Castle Lake to Heart Lake

Length: 2.2 miles round trip

High Point: 6050 feet

Elevation Gain: 600 feet

Difficulty: moderate

When to Hike: mid-May to late October, depending on snow cover

Controlling Agency: Mount Shasta Ranger Station, Shasta-Trinity National Forest, 204 West Alma, Mount Shasta, CA 96067; (530) 926-4511

Special Features: swimming in the shallow and summer-warmed waters of Heart Lake; wildflowers; views of Mount Shasta, the Eddy Range, and Shasta Valley; swimming at Castle Lake

Directions to the Trailhead: Reach the Central Mount Shasta exit off I-5. Head west and then south on South Old Stage Road and continue south on W. A. Barr Road. After 2.6 miles, cross the dam at Lake Siskiyou and then turn left .2 mile farther. Travel the paved road 7.1 miles to the parking area bordering Castle Lake.

Description and Comments: This is one of the premier hikes in the Mount Shasta region, giving large rewards for a modest effort. Read signboards about the natural history and scientific studies of Castle Lake on the south end of the parking lot. Head east along the shore, cross the outlet creek and climb .6 mile to a saddle about 100 feet before a small pond. Go right at the saddle and follow an unsigned trail southerly and then westerly for a half-mile to reach Heart Lake. (Note that Heart Lake is directly south of Castle Lake.) Heart Lake’s shallow waters warm sweetly in the summer sun and make an excellent punctuation point to your arrival, especially if you come in the afternoon from early July into August. Note the spectacular view of Mount Shasta from the outlet creek. Many a famous photo of the massive volcano have been taken from slope on the south side of the lake. A short walk west of the lake reveals a couple tiny ponds and a campsite. Agile hikers in good shape can head southeasterly up to top of the ridge for world-class views of the surrounding topography, including the Cascades from Lassen Peak to Mount Mc Laughlin?, the Eddy Range, and rare views of the glacially sculpted granite of the north side of Castle Crags. For more hikes, see separate entries on Castle Lake and Castle Lake to Mount Bradley Ridge.

Maps: USFS Castle Crags Wilderness. Click to view area map at