A varied loop through some of the best scenery Mount Shasta has to offer. The hike goes through green, montane forests, lush meadows exploding with wildflowers, alpine scenery, and tons of streams.
The loop starts out of walk-in Panther Meadow Campground. The trail through here can be confusing, but just follow signs for "Trail" and head for Panther Meadow. There is an optional spur to a spring for water at the other end of the campground. The loop leads you through green subalpine forest before popping out into the open moonscape below The Gate and Red Butte. Views of Mount Shasta from here give you a taste of what is to come. Cross over The Gate and make the optional 0.5 mile detour to South Gate Meadow (previously known as Squaw Meadow). Several springs gush out of the meadow and several cross country exploration routes are available here. Back at The Gate, take the upper section of the loop (Old Ski Bowl Trail) to a high saddle straddled among a ridgeline featuring wide open views of the mountain. An alpine rock garden compliments the scenery by your feet. Continue down this trail to the main upper parking lot, and look for a small faint trail leading off to the side–downslope from the main trailhead sign. Follow this and meet up with the Upper Panther Meadows Trail. Take this trail down, bypassing the detour to Panther Meadows spring, and rejoin the Gray Butte Trail at Panther Meadow. Hike back through the campground before getting back to the Gray Butte Trailhead.
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