SISKIYOU COUNTY, Calif. - Some people like to camp in what the United States Forest Service calls "dispersed camping" areas, which means in areas of national forests that are outside of designated campgrounds. There are no services, such as trash removal. There are no tables and usually, there are no fire pits either. The privacy of some of these camping experiences is unparalleled. But right now, the fire danger is so high that no overnight camping will be allowed, even in some "dispersed" camping areas.
The Forest Service is worried. All their forests in California have been shut down due to the 2020 fires. This week evaluations are occurring to determine what will remain closed and what will be opened back up.
Mt. Shasta is one area where the dispersed camping experience will not be allowed for the rest of the season. We are talking about Bunny Flat and Panther Meadows. There are areas around Mt. Shasta, McCloud, Weed, Dunsmuir, and Castella that will open back up for day use but will be closed to overnight camping.
According to the Shasta McCloud Management Unit District Ranger Carolyn Napper, the changes in her unit of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest have been enacted Saturday due to a rise in dispersed camping, including an increase in illegal campfires. You can see the FOREST ORDERS here.
In conjunction with Siskiyou County, the Bunny Flat gate on the Everitt Memorial Highway on Mt. Shasta will remain closed for the remainder of the season (Through October 31, 2020). This includes the Panther Meadows Campground, which will be closed for overnight use.
Day use will still be allowed in all areas throughout the unit, said Napper. The potential for new fires to start and burn uncontrollably is extremely high, she said. Dangerous fire conditions, along with limited firefighting resources, pose a significant threat to communities, the visiting public, and adjacent private landowners of National Forest System lands, according to the United States Forest Service.
For more information, please call the Mt. Shasta Ranger Station at (530) 926-4511 Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. or visit the Forest website www.fs.usda.gov/stnf or Facebook www.facebook.com/shastatrinitynf.
Maybe next year...
If you do want to camp at Mt. Shasta next summer, the two most popular sites are Sand Flat and Bunny Flat.
Bunny Flat has a toilet but no water. There are several user-created sites located on the south side of the highway. This is one of only a few specially designated dispersed sites that allow campfires with a valid campfire permit when restrictions are in effect. Bring extra water (five gallons) to douse your fire.
Sand Flat is located approximately a mile below Bunny Flat. Take either of two dirt access roads about a mile into the remote flat. This is a good location to get away from the traffic along the highway, but it is also very dusty during the dry season. Please drive slowly to help minimize dust affecting other visitors. This area is also good for larger groups, although you will need to provide for your own sanitation needs (rented toilets are a good idea for larger groups) and furnish garbage containers.
Here are directions from the town of Mt. Shasta...
Take Lake Street east toward the Mountain. The name will change to Everitt Memorial Highway. Drive approximately 12 miles and look for the Bunny Flat Trailhead and camping area on the right side of the road. To find Sand Flat, turn around and head downhill .7 mile to the upper access road for Sand Flat, or 1.5 miles to the lower access road.
Mt. Shasta's upper slopes are designated as the Mt. Shasta Wilderness. The United States Congress designated the Mt. Shasta Wilderness in 1984 and it now has a total of 36,981 acres. Mt. Shasta is a snow and glacier-capped volcano that rises 14,179 feet, dominating the view in all directions. On a clear day, the mountain can be seen from the floor of the Central Valley over 100 miles to the south. Mt. Shasta is the highest peak on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, the second-highest peak in the Cascades, and the fifth highest in the state. It has an estimated volume of 85 cubic miles, which makes it the most voluminous volcano in the Cascade Range.
Although the last documented eruption occurred in 1786, geologists classify Shasta as an active volcano. There are seven glaciers that drape the mountain's slopes and their outstanding views attract many human visitors armed with crampons and ice axes. No trails lead up Mount Shasta, but trails provide access to the Wilderness and the foot of the mountain. The Avalanche Gulch Route (six miles) is considered the easiest, but the elevation gain is over 7,000 feet, and at least eight to 12 hours should be allotted for the round-trip.
The glaciers are cracked by crevasses and are more visible in late summer and fall. On the south slopes, rockfall becomes a danger after midsummer. Major storms off the Pacific Ocean can send high winds and snow across the mountain any time of year, so the Forest Service asks climbers to make sure they are well prepared for a variety of conditions and circumstances.