For our second foray in the Mount Shasta area, we once again relied on Hike Mt. Shasta to point us toward something interesting – in this case, the Brewer Creek Trail on Shasta’s east side. The promise (fulfilled!) of staggering glacier views was just too much to pass up. Getting to the Brewer Creek Trailhead entailed driving all the way around the mountain on a combination of paved, good gravel, and almost 4×4 dirt roads. The last three miles on long rutted switchbacks were particularly interesting. We arrived at the trailhead to find a pit toilet (with TP!), a kiosk, and various permit boxes. The free wilderness permit was self-issue and since we weren’t going above 10,000 feet (3,050 m), we didn’t need a $25 summit permit. The fact that this is a popular climber’s trailhead did lead us into doing a little unplanned cross-country travel.
We left the trailhead on what was once an old road and, after about 0.1 miles, came to where a gully had deeply incised the trail.
As there was a very obvious trail going directly uphill to the right, we took it – forgetting about the differences between hikers and climbers (we should have kept on straight ahead).
Whether this was a “going directly to the summit” or “coming directly back from the summit” climber’s trail is hard to tell, but it was definitely not the hiker trail. We didn’t realize this until it dawned on us that there were no switchbacks and we’d gained some 500 feet in no time. Perhaps it was the fact that we were mesmerized by the mountain looming above us on this crystal-clear blue day. Its majestic bulk really does capture your full attention.
Eventually we tore our gaze away from the glaciers above long enough to look at the map. Oops. 🙄 Fortunately we were now level with where the hiker trail starts contouring south, so it was not a big deal to just turn and intersect it.
Once we were on the trail, it was a simple matter to follow it as it contoured south to Brewer Creek.
The formal trail is supposed to end at the creek but we picked-up more trail south of the creek that lead us across a meadow to what looked clearly like an old, old road going up and around a ridge. So we followed the road scrape up to where it faded away on the bench above.
We followed the bench south to where it was cut by a large gully. According to the write-up, we’d have to cross this gully, side-hill up the loose slope on the other side, and go around another ridge (all cross-country) if we wanted to see Ash Creek Falls. The photos we’d seen of these falls made them look pretty amazing but with the heat rising, we just couldn’t muster any enthusiasm for laboring across sun-burnt slopes.
So we had a small snack, bought-off the swarming carpenter ants with a piece of salami (before they just rushed us and took it), and started back – which took longer than going out because the mountain started doing artful things with clouds and an SD card can hold a LOT of photos. My second (and last climb) of Shasta had been via this side of the mountain and it was fascinating to see the whole expanse of it in daylight.
So, a simple five mile round-trip hike (with 600 feet of gain) with absolutely stunning views of Mount Shasta almost the whole way. Little Brewer Creek was charming too. We were disappointed about not seeing Ash Creek Falls but adding another mile or so across difficult ground in the day’s heat would have been too much. The falls are undoubtedly worth seeing – just pick a cooler day for your visit. After we got back to Mount Shasta, we heard that two big wildfires had erupted to the south and east of town. These posed no threats from fire itself but the smoke from them would eventually impact the next day’s hike.BACK TO BLOG POSTS
I think your advice to take a guide (guidebook or site, his or anyone else’s) with a grain of salt is well advised. It’s good to consult various guides (and other sources) as part of the planning process (I’m not a big fan of just wandering off into the woods and hoping for the best 🙄 ) but once you’re out there, you have to adapt to conditions as they are. In other words, it’s then on you to decide what to do. 😉
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Mt Shasta Trail Association site is much better as is Northern California Hiking Trails.
His site pointed us toward Ash Creek Falls but we did the detailed, on-the-ground navigation ourselves (including getting the hiker/climber trails confused 🙄 ). Once we got going in the right direction, it wasn’t hard to get to the edge of the big gully. Climbing out of it on “extremely loose soil” on what was becoming a hot day just didn’t appeal at that point, so we turned back. Had it been a cooler day, we might have given it at try.
Attempting this route to the falls several years ago, following the referenced website descriptions, is went I stopped using this site. He may have updated the info since then but at the time it was old info no longer valid due to avalanches and flooding. As a result I haven’t made it to the falls either.