's western base, are focal points for many of these, which range from a Buddhist monastery (Shasta Abbey, founded by Houn Jiyu-Kennett in 1971) to modern-day Native American rituals. As reported in the documentary In The Light of Reverence, a group of Native Americans from the McCloud River area practice rituals on the mountain. Other surrounding tribes also continue to use the mountain for spiritual practices.[citation needed]

Guy Ballard's I Am Activity (started in the 1930s) and Elizabeth Clare Prophet's Church Universal and Triumphant (started in the 1950s) are probably the best-known among numerous groups to participate in Shasta's spiritual heritage. Some cults hold that races of sentient or spiritual beings generally considered to be Lemurians[citation needed], superior to humans, live in or on Shasta, or visit the mountain.

Mount Shasta City hosts 16 Christian churches. If the membership rolls were combined, they would account for approximately 25 percent of the population.

Cultural references

  • Joaquin Miller sets his historical novel, Life Amongst the Modocs,[7] at the base of Mount Shasta. The poet had spent a number of years as a young man living with and near the Native Americans around Mount Shasta, and based this work on that time.
  • Frederick Spencer Oliver's 1894 fantasy novel, A Dweller on Two Planets, is about the Lemurian race. In the novel, Lemurians who traveled to Mount Shasta when their continent sank beneath the Pacific Ocean, are now said to live inside the mountain in a series of tunnels. Several other authors have since expanded on these ideas.[15][16]

See also

Mount Shasta, looking South (Northern exposure)


  1. ^ a b c "Mount Shasta". NGS data sheet. U.S. National Geodetic Survey. Retrieved 2009-08-14. 
  2. ^ "America's 57 - The Ultras". Retrieved 2008-09-28. 
  3. ^ a b "Shasta". Global Volcanism Program, Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 2008-12-18. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Selters, Andy; Michael Zanger (2006). The Mt. Shasta Book (3rd ed.). Wilderness Press. ISBN 0-89997-404-X. 
  5. ^ Orr, Elizabeth L.; William N. Orr (1996). Geology of the Pacific Northwest. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies. pp. 115. ISBN 0-07-048018-4. 
  6. ^ "Mount Shasta and Vicinity, California". USGS. Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  7. ^ a b Miller, Joaquin; Malcolm Margolin; Alan Rosenus (January 1996) [1873]. Life amongst the Modocs: unwritten history. Berkeley: Urion Press (distributed by Heyday Books). ISBN 0-930588-79-7. 
  8. ^ Muir, John 1838-1914. Letters, 1874-1888, of a personal nature, about Mount Shasta. In: Bade, William Frederic. The Life and Letters of John Muir. New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1923. Vol. II, pp. 29-41, 49-50, 82-85, 219. Two Volumes. Cited at Mt. Shasta Collection MS176 (spelling corrected to modern spelling). Accessed 2008-04-08.
  9. ^ Roosevelt, Theodore 1858-1919. Letter to Harrie Cassie Best, dated Nov. 12, 1908, White House. In: James, George Wharton 1858-1923. Harry Cassie Best: Painter of the Yosemite Valley, California Oaks, and California Mountains. 1930? p. 18. Cited at Mt. Shasta Collection MS1032. Accessed 2008-04-08.
  10. ^ "Sargents Ridge". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2008-04-19. 
  11. ^ Sigurdsson, Haraldur (2001). Encyclopedia of Volcanoes. Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-643140-X. 
  12. ^ "Avalanche Gulch". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2008-04-19. 
  13. ^ Scenes of Wonder and Curiosity in California, (1862) by James M. Hutchings
  14. ^ "Mount Shasta". NPS: Nature & Science » National Natural Landmarks. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-04-07. 
  15. ^ L. Sprague De Camp (1970). Lost Continents, Courier Dover Publications, pp 71-72. ISBN 0486226689.
  16. ^ Robert A. Heinlein (1941). Lost Legacy, Fictioneers, Inc.

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

City of Mount Shasta is an incorporated town in Siskiyou County in the Shasta Cascades region of California, at the southwestern foot of Mt. Shasta.

Mount Shasta from City of Mt. Shasta, California
Mount Shasta from City of Mt. Shasta, California

Get in

By car

The City of Mount Shasta is located off of Interstate 5 about 60 miles north of Redding, CA, 220 miles north of Sacramento, CA, and less than 60 miles south of the Oregon/California border.

By train

The Dunsmuir Amtrak station is located less than 10 miles south of Mount Shasta City.

By plane

The closest major airport is Sacramento International Airport [1] (SMF). There are also small airports in Redding, CA and Medford, OR.


McCloud located 8 miles away with three waterfalls, Golf Course, Dinner Train and historic Main Street shopping.


Mountain Runner's 4th of July Fun Run & Walk [2] - Annual July 4th event - 4 walks or races to participate in with great food and entertainment along the way including: gourmet snacks, jazz choirs, country music bands, individual singers & classical instrumentalists, clowns, magicians, church choirs and belly dancers, cheerleaders, gymnasts on the ground and surprises in the sky.


The town consists of several main commercial streets, a shopping center and dozens of tourist oriented hotels and stores.

  • Best Western The Tree House Motor Inn, 111 Morgan Way, +1 530 926-3101 (fax: +1 530 926-3542), [3].  edit
Routes through Mount Shasta
MedfordWeed  N noframe S  DunsmuirRedding
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Simple English

Mount Shasta is a 14,179-foot volcanic peak in northern California in the United States. It is part of the Cascade Range. It has a smaller peak abutting it, Shastina, and seven glaciers. The mountain stands alone in a large expanse of flatter land, rising 9,822 feet above the surrounding terrain. The Sacramento River flows south near the west edge of the mountain. The town of Mount Shasta and Shasta Lake Reservoir, formed by Shasta Dam, are all named for Mount Shasta.


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