There may be no other trail in the US quite like the one to Hidden Valley, high on the side of Mt. Shasta in California. The trail begins as a fairly normal one, passing through forests up to a stone cabin at the Horse Camp. Then it literally takes off uphill, nearly vertically, passing through rock fields, over boulders, around stunted trees, and sometimes looking more like a route than a trail as it climbs through stunning views of the valley, Castle Crags, the Trinity Alps, and the waterfalls of Cascade Gulch. At the last second, it crests a pass, and the peaks of Shasta and Shastina loom over a desolate, rocky valley, still half full of snow in late July. It’s like having all kinds of scenery in just one hike, and those kinds of scenery rather spectacularly. It’s only 7.25 miles RT. Need I say more?
We began our trek very, very early on a July morning (we needed to be in Redding by 6pm, so we wanted an early start). We hiked up to the Horse Camp without incident, then I pressed for going just a little further – to Hidden Valley, which I’d read about on the only website I’ve ever found that decently covers hiking the Mt. Shasta area. He said Hidden Valley was a “short but steep” trail away. So that wouldn’t take long, right?
Well, the first thing we found was that the trail goes nearly straight up after leaving the horse camp (the trail is marked with a sign painted on a rock; better directions might be to go behind the cabin and turn left (but not to the campsites). After puffing and panting for about a quarter mile – and gaining an alarming amount of elevation – the trail flattens slightly to traverse boulder fields. The trail in this section is ok, but occasional scrambling is necessary. The Sierra Club has placed little flags (“wands”) to mark the route, but I don’t necessarily recommend trying it without a good topo map or GPS (and knowing how to use it) – the “wands” are sometimes a little erratic.
The trail continues to wander upward, sometimes steeply, sometimes simply crossing the rocks. Views open up below the trail into and across the valley. Black Butte is prominent, and the town of Mt. Shasta is hard to miss. Castle Crags is directly across the valley at the end of the near ridge (the grey part of the ridgeline) and the Trinity Alps are beyond that. It’s really nice; you can see for miles.
At almost 3 miles from the trailhead (1.25 miles beyond the Horse Camp) the trail takes a sudden turn to the right (north). Don’t give up now; the trail gets better and you’re almost there!
The trail continues to climb in earnest; below, a stream flows through the lower portion of Cascade Gulch. At 3 miles from the trailhead, a wide spot in the trail offers a nice look at a waterfall, many feet below. Keep climbing, heading for the pass to the right of the waterfall but the left of the hillside.
Reach the pass at mile 3.3. I passed between the boulders and stopped stock still, totally amazed. Ahead of me were the peaks of Mt. Shasta and Shastina. Below was a rocky valley, still filled with winter snow. It was breathtaking, awesome, and spectacular at the same time. I had no clue this was coming!
I scrambled down the other side of the pass, crossed the stream, and then wended my way up via a social trail onto a pile of rocks. I really can’t speak to exactly what was in the valley; it was pretty snowy when I visited. But we ate lunch in the shade of the rocks, and oh, my, what a view! The pictures cannot capture it!
We retraced our steps; 7.25 miles was really more than we’d planned on for a hike – but I can’t say I’m sorry we did it!
Round Trip Trail Length: 7.25 miles; more if you explore more of Hidden Valley (I would love to boulder scramble around it some day when it’s less snowy and I have more time!)
Net Elevation Change: 2,305ft. (6,906ft. at the trailhead to 9,211ft. in Hidden Valley)
Facilities: Restrooms at the trailhead; restrooms and potable water at the Horse Camp
Trail Notes: You might want a good topo map or GPS for this one – the trail is a bit vague in places. Overall, the varied scenery and the spectacular Hidden Valley are so worth the trouble to get there!
Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this?
Key GPS Coordinates
Parking: 41.35382N / -122.23383W (41° 21′ 13.7514″ / -122° 14′ 1.7874″) (6,933ft.)
Trail Beginning: 41.35412N / -122.23331W (41° 21′ 14.8320″ / -122° 13′ 59.9160″) (6,906ft.) (0.0; ended 7.25)
Horse Trail Junction #1: 41.35643N / -122.23363W (41° 21′ 23.1480″ / -122° 14′ 1.0680″) (7,029ft.) (0.19)
Horse Trail Junction #2: 41.36554N / -122.23662W (41° 21′ 55.9440″ / -122° 14′ 11.8320″) (7,348ft.) (1.05)
Enter Wilderness: 41.36729N / -122.23326W (41° 22′ 2.2434″ / -122° 13′ 59.7360″) (7,494ft.) (1.29)
Horse Camp: 41.37225N / -122.22991W (41° 22′ 20.1000″ / -122° 13′ 47.6760″) (7,859ft.) (1.79)
Hut: 41.37247N / -122.22979W (41° 22′ 20.8914″ / -122° 13′ 47.2434″) (7,937ft.) (1.85; 5.4 on the way back)
Waterfall view: 41.38309N / -122.23444W (41° 22′ 59.1240″ / -122° 14′ 3.9840″) (8,797ft.) (3.05)
Enter Hidden Valley: 41.38678N / -122.23338W (41° 23′ 12.4080″ / -122° 14′ 0.1674″) (9,172ft.) (3.38)
Lunch Spot in Hidden Valley 41.38765N / -122.23315W (41° 23′ 15.5400″ / -122° 13′ 59.3394″) (9,211ft.) (3.45, left 3.75)
The gpx file for hiking up to the Horse Camp, then to Hidden Valley, can be downloaded – please note that this and the GPS Coordinates are for reference only and should not be used as a sole resource when hiking this trail.
Download GPX File size: 182.1 KB Downloaded 2 times
(Note: I do my best to ensure that all downloads, the webpage, etc. are virus-free and accurate; however, I cannot be held responsible for any damage that might result, including but not limited to loss of data, damages to hardware, harm to users, from use of files, information, etc. from this website. Thanks!)
Getting to the Bunny Flats Trailhead (Hidden Valley Trailhead)
From I-5, take Exit 738 toward the town of Mt. Shasta. Turn east toward Mt. Shasta (not Lake Siskiyou). Drive straight on W Lake Street for 0.9 miles, then take a slight left (it might as well be straight) onto N Washington Drive for about 11 miles to the Bunny Flats Trailhead. The trailhead is hard to miss; there’s a big quadruple restroom, not to mention a couple signs. A free “campground” is available across the road (watch out for the rough dirt road), although locals just lay out blankets and sleeping bags next to their cars at the trailhead.
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