Length: 4.6 miles round trip
High Point: 7900 feet
Elevation Gain: 1100 feet
When to Hike: early July through October
Controlling Agency: Mount Shasta Ranger Station, Shasta-Trinity National Forest, 204 West Alma, Mount Shasta, CA 96067. (530) 926-4511
Special Features: stunning views of Mount Shasta; exploring verdant South Gate Meadows
Directions to the Trailhead: From the I-5 Central Mount Shasta exit, travel .7 mile east on Lake Street and then follow the curve as the road becomes Everitt Memorial Highway, which runs another 13.5 miles to the Panther Meadows Campground.
Description and Comments: You’ll be entering Mount Shasta Wilderness, so obtain a permit at the east end of Panther Meadows. Please note that dogs are not allowed in Mount Shasta Wilderness, which you will enter on this hike. The trail can occasionally be hard to follow: look for rock cairns to guide you.
Head east on the trail and enter Panther Meadows. You’ll soon reach a trail that heads left and uphill a half-mile to Panther Spring, a worthwhile addition to your return journey. You, however, continue across the meadow and fill out a permit at the self-issue station on the east side. Enter a red fir/mountain hemlock forest and climb to a trail fork at .6 mile. The route to Gray Butte goes right. You go left, soon descending to the Mount Shasta Wilderness Boundary at .8 mile.
Climb some more and gain open views of the Cascades stretching beyond McCloud to distant Lassen Peak. Cross an open sandy stretch at 1.2 miles where the trail grows faint. Stay near Red Butte (on your right) until you regain obvious trail. Go right at 1.5 miles (A left leads 1.1 miles to Old Ski Bowl parking lot) to reach The Gate (a saddle) at 1.6 miles.
From here descend to a trail fork at 1.9 miles. The right trail travels .4 mile to lower South Gate Meadows, whereas the left trail travels .4 mile to upper South Gate Meadows. Either path brings you to the small and clear stream and its bordering greenery and flowers, and both give a full view of Mount Shasta.
Maps: USGS 7.5′ McCloud, USFS Mt. Shasta Wilderness. Click here for map.