A Guide to Hiking Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta Hiking: Waterfalls

From Bigfoot encounters to New Age festivals to Lemurians (an ancient race that lives under the mountain), there's never been a shortage of lore surrounding Mount Shasta. Even Native Americans weave the flora and fauna of Mount Shasta throughout their cultural narrative. It's little wonder the mountain inspires, thanks to pinnacle lakes that shine like jewels and a plethora of neighboring waterfalls [source: College of the Siskiyous].

While there aren't any waterfalls on Mount Shasta, there are several of nearby trails that lead to falling water. Take the McCloud River trail, for instance. The trailhead is a 20-minute drive from Mount Shasta; the 3.8-mile (6.1 kilometer) round-trip trail takes hikers by a series of three waterfalls -- each different, but no less compelling.

The hike begins near the Lower McCloud Falls, where a curtain of water tumbles over a rock cliff 30 feet (9.1 meters) above the tree-lined McCloud River. You can also take a chilling dip in the swimming area below the falls, if you're so inclined. From there, it's a 1.2-mile (1.9-kilometer) hike to the Middle McCloud Falls, which is considerably wider than the Lower Falls. It's a good idea to take a break here, because the next leg of the hike is a more demanding one. Although the McCloud River trail has an elevation gain of only 300 feet (91.4 meters), most of it lies in the less-than-a-mile trek between the Middle Falls and Upper Falls. To view the pencil-shaped Upper Falls, you'll need to traverse up a canyon edge to the flats that overlook them.

Experienced hikers -- or those interested in overnighting -- may want to continue another 13.4 miles (21.6 kilometers) to the Algoma Campground [source: Mount Shasta Trail Association].

In addition to waterfall views, you may want to consider a day hike (or two) to get up-close with some massive amounts of frozen water. On Mount Shasta, there are seven active glaciers, many of which can be reached off the main trails. Totaling nearly 5 billion cubic feet of ice, they're the only glaciers in the U.S. still growing from year to year. These, along with three smaller glaciers not yet recognized by the U.S. Geological Survey, flank the mountain above its tree line [source: Young].