The Shasta-Trinity National Forest contains so many magnificent trails and vistas, all dominated by the presence of Mount Shasta itself looming on the horizon with its glacier top and craggy peaks of volcanic rock. One of the shortest and most accessible routes to an almost unobstructed view of the south face of this geologic phenomenon is on the Gray Butte Trail. From the summit of Gray Butte, you'll feel that you can reach out and touch Shasta, and you'll have an unbelievable panorama that will include the Cascades, Lassen Peak, The Trinity Alps and Red Butte.
Your hike begins at the trailhead in Panther Meadows Campground and heads out over the meadow to the forest on the other edge. The trail is marked and easy to follow here, as it meanders through pink Meadow Heather, past clumps of yellow Monkey Flower and red Indian's Paintbrush. At the far edge of the Meadows, you'll enter a dense forest of hemlocks and firs, see some small stream crossings, and begin a gradual climb toward the ridge below the summit. The forest walk features shade, the sound of birds, and the sharp, minty scent of pennyroyal.
The climb becomes steeper until you reach the ridge and make your way along it to a saddle area, navigating through a rock-strewn clearing on a talus slope. At a communications facility at the end of the ridge, a sharp switchback introduces the final, very steep and rocky climb to the summit, called Artists' Point, from which you'll marvel at the vista surrounding you and below you on the valley floor, and which includes much of Northern California.
When you've soaked in as much as your eyes and brain can handle, begin the descent back through the rocky clearing and make your way back to the Meadows and the campground. This is worthy of another hike, perhaps this time connecting with the Old Ski Bowl Trail via a cross-country or road hike to make a loop, or with several other trails that will loop around the base of Mount Shasta to the northern side.
Whether you do the Gray Butte Trail once, or return for another go, you and your fur-pup will find it a satisfying and rejuvenating experience!
There are a few reasons to keep yourself and your pooch confined to the trail to Gray Butte, such as preserving delicate plants, avoiding ticks, and staying away from bears.