There’s one thing that all visitors to the Mt. Shasta area must have on their to-do list: make the drive on the Everitt Memorial Highway from Mt. Shasta City to the old Ski Bowl parking lot. This quick and easy 14 mile drive takes you to the highest point you can drive on Mt. Shasta, and gives incredible views of the mountains and valleys to the west.
The Everitt Memorial Highway is named after Shasta National Forest Supervisor John Samuel Everitt who died fighting the Bear Springs fire in 1934. It’s not really a highway, in the sense I’m used to, but a two lane paved road.
The first downhill skiing on Mt. Shasta started in 1959 with the creation of the old Mt. Shasta ski bowl at the end of the highway. The old Ski Bowl was situated above the tree line at 8,000 ft and was routinely plagued with whiteouts, avalanches and road closures.
In fact, the old Ski Bowl holds the Guinness Book of World Records for the most snowfall in a storm: nearly 16 feett of snow over five days in February 1959. In 1978, the Ski Bowl was stuck by a huge avalanche that destroyed its main chair lift and ended ski operations on the mountain until the new ski park was opened at a different location in 1985.
Today, the old Ski Bowl parking lot exists as a entry point for climbers to climb the mountain. There is a picnic table there, and plenty of places to take photographs of the amazing moonscape of rock all around.
Best of all, the drive takes less than thirty minutes from the center of town, if you don’t make stops along the way. To get on the highway, take Lake St from the center of town and head northwest toward the mountain, and follow the curve of the road to the left as it turns into Chesnut Dr. Continue past Mt. Shasta High School (what lucky kids to have such an incredible view), and you’ll be on the right road.
McBride Springs Campground (currently closed)
After four miles, you’ll find the entrance for the McBride Springs Campground on the left. As of summer 2010, the gates to the campground are locked shut, with a sign explaining that hazardous tree conditions exist in the campground from the Feb 2010 winter storm that damaged or snapped many trees in the region. There is no scheduled opening date.
Elevation: 4880′ | Site(s): 9 | Reservations: No | Toilets: vault | Unit Fee: approx. $10
Bunny Flat Trailhead (6,950 ft Elevation)
The Bunny Flat Trailhead is an incredible jumping-off point for summer and winter recreation. There’s a huge paved parking lot here, and trails lead off in all directions. The Everitt Highway ends at this point during the winter because the road is not plowed past this point (because the snow is 20-30 feet deep). During the winter, Bunny Flat is very popular with snowmobiles, which can make it a little nerve wracking for hikers because the snowmobiles are extremely loud, and they drive along at very high speeds, so you always have to be on alert. However, everyone seems to get along, and I’m not aware of any collisions or accidents.
Panther Meadows Campground
Elevation: 7450′ | Site(s): 20 | Reservations: No | Toilets: flush & vault
Continue up the road another two miles, and you’ll get to Panther Meadows. This place is incredible for hiking and camping. Get out of your car and you’ll see some strange signs at the information booth. First, there’s a bold sign warning people not to leave cremated human remains here. I guess it’s a serious problem. You see, Panther Meadows is considered sacred ground by a number of local Indian tribes. Another signs asks people not to put tobacco, crystals or other talismans in the stream that flows through the place.
There’s a main camping area located just a couple hundred feet from the parking lot. On the day I visited, the area really reminded me of the beach because of the smoky campfires and the cool overcast sky. I spent about an hour hiking on the trails, and then got back in my car for the mile drive up to the Old Ski Bowl parking lot.
The parking lot is at the end of the road. Here, visitors have incredible views of the surrounding mountain ranges, and can see for miles. The landscape is filled with rock, and looks like a moonscape. There are some hardy plants, but not many. The trees that grow at this elevation seem short and stunted. At this point, adventurers can begin climbing Mt. Shatsta. There’s a trailhead box where you can get a permit and look at a map of the area.
If you don’t plan to go hiking, you’ll probably only stay here a short time because it’s usually a little windy here, and there is no cover.
When you’re ready, you can drive back the way you came to return to town. Be sure to drive slow, because there are lots of little chipmunks that wait until your car is approaching, then suddenly dart across the road in front of you. I saw lots of little corpses on my way up.