This trail is the steepest and most direct route to the soaring summits of Magee Peak and Crater Peak in Thousand Lakes Wilderness in Lassen National Forest. Part of an imposing volcano that towers above the upper reaches of the Sacramento Valley, Magee Peak commands a expansive view over much of northwestern California.
This post gives you a detailed description of the Magee Peak Trail, along with a topographic trail map, plus directions to the trailhead.
Note that this trail and the road to the trailhead get very little maintenance. It’s a good idea to call the Hat Creek Ranger District first: 530-336-5521.
Magee Peak Trail Key Data
Distance: 7.0 miles round-trip
Type: Day hike or overnight backpacking trip
Elevation gain: 3200 feet
High point: 8,550 feet
Season: late June through October; some high elevation snow through July
Information: Hat Creek Ranger District, Lassen National Forest, 530-336-5521
USGS 7.5′ Jacks Backbone, USGS 7.5′ Thousand Lakes Valley
Permits: no wilderness permit required. Backpackers need a California campfire permit
Magee Peak Trailhead GPS coordinates: N 40 40.587 W 121 38.668
Notes: dogs allowed; bring plenty of water, no water on the trail; get down quickly if thunderstorms threaten; rough roads to trailhead may be difficult for low-clearance vehicles
Magee Peak Trailhead Directions
Get to the intersection of Road 16 and Highway 89, which is 4 miles north of the north entrance to Lassen Volcanic National Park and 9.5 miles south of the junctions of Highway 89 and Highway 44 East. Head up Road 16, staying on this main road at all intersections. After 10.1 miles, turn right onto Road 32N48 (50 yards past a left turn) and proceed 1.7 miles to the roomy trailhead.
Starting on the Magee Peak Trail
The trail initially climbs gently northward past an understory of pinemat manzanita and huckleberry oak, the latter quickly replaced by bush chinquapin. The ascent steepens after 100 yards and a swing to the east. Tree branches part enough at 0.6 mile to allow a brief glimpse of the summit.
Continue upward through an open forest of Jeffrey pine, sugar pine, white fir, and red fir. You’ll soon reach an elevation where winter conditions are too severe for sugar pine and white fir: The white fir drop away, while the closely related western white pine replaces its cousin, the sugar pine.
The path makes a 120-degree swing to the northwest at 2.5 miles and then leaves the forest shade at 2.7 miles to give the first good views. Let this sweep of space provide energy for your legs, lungs, and heart as you switchback ever upward past chaparral.
Reach the crest at 3.3 miles, where you’ll see the trail heading down the other side to Magee and Everett lakes (Hike 100 in my book Day Hiking: Mount Shasta, Lassen & Trinity Alps Regions, including Lake Eiler). From here, head west 0.2 mile amidst wind-whipped whitebark pines to the 8,549-foot summit of Magee Peak.
Magee Peak Summit
You now stand at the edge of a large composite volcano. Consisting of different types of lava erupted at different times, Magee Peak and environs are thus a geological cousin to Burney Mountain and Mount Shasta to the north and the ancient Mount Tehama to the southeast, the remnants of which include Brokeoff Mountain and the series of peaks stretching between it and Lassen Peak.
The vistas from this high-altitude vantage point stretch in every direction. Forests flow west toward the Sacramento River, with the far ridges of the Coast Range and the Shasta-Trinity National Forest beyond. Mount Shasta spikes skyward in isolated ivory splendor to the north. Near to the east, the glacially gouged Thousand Lakes Valley slopes gently down, bordered by steep cliffs. The Hat Creek Rim in Lassen National Forest beckons farther to the east, while Lassen Peak and other Lassen Volcanic National Park landmarks dominate the southern skyline.
Crater Peak Summit
It’s easy to hike cross-country a half-mile north to Crater Peak by walking clockwise along the crest of the volcano rim. At 8,683 feet, Crater Peak is actually significantly higher than Magee Peak (8,549 feet) and thus wins the honors for highest point in Thousand Lakes Wilderness.
Your Take on the Magee Peak Trail
Have you hiked the trail and climbed Magee Peak? What about Crater Peak? Share in the comments section below.