While it goes without saying that the summit of Mount Shasta is the obvious destination for peakbaggars, there are several other summits that draw a fair amount of attention. The names of these are familiar to those who are acquainted with the mountain: Shastina, Shastarama Point, Green Butte, Red Butte, and Gray Butte. All of these are located on the craggier southern side of Mount Shasta (Shastaina, of course, is an exception to this rule). The north side of the volcano has a much more precipitous rise and is covered by Shasta’s notable glaciers. There are, however, a small series of volcanic plugs on the northern slopes of the great mountain. Though they are unnamed, the USGS map identifies the area they are in as North Gate. Accordingly, the highest point in this cluster of volcanic peaks is referred to as North Gate Plug 8,852. The peak is a great destination for hikers who want a defined destination for the North Gate Trail, the path that access Mount Shasta northeastern corner. Those who climb its infrequently visited summit are treated to spectacular vistas of Mount Shasta and much of northernmost California and into southern Oregon.
There are four plugs in the North Gate region on Mount Shasta. 8,852 is the highest and, along with neighboring 8,798, it is the most rugged of the four domes. The other two domes are low enough, barely reaching over 7,900 feet, that they are generally cloaked with dense forest cover. The higher two plugs mark a stark contrast. These peaks are massive rock piles, scree fields here and there broken by protruding bands of solid stone. The plugs are the result of volcanic activity that occurred subsequent to the formation of Mount Shasta. A volcanic plug is a protrusion of magma that hardens in a vent. The structure of these peaks is similar to Black Butte, on Shasta’s west side. The most significant difference between the formations is Black Butte is the result of multiple eruptions that built the same formations while the North Gate plugs were formed by multiple eruptions in close to proximity to each other yet still forming separate peaks. In some ways, the North Gate plugs are Black Butte writ large.
A quick examination of a topographical map reveals that the northern flank of Mount Shasta is fairly smooth slope, sliding swiftly into the Shasta Valley. The North Gate plugs are the most prominent feature in the lower section of the mountain. Consequently, the plugs are prominently visible when looking at Mount Shasta’s northern profile. It should not come as a surprise that the views from the summit are excellent. The Whaleback and many of the peaks surrounding it are also visible to the east.
Both the Butte and Shasta Valleys are visible, as is the crest of the Cascades extending north into Oregon, including Mount McLoughlin, southern Oregon’s highest peak. Further north, Pilot Rock and the Siskiyous, including Mount Ashland line the horizon. To the west, the Marble Mountains and China Mountain form an impressive skyline. Lake Shastina and the small peaks formed by an ancient landslide off of Mount Shasta can be seen far below. All of this pales in comparison to the majesty of Mount Shasta climbing a mile overhead. The Bolam and Hotlum Glaciers cascade down the volcano’s skirt. The Hotlum headwall can be observed just below the summit. Shastina, the great satellite peak is a hulking presence to the west. All together it is a memorable view.
RouteNorthgate Plug 8,852 is accessed via the North Gate Trail. Detailed information is found here.
CampingThe nearest established campground is several miles to the west at Lake Shastina. Dispersed camping is allowed at the trailhead and at any point along the drive in from Highway 97. Camping is allowed around the base of the plug and there are a few informal sites. The Hotlum-Bolam basecamp, though much higher, is also in close proximity.
From Interstate 5, drive east on Highway 97 for 14.8 miles. Turn right onto Military Pass Road. Proceed along this dirt road for 4.5 miles to the junction with Andesite Logging Road. There are signs indicating the Northgate Trailhead at this point. Turn right onto Andesite Logging Road anf follow the signs to the trailhead for almost four more miles. The road gets rougher as one nears the trailhead. While lower clearance vehicles are capable of negotiating the road, it is slow and difficult to do so. There are numerous junctions en route to the trialhead once one turns off of Military Pass Road but the signs are well situated and will successfully guide drivers to the trailhead.
Northgate Plug 8,852 is located in Shasta-Trinity National Forest and within the Mount Shasta Wilderness. Normal wilderness rules and ethics apply. Fore those attempting the summit from the North Gate Trail, Summit passes are required for anyone climbing above 10,000 feet. A summit pass costs $20 per person, and is good for three days starting on the date of purchase. Self issue kiosks are available at the Mt. Shasta Ranger Station on Alma St. in Mt. Shasta city, the McCloud Ranger Station on Hwy 89 in McCloud and at all trailheads. Annual summit passes are $30.00 and are good for one year from the date of purchase. Annual passes are available only during regular business hours at the Mt. Shasta and McCloud Ranger Stations.
A permit is required for campfires.
Shasta-Trinity National Forest
3644 Avtech Parkway
Redding, CA 96002
Mount Shasta Ranger Station
204 West Alma
Mt. Shasta, CA 96067