Length:6.0 miles round trip
High Point: 6900 feet
Elevation Gain: 1250 feet
Difficulty: moderate to strenuous
When to Hike: mid-June to late October
Controlling Agency: Mount Shasta Ranger Station, Shasta-Trinity National Forest, 204 West Alma, Mount Shasta, CA 96067; (530) 926-4511; www.fs.fed.us/r5/shastatrinity
Special Features: Open views of all local mountains, including Mount Shasta, the Trinity Divide, and the Trinity Alps; swimming in alpine lakes
Directions to the Trailhead: Take the Central Mount Shasta exit off I-5 and drive west. Turn south on Old Stage Road and then bear right onto W. A. Barr Road. Cross the dam at Lake Siskiyou at 2.6 miles and follow the paved road (now Road 26) for another 15.7 miles and park at Gumboot Saddle, which is 2.5 miles west of the turn-off to Gumboot Lake and Gumboot Campground and a total of 18.3 miles from the I-5 exit.
Description and Comments: Walk to the south side of the saddle to find the Pacific Crest Trail (hikers and equestrians only). A brief climb brings the first open views of the craggy peaks of the Trinity Alps to the west. The PCT winds along a ridge crest for 2.4 miles, alternating between a forest of Jeffrey pine, western white pine, and red and white fir and open areas that offer great views. When on the actual ridge crest you will see Mount Shasta and the Eddy Range, and also catch an occasional glimpse of Cascade volcanoes to the southeast in Lassen Volcanic National Park.
A trail fork awaits at 2.4 miles. The PCT heads left to Castle Crags. The quickest way down into Seven Lakes Basin requires you to go 30 feet further on the PCT and then turn right onto a faint and occasionally steep and slippery path. It eventually meets a four-wheel-drive road, which you join (go left) to complete the half-mile down into the basin. (If you desire a gentler descent, take the four-wheel-drive road to the right at the 2.4-mile trail fork, which will lead you to same destination at the western edge of Seven Lakes Basin.)
The four-wheel-drive road leads you to Upper Seven Lake, perhaps the best lake in the basin. Its rock-rimmed waters are cool and clear–very inviting on hot days. Also visit Lower Seven Lake 100 yards to the south.
You can hike cross-country to explore the rest of the basin. (Get the relevant topographic map.) Note that a pocket of private land encompasses much of the land around Echo Lake, so please respect those boundaries.
Maps: USGS 7.5′ Mumbo Basin, USGS 7.5′ Seven Lakes Basin. Click for area map at topozone.com