Hiking to Heart Lake | Mount Shasta California
Written by Brian Callender | Photography by Julie Boyd
In February, Julie and I set out to hike Castle Dome in Castle Crags State Park, and it quickly became one of our favorite hikes to date.
At the tail end of that day, we made a hurried attempt to reach Heart Lake, near Mount Shasta. With the winter sun quickly setting, our efforts to reach the lake through a snow covered trail fell just short. The views we reached that day were nevertheless incredible, and we were eager to return and make a second attempt to reach Heart Lake when the snow had melted and the trail was easier to follow. By July, we found ourselves back in Redding to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park and knew we had to make some extra time to revisit Heart Lake.
Hiking to Heart Lake: Hike Details
Starting Elevation: 5,447 ft.
Distance: 2-3 miles, round trip (we ended at 3.23 miles with some additional exploring above Heart Lake)
Elevation Gain: 879 ft. (again this can vary, depending on how far you go)
Hike Type: Out and back, day-hike
Difficulty Level: Moderate – the hike gains nearly 1,000 feet in 1 mile.
Date Hiked: July 14, 2018
Hiking to Heart Lake: The Hike
The hike to Heart Lake begins from the base of Castle Lake, which is about 20 minutes from the town of Mount Shasta, and about 1 hour and 20 minutes north of Redding. The appropriately named, Castle Lake Road, dead ends at the parking area for the trailhead, and we found several other cars ahead of us when we arrived.
Throwing on our packs, we were on the trail before 8:00 p.m. and making the short, steep climb to Heart Lake. There is no official sign at the trailhead, but the path is pretty easy to follow as you begin working your way up. We had double checked directions in advance this time, and with no snow on the trail and my Garmin watch leading the way, it was still easy to lose the official trail.
Depending on the website you view, the hike to Heart Lake is about 2-to-2.5 miles roundtrip. It’s hard to find a better payoff view for the amount of effort and energy expended than this hike. We reached the shores of Heart Lake in about 30 minutes, and Julie found a spot on the far side of the lake and set up for sunset. The water was exceptionally still, and I can’t imagine a spot more perfectly framed for catching a reflection of Mt. Shasta than we found here at the lake.
With plenty of time to spare and a growing sense of adventure, I set off to explore a bit more of the area while Julie captured the sunset at Heart Lake. I followed the trail away from the lake, and after a short ascent, was treated to some jaw dropping views of Castle Lake below, and Mount Shasta in the distance. The more I walked around, the better the views got and I sent a few photos to Julie from my new found vantage point. While I could tell the trail continued on a bit more, the last light of the day was beginning to fade, so I quickly descended back the way I came and met up with Julie at Heart Lake.
Both ecstatic with the beautiful sunset we had just taken in, we began our steady march back to the car. A few other hikers in the area decided to follow us as they also had some challenges keeping with the main trail. We threw on our headlamps, and were back to the car in no time. Second time was definitely a charm, and we will no doubt be back to visit Heart Lake again!
Have you been to the Shasta region? What are you favorite hikes? Let us know in the comments below.
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