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Trout Lake

Trout Lake

A short but incredibly scenic hike in the Shasta Valley that follows the shore of surprising Trout Lake. Tremendous views in all directions, crowned by the glacier-clad glory of Mount Shasta highlight the high desert scenery.

Total Distance: 2.3 miles
Elevation Gain: Minimal
Season: All year (subject to seasonal closures for hunting during late fall and early winter)

High Desert Heaven

Cascades, Mt. Shasta – Feb2014 047 copy (Custom)
Mount Shasta dominates the view from above Trout Lake.

While Mount Shasta and the regions immediately to the east, west and south are heavily wooded and often boast alpine terrain, to the north of the mountain the Shasta Valley is a classic high desert. Sparsely wooded with junipers in lieu of pines and firs, the valley is a stark contrast of green against the gold desert terrain. Lined to the east and west by the Klamath and Cascade ranges, the southern end of the valley is crowned by the snowy pyramid of Mount Shasta presiding regally over its domain. The high desert landscape is a result of the valley’s position within Mount Shasta’s rainshadow. When storms move through the area, the mountain is perpetually thrust upwards into the turbulent currents and wrings moisture from the clouds. Consequently, there is little precipitation to the north and the desert holds sway. It is a striking reversal from the lush forests that lie just a few miles to the south. Unfortunately for hikers, most of the Shasta Valley is a productive ranching area and there is little opportunity to enjoy the dry climate. What little public land available is found in the southeast corner, hugging the foot of the mountain. The rest of the valley is privately owned with one glaring, but little known exception. At the north end of the valley, just east of the town of Montague lies the Shasta Valley Wildlife Refuge, a park administered by the California Department of Fish and Game. This 4,657 acre slice of the Shasta Valley is a diamond in the rough. A former ranch, what little development there is aside from old agricultural infrastructure is oriented more towards hunters and fishermen. Nonetheless, the refuge is blessed with gorgeous scenery and absolutely spectacular views of Mount Shasta and the rest of the peaks the ring the Shasta Valley.

Hiking in the Shasta Valley Wildlife Refuge is a bit different from other destinations around Mount Shasta. For the most part, what hiking there is is either on roads or cross country. The most significant exception to this is the Trout Lake Trail. Surprisingly large and deep, Trout Lake is a closely guarded secret amongst fishermen. Loaded with its namesake fish, the lake is spectacularly situated amidst grassy plains and rocky, juniper covered mounds. It is particularly noteworthy for its staggering view of Mount Shasta and anyone lucky enough to arrive at the lake when the wind is still is guaranteed to enjoy a fantastic reflection on the water. The Trout Lake Trail is not an officially sanctioned trail but it is the closest thing the refuge has to an actual hiking trail. In spite of not being officially sanctioned, the trail is a stunning hike with unforgettable vistas. The journey through the high desert is an great change of pace from other hikes in the Mount Shasta area. Though not extremely long, there is excellent potential for nearly limitless exploration all around Trout Lake. During the winter months, when the mountains are cloaked in snow, a hike along Trout Lake is ideal opportunity to get outside and enjoy terrific scenery.


Trout Lake, California


Grenada, Lakes, montague, North Siskiyou, trails

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