When you are hiking at or above tree line, where the vegetation is minimal and the terrain is often rocky, the pleasure of coming across a verdant patch of green, nourished by a clear cold spring, is as satisfying a hiking experience as I have ever experienced.
The trail to South Gate Meadows on the slopes of Mt Shasta starts at the Old Ski Bowl Trailhead at the end of the Everett Memorial Highway, the highest road on the mountain. You’ll see the trailhead sign at the parking lot. The trail first climbs up a few hundred feet to the Hummingbird Saddle, offering a fine view of Green Butte (on the left) and Sargents Ridge (to the right) but not a view of the summit.
Hummingbird Meadow, just on the other side of the saddle, is lovely but that’s not your destination. Continue down the slope to the trail junction to Panther Meadows Campground and stay left on the trail to South Gate Meadows. A modest amount of elevation loss and soon you are at Lower South Gate Meadows where you can just make out the summit of Mt Shasta.
To reach Upper South Gate Meadow, stay to the right and take the trail along the base of the meadow. When you get there you may think, “This is also pretty but not really different from the first meadow.” But keep walking for just five minutes and you will see a very different scene…
Cascading down the mountainside, the stream cools the air and enlivens the senses. Walk carefully to stay on the path so as not to disturb the fragile vegetation.
It’s a short steep climb to where the water seems to magically appear out of the rocky hillside.
The location is worthy of a lengthy stay. The view down the slope shows just how far you’ve come.
I did not want to leave.