At 14,179 ft. Mount Shasta is the second highest volcanic peak in the contiguous 48 states. Reaching the mountain’s towering summit is the perfect reward after a demanding ascent.
There are many climbing routes up Mt. Shasta, providing options for mountaineers of all levels. Depending on the route you choose, a trip to the summit requires gaining about 7,000 feet of elevation and climbing up very steep snow, scrambling over rocks or traveling on crevassed glaciers. It’s possible to climb and descend Mt. Shasta in one day, but a typical summit attempt requires two days.
While there are non-technical routes to the summit of Mt. Shasta, all of the routes present challenges and hazards so you must be in excellent physical shape, properly trained and equipped with the correct gear. Weather, route conditions and the effects of altitude will also contribute to the outcome of your summit attempt.
Mount Shasta Weather
Weather changes rapidly on Mt. Shasta and rain, snow and frigid temperatures can occur any time of year. Know the forecast and be prepared for changing weather and sudden storms with extra clothing, rain gear and shelter.
Winter at Mt. Shasta can bring storms with high winds, deep snow and extremely poor visibility. All climbers attempting a winter ascent need to be experienced in winter mountaineering, avalanche forecasting and rescue.
Best Time to Go: The best to time to go is generally late spring to mid-summer, but it varies by climbing route. The most popular non-technical routes are Avalanche Gulch and the West Face Gully. The typical climbing season for these routes is between mid-May and mid-July when the weather tends to be favorable and the snowpack coverage is sufficient. Once the snow is melted out, expect to find lots of scrambling on loose rock.
Remember: Climbing safety is your responsibility. Expert instruction is absolutely essential if you’re new to climbing and mountaineering.
Mount Shasta Permits
When you arrive at Mt. Shasta you will need to get a Wilderness Permit and a Summit Pass before climbing the mountain. You can get these at the ranger station in Mt. Shasta or the ranger station in McCloud during business hours, or you can self-issue your permit and pass 24 hours a day at any of the trailheads or the permit station outside the Mt. Shasta ranger station.
Wilderness Permit: The upper slopes of Mt. Shasta are designated as the Mt. Shasta Wilderness. Each person entering the wilderness needs to fill out his or her own free wilderness permit. Dogs are not allowed anywhere within the Mt. Shasta Wilderness.
Summit Pass: If you are climbing above 10,000 ft., you must purchase a Summit Pass for $25 per person. The pass is valid for three days from the date of purchase. If you self-issue, you will need exact change or a personal check.
Annual Summit Passes are available at the Mt. Shasta and McCloud ranger stations during regular business hours for $30. They allow unlimited climbing opportunities during the climbing season. Annual passes are valid until December 31st of the calendar year.
Camping: Reservations are not required for climbers camping at Horse Camp, Helen Lake or any of the other base camps on the mountain. Camping is free except for Horse Camp (operated by The Sierra Club Foundation), which costs $5 per tent or $3 per solo bivy per night.
Mount Shasta Maps
To adequately cover the entire Mt. Shasta area you’ll need four U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) maps. The USGS Mount Shasta map shows the majority of the mountain, but you may need USGS Hotlum to the west, USGS McCloud to the south and USGS Ash Creek Butte to the east.
Another good option is the Tom Harrison Cartography Mt. Shasta Wilderness Trail Map.
USGS maps can be purchased online at the USGS store.
Mount Shasta Packing List
The following list is designed for a non-guided trip on Mt. Shasta. If you’re part of a guided group, check with the guide company to see what items they provide. REI also provides guided trips to Mount Shasta for those who wish to adventure without the added task of planning.
Included in this list are the Ten Essential Systems you should have on every backcountry trip: navigation; sun protection; insulation; illumination; first-aid supplies; fire starter; repair kit and tools; nutrition; hydration; emergency shelter. To learn more, see our Ten Essentials article.
- Climbing helmet
- Climbing pack (65 – 75 liters)
- Sleeping bag comfortable to 0°F – 30°F (dependent upon season, weather forecast and personal preference)
- Sleeping pad
- Mountaineering tent or backpacking tent
- Snow stakes or bag anchors for the tent
- Mountaineering boots (crampon-compatible)
- Crampons (12-point steel or aluminum)
- Ice axe (with leash)
- Backpacking stove
- Cooking pot (2 liter)
- Pot lifter
- LED headlamp and extra batteries (100 lumens or brighter)
- Photocopy of route description (from guidebook)
- Map case or plastic bag for map and route description
Equipment for Technical Routes
Hardware quantities may vary depending on route.
- Rope (dry core and sheath; 8mm-10.5mm in diameter x 30m or longer; length depends on party size)
- Belay/rappel device (optional)
- Chest harness made from webbing (optional)
- Mountaineering harness (with adjustable leg loops)
- Pulleys (2)
- Carabiners (4 locking; 4 nonlocking)
- Webbing sling (30cm long)
- Perlon accessory cord (24 ft. of 6mm; or pre-made Prusik slings)
- Cordelettes (2)
- Snow picket
- Ice screws (1 – 2; optional depending on route)
- Ice tools
- Ice screws
- Rock protection (nuts, cams)
- Extra webbing slings and carabiners
- Wands for marking the route (minimum of 20; optional)
- Wicking, quick-dry boxers or briefs (1 – 2 pairs)
- Wicking, quick-dry sports bra (for women)
- Midweight wool or synthetic socks (2 pairs)
- Lightweight long underwear top
- Lightweight long underwear bottoms
- Midweight long underwear top
- Fleece or soft-shell jacket
- Midweight puffy jacket with hood
- Soft-shell pants
- Waterproof/breathable rain jacket
- Waterproof/breathable rain pants
- Hiking shorts (wicking, quick-dry; optional)
- Winter hat (wool or fleece)
- Neck gaiter, balaclava, Buff or bandana
- Sun-shielding hat or cap
- Liner gloves
- Midweight waterproof gloves
- Heavy-insulated gloves or mittens
- Change of clothes to leave in car
- Altimeter watch
- Glacier glasses
- Goggles (optional; weather dependent)
- Two-way radios (optional)
- Cell phone in a waterproof case (optional)
- Personal locator beacon or satellite messenger (optional)
- GPS (optional)
- Helmet camera (or regular camera; optional)
- Plastic bowl
- Drinking mug
- Fork and spoon
- 1-liter water bottles (2 or 1 + hydration reservoir)
- 2-liter hydration reservoir (optional)
- Toilet paper (in plastic bag)
- Blue bags for transporting human waste
- Handwarmer packets
- Water treatment device (filter, purifier, tablets, etc.)
- Ear plugs (optional)
- Toothbrush (travel size)
- Toothpaste (travel size)
- Sunscreen (2 fl. oz. of SPF 30 or higher)
- Lip balm (SPF 30 or higher)
- First-aid kit
- Large garbage bags (2; white recommended; optional)
- Summit Pass
- Wilderness Permit
Quantity varies depending on route and length of trip.