Mount Shasta rises sharply 14,179 feet into the crisp Northern California sky above the Cascade Mountain Range. Sixty miles outside Redding, this majestic mountain lies as the fifth tallest peak in California, and it attracts many visitors. However, visitors may wonder: Can I drive to the top of Mount Shasta?
While you can’t drive to the top of Mount Shasta, you can drive up to around 7,900 feet if the road is clear. The road has the best chance to be clear in the summertime once much of the snow has melted. At the end of the road, you can find recreational areas with picnic tables and bathrooms.
Even though the road doesn’t reach the top, you can find beautiful views of the mountain and other surrounding Cascade peaks by driving up the road at Mount Shasta. You can find out how to get there and what to expect when you drive up Mount Shasta by reading the following sections.
Is It Possible to Drive to the Top of Mount Shasta?
The summit of Mount Shasta is steep and covered with snow year-round, so it’s not possible to drive to the very top of the mountain. Even if the road went to the top, even the most extreme off-road vehicles would have trouble getting to the top. However, a road goes over halfway up Mount Shasta to 7,900 feet—still an impressive height with beautiful views for miles.
The road up Mount Shasta is off of I-5. When driving down I-5, take the Lake Street exit. Follow Lake Street East, and it will connect with Everitt Memorial Highway. Everitt Memorial Highway will take you as high as you can get in a vehicle on Mount Shasta.
The road ends at a small campground/day-use area called Panther Meadows. Panther Meadows has a few small campsites close to the parking lot. If you keep going to the parking lot above the campgrounds, you eventually reach the day-use area.
The day-use area is a wide-open space with loose rocks, picnic tables, and the occasional tree or shrub. This area is a great place to stop and eat lunch with a view of the surrounding mountainsides.
The Panther Meadows campsite is lower than the upper day-use area by a few hundred feet. So even on a hot day, when the temperature hovers around 100 degrees Fahrenheit at the base of the mountain, the end of the road up Mount Shasta will be closer to 80 degrees Fahrenheit with a nice breeze.
These areas don’t usually open for recreation until early-mid June because of how much snow Mount Shasta gets. As the snow melts, it frequently causes rock slides that go onto the roads, so it’s best to wait until the roads are clear before driving. If you’re worried about the road conditions, check the current conditions around Mount Shasta here.
While the areas aren’t open for picnics and camping in the winter, Everitt Memorial Highway is frequently plowed, so climbers and skiers have access to the mountain. However, only experienced climbers, skiers, and snowboarders should brave the mountain in the winter due to the high risk of avalanches.
Below Panther Meadows is another small parking lot with bathrooms (but no potable water). This area is the Bunny Flat Trail Head and sits at 6,900 feet. Bunny Flat is usually the highest point that the road goes to in the winter.
As it gets later in summer, the meadow of Panther Meadow begins to flourish. As the summer heat melts more snow, streams and greenery appear. If you get there at just the right time, you will find streams, grass, and wildflowers around Panther Meadows.
If Everitt Memorial Highway is open, you can expect easy but winding driving. The road often zig-zags up the mountain. But the drive should be smooth because it’s paved the whole way.
While you need a permit to hike Mount Shasta, you don’t need one to drive up the road. It is a moderately busy road depending on the season you visit. Summer tends to be the busy season due to the combination of climbers, hikers, campers, and other visitors. From Mount Shasta City, it takes around 30 minutes to reach Panther Meadows.
If you are interested in driving to the top of another mountain, check out this post: Can You Drive To The Top Of Mt. Diablo?
Bay Area Answers Fun Fact: Mount Shasta is historically a sacred place for Native Americans. Panther Meadows is a traditional ceremonial site for the Wintu tribe.
Is the Road up Mount Shasta Open Year Round?
Most of the road up Mount Shasta is open year-round. Typically the road up to Bunny Flats (6,900′) remains open through the winter as snowplows work hard to keep it open. However, the road above Bunny Flats up to Panther Meadows (7,900′) is closed in the winter.
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What is the Best Time of Year to Visit Mount Shasta?
Mount Shasta is beautiful all year, but if you want to do more than appreciate or take pictures of the mountain, you should carefully plan your visit.
If you’re looking to drive up Mount Shasta, the best time of year is in late spring, summer, or early fall when there’s less snow.
Mount Shasta can be a fun day hike for climbers, or it can be an extensive multiple-day journey to the top. Summer is your best bet for hiking and climbing since there’s less snow and cold weather to worry about, and the days are longer.
Those interested in skiing or any other snow activities will be best suited to visit in the winter. Even though there is snow year-round in some places on the mountain, the snow is the best in the winter when it’s fresh. Individuals enjoying the mountain in the winter should be extra cautious when it comes to avalanches.
Is the Drive Up Mount Shasta Scary?
Without snow, the drive up Mount Shasta is not scary or dangerous if you take your time. The road winds up the mountain but is wide enough to have two lanes without it feeling too cramped. If there’s little to no snow, there are also pullout areas where drivers can stop and let faster cars pass them.
However, in the winter, the road can be treacherous. Avalanches and ice can close the road, and even when it is open, conditions can change rapidly. The snow creates slippery conditions and sometimes drifts across the entire width of the road. The road also gets narrower as snow piles up as it’s plowed throughout the season.
Whenever you drive on the road that goes up Mount Shasta, take your time and remain alert. If you are driving in the winter, make sure you have a vehicle equipped to handle the snow to make the drive as safe as possible.
Is There Snow on Mount Shasta Year-Round?
Yes, there is snow year-round on some parts of Mount Shasta. The mountain gets an average of 59 inches of snow each winter-it’s no wonder there is snow on the summit all year! The snowfall is enough to cover the bare, volcanic slopes of the mountain.
The snow is fun for the experienced skier but not so good for those looking to drive up Mount Shasta. Some of the road remains open in winter to allow skiers and hikers to enjoy the snow-covered slopes.
Mount Shasta even has glaciers, but they have been melting at record rates the past few years.
Is Mount Shasta an Active Volcano?
Of the many volcanos in California, Shasta is one of the most prominent. Mount Shasta is an active volcano with the potential to erupt, even though research shows that it’s been thousands of years since Mount Shasta has erupted. Hot spring activity and volcanic gases that commonly seep out the top of the mountain demonstrate that it is not a dormant volcano.
Scientists predict that the next eruption will most likely come from Shastina, a cinder cone to the west of Shasta. This cinder cone has come to be known as Mout Shasta’s shoulder.
Scientists have placed this volcano in the category of a “very high risk” of eruption. If Mount Shasta erupted, it would cause a major disaster. The eruption could melt glaciers and send vast amounts of water downstream, creating flooding and mudflows. Everitt Memorial Highway, the road that goes up Mount Shasta, is susceptible to these dangers.
The potential for an eruption always looms over those visiting or living near Mount Shasta. So although it’s not likely to happen any time soon, be aware of the active volcano and take necessary precautions while visiting.
Don’t Miss Mount Shasta
Mount Shasta is an exciting place to plan a visit to or to stop by and see if you are passing by. Don’t pass up the opportunity to drive up part of Mount Shasta. Even though you can’t drive to the top, the drive up part of the mountain will help you experience the natural beauty of this towering mountain. The views are stunning, and it’s a wonderful adventure for those who want something different from their usual day trip!