The Haystack is a diminutive volcanic dome with great views of the enormous, snowy mass of Mount Shasta. Haystack Trail presents a 2.55-mile lollipop loop hike that tours the Haystack’s summit plateau, boasting broad views in all directions that include Mount Shasta, the Klamath Mountains, and Shasta Valley. This high desert hike passes through juniper and sage that get embellished by spring wildflowers like lupines and Indian paintbrush.
The Haystack (or Haystack Butte) rises from a sloping valley north of Mouth Shasta. Haystack Trail starts from Highway 97 on the high side of the slope. As you will discover, the Haystack is actually bigger than it looks from the trailhead. Because the trail starts from the south side, the elevation change required to reach the top of Haystack Butte is less than it would be from any other side, with an ascent of 375 feet.
Park just off Highway 97 in a small paved area in front of a green gate. To the south, Mount Shasta rises above sparsely vegetated desert terrain. Go through the gate (closing it behind you) and begin on Haystack Trail. This old dirt road passes through a few unmarked junctions, but the correct route is obvious. Walk north for a tenth of a mile and stay to the right as a dirt road parts to the left. Continue for another eighth of a mile, hiking downhill toward the Haystack. Early views allow you to look west across Shasta Valley toward the Klamath Mountains. Pass a path breaking off to the left as the trail curves to the right into a gap below Haystack Butte.
Over the next quarter mile, the trail passes through a depression created where the general slope of the landscape (from the south down to the north) meets the steep south side of the Haystack. Pass through sage and scattered juniper trees, gazing up at the rocky outcroppings on the side of Haystack Butte. In a short while, you’ll be up on top, looking down.
Leaving this gap on the south side of the Haystack, the trail comes to a split. A less-used trail to the right descends into Juniper Valley, which bellies out below. Make the obvious left to follow Haystack Trail up the east side of the Haystack.
Haystack Trail angles gradually uphill across the steep side of the Haystack. It becomes evident that the Haystack is taller than it looked from Highway 97, with longer slopes dropping away to the north, east, and west.
The eastern slope is sun-exposed in the morning and shaded in the afternoon. To your right, look across the valley toward Yellow Butte. Up the valley to the northeast is Herd Peak. Deer Mountain and cliff-packed Sheep Rock peek out behind Yellow Butte. Your eyes will be entertained by interesting rock outcroppings around Sheep Rock.
At the 3/4-mile mark, the trail takes a switchback to the left and tacks back to the south as it continues to ascend. During this stretch of the hike, you’ll gain a perspective of a butte of dark earth to the north that is being excavated.
Continue up the grass and sage-covered slope. During spring months, splashes of bright red from Indian paintbrush and patches of purple from lupines add lots of color to the trailside. Rise into a cluster of junipers that frame views south toward Mount Shasta. You can also gaze east up Highway 97 toward Whaleback Mountain.
As you come up to the edge of the plateau on Haystack Butte, and just under a mile from the trailhead, hit the start of a 0.65-mile loop around the top of the Haystack. Note: you might walk right past the beginning of the loop without noticing the fainter side of the trail to the right. Whether you recognize the junction with the north side of the loop or not, proceed up the main trail, staying to the left.
Haystack Trail levels out as you head west across the south side of the butte, basking in open views of Mount Shasta. This snowy volcano rises to a 14,179-foot peak, making it the fifth highest summit in California. To the right of the peak is an immense lower “satellite cone” named Shastina. The top of Mount Shasta is just over 10,000 feet taller than the Haystack – and wow is it big!
After 1.1 miles of hiking, Haystack Trail turns downhill and fades into a less-defined jeep trail. At the same location, an outcropping of rocks pops out above the grasses to your left. Walk out to this perch, which is a high point for the Haystack and take a break to study the excellent perspective of Mount Shasta to the south and the Klamath Mountains to the west. Mount Eddy rises in the distance to the southwest. Look for Black Butte popping up over a nearby ridge to the southwest as well. The shimmering water of Lake Shastina lies in the valley to the west. The Scott Mountains rise in the Klamath Mountains, forming a wall farther to the west. Peaks on the Trinity Divide rise to the northwest at the north end of the visible Klamath Mountains.
For more views of these mountains to the west, continue past the rocky perch on the less-used section of Haystack Trail. The thin double-track jeep trail heads downhill on a sage-covered slope. Curving around juniper trees, the trail presents more westward views from Haystack Butte. Discover opportunities to gaze north up Shasta Valley toward the state of Oregon where the snowy top of Mount Ashland will be visible on clear days.
The trail continues to curve to the right and eventually ascends again toward the high end of the volcanic dome. Wrap around an alluring, larger-than-average tree and angle across the butte to close loop.
Turn left when you hit the more established trail again and hike 0.95 miles back to the start. Enjoy lots of views of Mount Shasta as you face that enormous volcano coming down off this small volcanic dome. Haystack Trail descends 375 from the top of the Haystack into the small canyon to the south and then ascends 75 feet back to the trailhead along Highway 97.
Haystack Trail does not appear to have any restrictions on bringing dogs or bikes. Parking at the trailhead is free. No permit is required to hike Haystack Trail in Klamath National Forest, so get out and enjoy!
To get to the trailhead: Take Interstate 5 to Weed, California (eight miles north of the city of Mount Shasta). Use exit 747 for US 97. Follow Highway 97 northeast for 10.5 miles to the trailhead, which is on the left with a small paved area in front of a faded green gate. Haystack Butte will be in view as you approach the trailhead, which comes shortly after a “lane ends merge left” sign. Another dirt road leaves the south side of Highway 97 across from the trailhead.
Trailhead address: Highway 97, Montague, CA 96064
Trailhead coordinates: 41.5307, -122.2768 (41° 31′ 50.5″N 122° 16′ 36.5″W)
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