NorCal Roadtrips

An Explorer's Guide to Northern California

Exploring the Shasta-Trinity National Forest

The Shasta-Trinity National Forest encompasses over 2 million acres of land, and included within it are 5 wilderness areas. It boasts over 6,000 miles of rivers and streams, several major recreation lakes, hundreds of remote hike-to lakes, hiking and biking trails and winter sports opportunities. Mt. Shasta, a dormant volcano topping out at over 14,000 feet, acts as a centerpiece for the area, and nearby Shasta Lake provides almost unlimited recreational opportunites to suit most anyone. It is the largest man-made lake in California.

Wilderness Areas & Trails

Hikers and backpackers can keep themselves amused for decades here. Wilderness Areas within the forest are as follows:

Trinity Alps Wilderness- rugged terrain with peaks topping out at 9,000 feet. It is the second largest wilderness area in Carifornia with over 100 remote lakes and more than 50 peaks above 7,000 feet. 81 trailheads lead to more than 600 miles of trails.

Yolla Bolly- Middle Eel Wilderness- site of the headwaters of the Middle Fork of the Eel River.

Chanchelulla Wilderness- remote land with access to Chanchelulla Peak at 6,400 feet.

Mt. Shasta Wilderness- the higher elevations of Mt. Shasta. Hiking permits are required.

Castle Crags Wilderness- unique spires dominate the landscape. Site of Castle Crags State Park.

Better known, established hiking and equestrian trails include:

The Pacific Crest Trail- 146 miles pass thru the area near Mt. Shasta, castle Crags and into the Trinity Alps Wilderness.

Sisson-Callahan National Recreation Trail- leading from the town of Mt. Shasta to the historic mining town of Callahan.

South Fork National Recreation Trail- a 7.2 mile jaunt along the Trinity River.

McClour River Trail- a place for hikers and anglers.

Cabin Creek Trail- another trail for hikers and anglers.

Rafting, Kayaking & Canoeing

Most of the lakes are suitable for flat-water kayaking/canoeing. Particular destinations include Lewiston, Castle and Siskiyou Lakes and the Whiskeytown Recreation Area. Whitewater enthusiasts will focus on the Trinity River between Junction City and Cedar Flat and the Sacramento River above Lake Shasta.


Most of the lakes offer anglers ample opportunity to ply their trade, with  Shasta Lake, Trinity Lake and Lewiston Lake being major destinations for rainbow trout and smallmouth bass. Whiskeytown Lake, Lake Siskiyou and small Castle Lake provide other options. Major rivers include the Upper Sacramento, McCloud and Trinity Rivers.


The forest has 68 established campgrounds ranging from lakeside to forested. And this being a national forest, you can camp virtually anywhere using common sense as your guide. Outside of established campgrounds a campfire permit is required.


Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area- an entity only a government bureaucrat could dream up. It includes three entities managed by the forest service: Trinity, Lewiston and Shasta lakes  and one managed by the National Park Service: Whiskeytown Lake. Giving this area its own identity probably serves some useful purpose. Beats us though.

Shasta Lake- probably only Lake Tahoe can rival this one for the breadth of recreational opportunities, ranging from resorts to camping and all manner of boating. But there's a big difference. Tahoe is a natural lake and remains full and beautiful at all times. This one is man-made and water levels fluctuate. In drought years beware, as well as late in the season.

Trinity Lake- More modest than Shasta Lake but still impressive in the breadth of recreational opportunities with good fishing, boating of all types with marinas and other "big lake" amenities. It sits at 2,300 feet with 17,000 surface acres and 145 miles of shoreline. It gets DFG plants of rainbow & brown trout  and king salmon but is known for smallmouth bass with state record fish having been caught here.

Lewiston Lake- Trinity Lakes younger sibling. Fed by Trinity, this one will appeal more to folks who desire less "development." Set at 1,900 feet it is 9 miles long with 15 miles of shoreline and 750 surface acres. Not small certainly, but smaller than Trinity Lake. It has a 10 mph speed limit, which limits the powerboat options and makes it suitable for kayaks, canoes and other small boats. It is stocked with rainbow trout.

Whiskeytown Lake- another good-sized lake set at 1,200 feet with 3,220 surface acres and 36 miles of shoreline. It is stocked with rainbow and brook trout as well as kokanee salmon. It has 3 campgrounds, a full service marina with boat rentals, boat ramps and some supplies.

McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park/ Lake Britton- a popular park with a 129 foot waterfall, lots of camping, access to the Pit River and trails to hike, including the Pacific Crest Trail. See Lake Britton below.

Lake Britton- Sitting adjacent to McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park this is popular during the summer. It sits at 2,700 feet with 1,600 surface acres and 18 miles of shoreline. Anglers go for smallmouth bass in the spring as well as stocked rainbow trout throughout the season. Crappie fishing is also popular. And there'a a beach for swimmers to occupy the time of the folks who will likely cook the fish.

Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park/ Big Lake- What a deal. A state park that can only be accessed by boat. The name comes from the native Pit River people and means "where the waters come together." Appropriate because this is the site of a series of natural springs. Big Lake is the major recipient of this water and the park becomes its captive campground. It will accommodate canoes and kayaks and anglers may catch a native rainbow trout.

Iron Canyon Reservoir- a 500 surface acre lake at 2,700 feet with 15 miles of shoreline and fishing for stocked rainbow and brook trout. Primitive camping is available.

Mt. Shasta- The Everitt Memorial Highway will get you to 8,000 feet as you view the 14,162 foot peak. Hikers (with a permit) can hike from the Bunny Flat Trailhead into the Mt. Shasta Wilderness, including a Sierra Club cabin at Horse Camp. The Avalanche Gulch Trail is also nearby. This is not a link.


The McCloud River Corridor- Eighteen miles on Hwy. 89 along the Upper McCloud River with three waterfalls, two campgrounds, hiking trails, off-road trails, fishing and kayaking/canoeing.

Trinity Heritage Scenic Byway- Track the Trinity River, visit Lewiston, Trinity and Whiskeytown lakes, travel off-road, fish, camp, eat.

Interstate 5- Visit Lakes Shasta, Siskiyou, and Castle. Ogle the crags at Castel Crags State Park. Gaze at and climb Mt. Shasta. Fish the upper Sacramento River.

Hwy. 36- Hike the South Fork National Scenic Trail and track the South Fork of the Trinity River for 21 miles.