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Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta is One of California's Most Beautiful Mountains

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Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta

Courtesy of Getty Images by Frederic Lewis

Some think northern California's Mount Shasta is one of the world's most beautiful mountains, so lovely that naturalist John Muir wrote that its beauty turned his blood to wine.

Mount Shasta is also the largest volcanic peak in the contiguous United States, a towering mountain with one of the highest base-to-summit rises in the world, and a top elevation of 14,162 feet.

Visiting Mount Shasta

From the end of the 15-mile paved road from Mount Shasta City, it's still more than a mile's vertical climb to the pinnacle, a difficult hike that requires proper equipment and preparation. If you have binoculars, you'll be able to tell that white patches at the top are glaciers. Toward the west, the Castle Crags poke up in the distance.

For the postcard view of Mount Shasta that some compare to Japan's Mount Fuji: Drive north on I-5 to Weed and then north on US Hwy 97. From this direction, Mount Shasta rises almost alone, with the glaciers on its north side shining in the sun, fully deserving of Joaquin Miller's description "Lonely as God and white as a winter moon."

Mount Shasta History

Native Americans say Mount Shasta is the Great Spirit's wigwam, and that he made the mountain first of all.

The old-growth incense cedar forests that once covered Mount Shasta disappeared for the most mundane of causes. The wood was so popular that as recently as the 1970s, half the wooden pencils in the world were made from it.

People started climbing Mount Shasta in 1854. In the late 1860s, gentlemen climbers wore coats, and the women climbed in full skirts. Today, the climbers are differently attired, and they usually hire a local guide to assist them, but the fascination for reaching the summit remains.

Getting to Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta is about 200 miles north of Sacramento. To reach it by highway, exit I-5 on Lake Street at Mount Shasta City, then follow Lake Street east to Everitt Memorial Highway. In summer, you can drive all the way up to the end of the road at about 7,900 feet elevation.

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