Heavy-duty hiking buffs seek out the Sisson-Callahan National Recreation Trail (North Shore Rd., 18 miles round-trip, difficult); just past Deer Creek Bridge, take the left fork and park off the road.
Starting near Lake Siskyou, this trail gains almost a mile in elevation, peaking at over 8,000 feet at Deadfall Summit, then dropping 1,000 feet to Deadfall Lakes. Be sure to dress in layers, since you might start out in the intense summer heat of the lower elevations only to end up making snowballs up on the summit.
Because it’s long and steep and challenging, many hikers prefer to do this trail over more than one day. Any number of campsites lie along the North Fork of the Sacramento River and beyond, welcoming weary travelers with a spot to pitch a tent and enjoy a night’s rest.
In fact, the Sisson-Callahan links up with the Pacific Crest Trail down near Deadfall Lakes, letting backpackers keep on packin’ if they choose to.
For a lovely long hike that takes you up to views of the whole of the Far North mountain region and into Oregon, trek up to Mount Eddy (Forest Service Rd. 17, 530/926-4511, 10 miles round-trip, difficult). You’ll find a steep trail that takes you up to the 9,000-foot peak, where you can spin around and around, checking out various and sundry Cascade mountains: Shasta, Lassen, the Trinity Alps, and even Mount McLaughlin up in Oregon. The trail up from the Deadfall Lake trailhead is hot and dry, and you’ll want to bring plenty of water as you’ll find none here.
You will find granite at the bottom of the mountain and green serpentine toward the top, lots of shade from the fir and pine trees proliferating on the mountainsides, and the clear waters of Deadfall Lake and Deadfall Creek on your way up to the lovely peak. (A number of hikers claim you can drink from the creek, but check with the rangers first and consider bringing purifiers if you plan to try this.)
If you’re not up for such a long day hike, consider an overnight camping trip; the lake makes a great informal primitive campground.
You know that cool brown-black cinder cone that sits close to the bottom of the mountain? Originally called Muir’s Peak by humble naturalist John Muir, this “cinder cone” was created about 10,000 years ago during the same slow, thick magma eruption that created the Shastina crater. Believe it or not, you can scale the slick-looking sides of Black Butte (5 miles round-trip, difficult). It really is pretty slick.
The trail ascends almost 1,900 feet in about 2.5 miles, with serious steep and rocky spots. In recent years, vegetation has started taking root in Black Butte, but the trail still offers precious little in the way of shade and no water at all. Bring plenty of water, and plan your hike for early morning if you’re visiting in the summertime.