Remoteness and lush creek-side vegetation lure hikers to the Sugarloaf Creek trail near Shasta Lake. Sugarloaf Creek runs year-round, and originates a few miles northwest of the trailhead. The trail itself parallels the creek, and always stays on the north side. The first mile or so of trail is in good shape, but the upper reaches are covered with leaves and pine needles. The path also gets quite faint beyond that first mile.
Sugarloaf Creek Trail Key Data
Distance: 2.0 miles roundtrip, with opportunities to go farther on faint trail or cross-country
Type: Day hike
Elevation gain: 300-800 feet
High point: up to 1950 feet
Contact: Shasta Lake Ranger Station, Shasta Lake National Recreation Area, Shasta-Trinity National Forest; 530-275-1587
Permits: none needed
Sugarloaf Creek Trailhead GPS coordinates: N 40 51.247 W 122 26.729
Notes: dogs allowed on leash; poison oak near trail
Sugarloaf Creek Trailhead Directions
Take the Lakeshore exit off I-5 about 25 miles north of Redding to Shasta Lake National Recreation Area. Go under the freeway and turn left onto Lakeshore Drive. After 6.0 miles the pavement ends; the remaining 0.7 mile to Sugarloaf Creek is good dirt road. Park near the road on the north side of the creek, or down by the creek itself on the south side.
Swimming in Sugarloaf Creek
If you hike on a hot day be sure to take note of the swimming hole just south of where Lakeshore Drive crosses the creek. If you’re willing to search, you can find a few smaller swimming spots farther upstream.
Hiking the Sugarloaf Creek Trail (5W17)
The unsigned trail begins from the road on the north side of the bridge. The first 0.5 mile travels through relatively open territory, with good views of the steep, heavily forested mountains. This is also the driest part of the hike: notice the digger pines and interior live oaks on the south-facing slope to your right.
As the trail continues its undulating uphill course, it passes through vegetation composed of species that thrive in a moister, shadier habitat. Towering Douglas firs stretch far above, and canyon live oaks, ranging in size from the small and ordinary to the huge and twisted, are everywhere. Bigleaf maples and dogwood, the most numerous deciduous trees, provide dazzling colors in autumn.
The trail itself is usually well above Sugarloaf Creek, and nears it only at a few points. It does cross four small, year-round tributary creeks, which can serve as both sources of drinking water and cool, shaded resting spots. As you progress up the trail, it gradually fades. Once it went all the way up to a dirt road on Backbone Ridge, but time has taken its toll and it now dissipates into several small game trails. You can continue farther by following the game trails and going cross-country.
More Shasta Lake Hiking Trails
My book Day Hiking: Mount Shasta, Lassen & Trinity Alps Regions contains 125 hikes, including these four trails/trail systems in Shasta Lake National Recreation Area:
- Dry Creek Trail from Shasta Dam
- Waters Gulch Trails (including Overlook Trail, Fish Loop Trail, and Eastside Trail)
- Bailey Cove Trail
- Hirz Bay Trail
The book also includes 15 hikes in and around Redding, 11 hikes in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, and six hikes in and near Castle Crags State Park.
Also see my full write-up of the Clikapudi Trail, including photos and map.
Your Take on the Sugarloaf Creek Trail
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