Local Attraction: Majestic Castle Lake

by Shasta Cascade on July 30, 2009


Castle Lake

Mt. Shasta, CA – Castle Lake is located about eleven miles south of Mt. Shasta at the 5,440 ft elevation. It was formed more than 10,000 years ago when glaciers scoured the rock, leaving a basin behind that filled with water. It drains into Lake Siskiyou by way of Castle Creek.

I had been curious about Castle Lake for some time because it’s so close to Mt. Shasta. I had heard of people camping there, so I decided to check it out for myself last Sunday evening.

From Lake Siskiyou, we took Castle Lake Road headed south, and immediately started to climb in elevation.  The wide two-lane road was in excellent condition, and made a number of loopbacks.  The road started out in a forest of Oak, which gradually gave way to Pine and scrub brush as we got closer to the Lake.

The forest opened up at times to give spectacular views of Mt. Shasta.  I’ve viewed the mountain from all directions, and the views from this road are among the best.

We arrived at the lake about ten minutes later, and I was blown away by the number of cars & people.  The medium-sized parking lot was completely full, and cars were being forced to park on both sides of the road leading into the lake area.   Because the lake is easily accessible, I would have expected this on a major holiday weekend, but not on a random Sunday night in July.  It seems like the popularity of the lake has way outstripped the capacity of the facilities and environment.


The edge of the lake is fairly close to the parking lot: perhaps two-hundred feet or less. The whole area is covered with trees, so it was hard to see much beyond the parking lot.   There were a number of interesting-looking granite covered hills surrounding the lake.  The hills didn’t have many trees on them, but were covered with some type of short green vegetation (perhaps Manzanita) that looked like carpet from a distance.

To get to the water’s edge, I had to walk by several groups of people, which felt a bit claustrophobic.  There was no beach or sand around the Lake, but instead the land just ended at the waterline.  I stepped out onto some rocks and snapped some photos.  An obese middle-aged lady bobbed past me in the water while I took my pictures, while some kids screamed at each other a short distance away.

Despite the number of people, the view was just incredible: the granite walls of the lake were beyond description, and the surrounding hills were amazing.

We only stayed a couple minutes before returning to Mt. Shasta.  I would love to return to Castle Lake again, perhaps after Labor Day when hopefully the crowds have thinned.  I’d love to bring a sack lunch and admire the view, because it’s one of the prettiest places I’ve seen in the area.

Castle Lake can also be used to hike into the Castle Crags Wilderness, as well as other surrounding areas. That might partially explain the large number of cars in the parking lot.

Located below is a Trail Guru map of our journey to Castle Lake. To see the photos attached to the track, click on one of the links on the map to bring it up as a separate web page, then make sure you have the little “photos” box above the map checked.

<br /> <a href=”http://www.trailguru.com/wiki/index.php/Track:85FQ” mce_href=”http://www.trailguru.com/wiki/index.php/Track:85FQ”>Castle lake (Driving) | Dunsmuir, CA 96025, USA</a><br />

(A note of caution: Google Maps, in a rare error for the company, has Castle Lake mistakenly titled as Gumboot Lake. Gumboot Lake is actually located a couple miles to the west.   If you as for driving directions to Castle Lake, the correct location comes up, but the title next to the lake says Gumboot Lake, which might cause confusion.   If you ask for directions to Gumboot Lake, Google Maps brings up the location of Castle Lake.  Clearly somebody made a mistake.  Please be aware of this if you use Google Maps to plan a visit to the area)

Resources for further reading:

Hikercentral.com review of Castle Lake

Excellent, excellent article about Castle Lake and other nearby lakes I had never heard of from the August 2003 issue of Sunset Magazine:

A brief amount of information about Castle Lake, along with some pictures from a travel enthusiast:

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