This past weekend, I headed to the farthest up north in California that I’ve ever been: Shasta.

When I was doing my research about the trip, I thought that the weekend would be a fairly easy one. This was also supposed to be my first time snowshoeing and my first ever backpacking trip, so I didn’t plan on doing anything too crazy…

Me: “It’s just about a mile to the falls. Then like 3 miles total for the backpacking trip to the lake. It’ll be super easy.”

But I should have known from all my past trips that nothing worth it ever comes easy, and something always has to go wrong, but hey, that’s what makes adventures fun! You just go along with it and have the best time that you possibly can.

This was our weekend.

It started with the 5-hour drive to Shasta. Our first destination when we got there was McCloud Falls. I did my research (on the most reliable source ever: Instagram. Hah.) and saw that there would be quite a bit of snow on the trail. Side note: as someone who never used to like snow activities, its really grown a lot on me this past year, so this aspect of the trip excited me!

Upon getting to the area where the trailhead was supposed to be though, we saw that the roads weren’t plowed all the way into the trail head, so we decided to snap our snowshoes on and just make our way in. This is where being prepared came in handy too. Most people who were trying to make it to the falls didn’t have proper gear with them.. and you can only make it so far in your Nikes.. so we pretty much had the whole hike to ourselves!

McCloud Falls
Total miles hiked: 4.4

The next stop was the main portion of the trip. The plan was to backpack into Heart Lake and camp there for the night. I read a few blog posts on it and it was supposed to give us a great view of Mount Shasta.. plus the hike was only supposed to be 3 miles total which I figured was totally doable.

Except we didn’t expect the road to be closed miles before the actual start of the trail. Instead of letting that stop us, we decided just to put on our packs and set out on foot.

About a mile in, my friend found a short cut. I didn’t object. We were also trying to make it to the lake before sunset so I figured anything that’ll get us there quicker would help. Except I didn’t expect that the shortcut would take us on some pretty steep sections and a couple river crossings (and take note that this is also with us hiking in snow with 25 pound packs on..). I’ve done quite a bit of hiking myself, but it’s also the middle of winter right now meaning that hiking season was over months ago and my body just isn’t used to it anymore.. and let’s just say that my legs didn’t appreciate the workout after a few miles in. And this was us just trying to make it to the trailhead!!

The sun was starting to set quickly, and we made the decision that we wouldn’t be making it to Heart Lake that night. Instead, we aimed to get to Castle Lake and just set up camp there.

We made it there with a few minutes to spare before sunset. We set up camp and watched as the last bits of light hit Mount Shasta in the distance.

The next morning, we woke up to freezing cold temps and more amazing views of Mount Shasta. After it warmed up a bit, we packed up all our stuff and made the trek back down to the car.

Castle Lake
Total miles hiked: 9.9
Elevation gained: 1,316 feet

Fun fact: Did you know that Mt Shasta is actually a volcano?!

Last stop of the trip was McArthur Burney Falls! This has been on my bucket list for quite sometime now but I just never had it me to drive all the way up from LA just to see the falls. But it was on our way back and made for the perfect road trip stop.

The size of the falls itself was impressive. But I must admit that it was a bit underwhelming. It’s just a short walk down to the falls, which meant there was a lot of people, and it was kind of crowded for a weekday. I guess I’m just a believer in that the best views are the ones you have to put work in to get.

Nonetheless, I’m still glad I got to see it and cross it off my list!

And that concludes our weekend NorCal adventure! Not everything went as planned but it was still an amazing trip overall, and a super memorable one for my first ever backpacking trip! It was more strenuous that I thought it would be (I’m writing this two days later and I’m still a bit sore), but being able to say that we were the only ones on that mountain that day to experience those views made everything worth it.

It’s such a humbling experience to be able to do these things freely and to have the physical capability to be able to do them, which is something that I hope I never take for granted.

Last thing! I’ve really been into the Instax grind lately. Here’s a view from the trip!

Here’s to the start of hiking/backpacking season! Can’t wait for the next mountain.