Heart Lake

Castle Lake
Looking down on Castle Lake. Yes, it looks like a heart from this angle, but it's not Heart Lake. Our starting point was near the top of the lake in the distance.
User: Austin Explorer - 6/11/2022

Location: Shasta-Trinity National Forest

Rating: 4stars
Difficulty: 4stars  Solitude: 2stars
Miles Hiked: 3.70 Miles  Elapsed Time: 3 hours, 34 minutes


On our way back home Coppertone and I stopped for a couple of nights at Mount Shasta, allowing us one more final hike of the trip.  We had a couple of hikes in mind but the deciding factor was a recommendation from the rep at our AirBnB.  He suggested the trail from Castle Lake to Heart Lake.

Unlike many of our hikes in Oregon a paved road led all of the way to the parking area at the trailhead.  There is a restroom at the start.  Already, we could see a bunch of people, but many seemed to concentrate around Castle Lake.

We had some issues with the trail from the beginning.  It was a bit unclear what the proper crossing spot was for the stream which was draining into Castle Lake.  We ended up going through a circuitous path to the left of the likely main route.  We obviously were not the first to try this detour.  On our return later in the day we were more easily able to see a shorter option to get across the stream without getting wet.

The trail starts climbing right away.  There is some tree cover near the beginning here, but that won't last and there will be full Sun exposure for much of the hike.  Sunscreen is a must!

The trail is generally easy to follow.  Once the tree cover disappeared and the trail ascends rock fields things can get a bit tricky in a few spots.  One thing to keep an eye out for is blue tape hanging from tree or brush branches.  Those markings were recently added to help keep people on the established path more consistently.

The sound of the crowd at Castle Lake disappeared as we put distance between us.  But it was replaced later by fainter, but clear voices that seemed to carry for miles.

After passing over a small saddle the trail descends slightly into a tiny valley that contains Heart Lake and a smaller lake beside it.  On the slope above them sits a couple of snow packs, still intact here in June despite the warm temperatures here.  To the north of Heart Lake is a small knob of rock.  From its peak we could see Castle Lake below and Mount Shasta in the distance.  This is one of the iconic viewpoints of the mountain, but we were not done yet.

Most hikers stop at this point.  But we knew the trail continues a bit more to a higher peak to the northwest and we intended to top it.  Here was some of our toughest hiking, not the least because the trail at times was practically impossible to spot.  We took a turn onto a boulder fall only to realize once things got really rough that it was not the ideal way to get to the top.  We eventually found our spot and spend a good deal of time sitting silently and taking it all in.

From this point we could see and hear people at Heart Lake nearby and Castle Lake far away.  But there was noone else at the peak we us.  We had it all to ourselves.  It's almost as though we sat motionless and quiet in hopes no one else would realize they could get up there and ruin our peace and solitude.  The view of Castle Lake and Mount Shasta from this spot is magical.  On this day a consistent line of clouds prevented us from seeing the entirety of Mount Shasta, but an occassional hole opened up so we were able to see its peak now and then.

Eventually, we gave up our little slice of heaven and descended from the peak.  We passed a group of four ascending at that time who were going to take our place.

We stopped for lunch on the small peak close to Heart Lake.  We positioned ourselves on the side facing Mount Shasta and enjoyed the views while we ate.  We were shocked afterwards to cross over to get back to the trail to discover just how many more people had shown up.  The small peak completely drowned out the cacophony that was building as people gathered, noisily splashed in the lake and started playing music.  Definitely time for us to leave!

On the descent we encountered more people going up to Heart Lake than those leaving the area.  The crowd there later in the day must have been nuts.  Definitely not our cup of tea.

Despite the large number of people we crossed on the trail, we were afforded quiet solitude both at the top of the hike and in our lunch spot, which is something of a miracle.  I'm sure week days are a bit less crowded.  We were given good advice for this hike as the views are definitely worth it.

Log Photos
Coppertone with Mount Shasta in the distance
Trail View
Thining trees
Winding Path
Peak peek
Descending to Heart Lake
Castle Lake and Mount Shasta
Castle Lake
Heart Lake
Heart Lake
Headed back