The Black Butte Trail climbs steeply up volcanic Black Butte just west of Mount Shasta in Siskiyou County. It’s a day hike that will give you a good workout, and it features stunning views of Mount Shasta, Mount Eddy, Castle Crags, and the Trinity Divide.
Black Butte was practically in my backyard when I lived in Siskiyou County. I lived within 10 crow miles of it for many years. I love to climb it. It’s one of the first real hikes I do in late spring as soon as the snow melts off the north side. (And, according to long-time Mount Shasta locals, that’s when you should plant your garden.)
The trail to Black Butte’s summit is an excellent hike any time there’s no snow or it’s not too hot. Call the Mount Shasta Ranger Station at 530-926-4511 for the current trail conditions.
The Black Butte Trail is Hike 46 from 100 Classic Hikes in Northern California, fourth edition. I discuss the same route in Hike 41 of Day Hiking: Mount Shasta, Lassen & Trinity Alps Regions.
Black Butte Trail Key Data
Length: 5.2 miles round-trip
Hiking time: 4 hours
High point: 6,358 feet
Total elevation gain: 1,850 feet
Season: mid-May through mid-November
Water: none; bring plenty
Map: USGS 7.5′ City of Mount Shasta
Information: Mount Shasta Ranger Station, Shasta-Trinity National Forest
To those traveling Interstate 5 in far Northern California, Black Butte looms as a dark, impossibly steep visage rising 2,400 feet right beside the freeway. Surprisingly, a moderately graded trail can take you to the summit of this young volcano, where spectacular views await.
Directions to the Black Butte Trailhead
Take the Central Mount Shasta exit off I-5, head east through town for 0.7 mile on Lake Street, and curve left onto Everitt Memorial Highway. Drive 2.2 miles and turn left opposite the sign for Spring Hill Plantation onto Forest Road 41N18, an improved road surfaced with recycled asphalt grindings. Turn right after 0.1 mile, drive 1 mile, and swing 90 degrees to head straight for Black Butte. Go right (north) at a road fork 0.3 mile farther. After another 1.2 miles, turn left at a powerline undercrossing and continue the final 0.7 mile on a gravel and dirt road (41N18A) to the trailhead, which is a small turnaround in the road.
Hiking the Black Butte Trail
The path initially travels through a forest of Douglas fir, white fir, incense cedar, and ponderosa pine. Common trailside shrubs include bush chinquapin, huckleberry oak, and tobacco brush. As you continue the steady climb across talus slopes, the first of several sweeping vistas opens up to the north, where you’ll see Shasta Valley and the town of Weed directly below and southern Oregon’s Mount McLoughlin, a Cascade sibling of Mount Shasta. At 1.1 miles the path swings southwest, allowing views of Mount Eddy (Hike 52: Mount Eddy and the Deadfall Lakes) and the Klamath Mountains to the west and Castle Dome (Hike 49) and the rest of Castle Crags to the south.
At 1.6 miles the trail heads east, offering you the entrancing image of Mount Shasta, and eventually swings southeast past western white pine, mountain hemlock, and red fir. This is a good spot to search the far southeast horizon for Magee Peak and Lassen Peak, which lie near the Cascades’ southern boundary.
Black Butte’s Summit: View of Mount Shasta!
Climb northwest and then southeast again before switchbacking up the last stretch to Black Butte’s summit at 2.6 miles, where all the previously encountered views come together in a 360-degree panorama. Mount Shasta will certainly demand most of your attention. This majestic peak, elevation 14,162 feet, is a stratovolcano formed by massive eruptions that began about one million years ago. Black Butte, a plug dome, formed from thick pasty lava extruded in four different eruptions about ten thousand years ago, making it quite young by geological standards.