"Harry Watkins" and the Gray Rock Lakes
Despite being one of the highest peaks in the Trinity Divide, “Harry Watkins” is as officially nameless and anonymous as the majority of its neighbors. The peak is simply overshadowed by the awesome presence of Mount Shasta. Further pushed into obscurity by its other neighbors, Mount Eddy and the Castle Crags, “Harry Watkins” is an oft-observed yet seldom climbed peak.
In spite of the stiff competition from the larger and more famous summits in the area, “Harry Watkins” nonetheless boasts a healthy dose of superlatives of its own. As previously noted, the peak is one of the highest summits in the Trinity Divide. The views from the summit are excellent, taking in the Castle Crags, the Eddy Range, Gray Rocks, and the Trinity Alps. Mount Shasta seems close enough that you can reach out and grab it while the southern most peaks of the Cascade Range, Lassen Peak and its subordinates are visible on the southern horizon. Even Shasta Bally and Bully Choop can be seen to the south. “Harry Watkins” offers more than just spectacular summit views. The peak is the monarch of a vast region of glaciated granite and metamorphic rock. Cliffs plunge from the summit into the Gray Rock Lakes Basin, where Timber Lake and Upper and Lower Gray Rock Lakes are nestled into beautiful rock bound cirques.
As if these attributes were not enough to make “Harry Watkins” a worthy destination, the peak has an incredibly easy approach, surprising given how obscure the mountain is. The route to the summit is little more than two miles, much of which is fairly level hiking on a beautiful trail.
Upper Gray Rock Lake
A Note On The Naming Of The Peak
A gentleman who has been a forester and mountaineer in the Mount Shasta area since 1952, reported the name for this peak. He has summited Mount Shasta on numerous occasions and made several first ascents on many of the spires in the Castle Crags. Although in his eighties, he continues to be active in the Mount Shasta community and is an excellent resource on the region's lore.
According to this gentleman, the peak was dubbed “Harry Watkins” by the area's Boy Scouts back in the 1950’s. This is the same Harry Watkins for whom the Watkins Glacier on Mount Shasta is named. The name gained use outside of the Boy Scouts but eventually fell into disuse and no other name for the peak was ever put forward. Harry Watkins was a chemist and engineer for the logging company. For unknown reasons, he became disenchanted with his work and quit his engineering job, preferring to become a simple janitor at the lumber mill. From that point on, he spent most of his time working with the youths in the Mount Shasta area, partly in the Boy Scouts and through other charitable organizations.
Castle Crags Wilderness
"Harry Watkins" and Lower Gray Rock Lake
Located in the Trinity Divide, the Castle Crags are a familiar sight to those traveling on Interstate 5. Rising suddenly out of the forested ridges lining the Sacramento River Canyon, the serrated granite spires of the Crags are an ominously enticing formation that beckons the intrepid to explore them. Most who do succumb to the Crags allure access them through Castle Crags State Park, which is located on the southeastern corner of the formation. Most are unaware that very little of the Castle Crags actually lie in the state park. In truth, the bulk of the Crags are found in Shasta-Trinity National Forest’s Castle Crags Wilderness. Although small with only 10,500 acres, the wilderness area packs an enormous amount of scenery into its small area.
The eastern half of the Castle Crags Wilderness is the home of the Castle Crags themselves. Further west, the mountains get much higher than the spires of the Crags, although they remain composed of granite with occasional intrusions of metamorphic rock. Here in the western half of the wilderness area is the cluster of high peaks around the Gray Rock Lakes basin. “Harry Watkins” is the tallest at 7,200, while “Gray Rock Dome” is only a little shorter at 7,070. Another lake basin is found between the Crags and the Gray Rock Lakes, however, the main lake in the basin, Castle Lake, lies just outside the wilderness boundary. Two smaller lakes, Little Castle Lake and Heart Lake, are found inside the wilderness boundary, high in cliffs above Castle Lakes.
The Pacific Crest Trail travels 14 miles through the Castle Crags Wilderness’ southern flanks.
Castle Crags Wilderness from the PCT
The Castle Crags Wilderness is the only wilderness area in the Trinity Divide. This region is the eastern most subrange of the Klamath Mountains. Sometimes called the Trinity Mountains, the Divide is not to be confused with the Trinity Alps, which lie directly to the west of the Divide and compose much of the views from the PCT en route to Boulder Peak. Two rivers, the Klamath and the Trinity, as well as their various tributaries dominate the Klamath Mountains. The Trinity Alps provide the bulk of the water that flows in the Trinity River. On the other hand, while the Trinity Divide does provide some water to the river it is even more important sense it forms the divide between the Trinity River’s watershed and watershed of the Sacramento River. The waters on the west side of the range ultimately find there way to the Pacific Ocean by way of the Klamath River while the waters on the east side reach the sea through the Sacramento River at San Francisco Bay. The Trinity Divide is topped by Mt. Eddy, the highest peak in the Klamath Mountains.
Lower Gray Rock Lake
From the town of Mt. Shasta, head west on W. Lake, crossing over I-5. At the stop sign, turn left onto Old Stage Road. After 0.25 miles, veer right onto WA Barr Road. Continue south, crossing over the dam that impounds the Sacramento River and forms Lake Siskiyou. From the dam, continue 9 miles to the west, passing the lake and continuing up the Sacramento River. After 9 miles, turn left, crossing over the Sacramento River on a Forest Service bridge. Veer left after the bridge, then make a sharp right hand turn onto Forest Road 39N45. The well-maintained dirt road may not be signed, but it is hard to miss. It parallels the river for 1.25 miles before intersecting Forest Road 39N41. At the intersection, turn left onto FR 39N41. Again, this road may not be signed, but the level of wear on the road makes it obvious which way is correct. Continue up the road for 1.2 miles. At this point the road’s condition degrades dramatically and those with sedans or who are uncomfortable negotiating steep, severely eroded routes should park here and hike the 0.25 miles to the Gray Rock Lakes trailhead. For those with 4x4, simply continue to the trailhead.
Castle Crags Wilderness from Mt. Eddy
"Harry Watkins" is in the Castle Crags Wilderness. Normal wilderness rules and ethics apply.
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
Dispersed camping is allowed throughout the area. The nearest campground is four miles west of the bridge, on the eastern end of Gumboot Lake. A large campground is located on the southwest shore of Lake Siskiyou, eight miles east of the bridge.
Good campgrounds are found around Gray Rock Lake, especially on the northern and eastern shores. Isolated and interesting campsites can be had at Scott Lake and the saddle between "Gray Rock Dome" and "Harry Watkins". Water is available at both sites.
When To Go
The Trinity Divide is often buried in snow until mid-June. The hiking season generally lasts from then until October. The road to Gray Rock Lakes is not plowed and particularly treacherous in winter. Access is difficult before the temperatures increase.
-Shasta-Trinity National Forest