Mount Shasta’s Everitt Memorial Highway
● By Gary VanDeWalker
The Road with a View
By Gary VanDeWalker
Photos by Taryn Burkleo
Along the slopes of Mt. Shasta are 14 miles of two-lane road weaving through the high-elevation forest to the tree line where the timber ends and the trails to the summit begin. Starting in Mount Shasta City, Everitt Memorial Highway leads, in the summer months, to the old Ski Bowl parking lot, the highest point you can drive on the mountain. In the winter, the road stops at Bunny Flat where the snowplow turns around. Every season, the trip reveals stunning views of the valley and mountains to the west along the way.
The winding highway is named after Shasta National Forest Supervisor John Samuel Everitt. His offices for the Shasta National Forest were housed at the current ranger district offices in the city below. =Everitt’s career began with positions in the Forest Service in the Lassen, Plumas, San Bernardino and Stanislaus National Forests. In 1934, he was appointed to the Mount Shasta headquarters as the head of the Shasta National Forest.
When the Shasta Ski Bowl opened, the highway linked the city to downhill skiing. In the same year, the ski bowl set a world record for the most snowfall in a single storm, collecting 16 feet of snow in five days. Despite continual whiteouts and avalanches, the Ski Bowl remained in operation until 1978 when a devastating avalanche wiped out the main chair lift.
Now the buildings are gone, but in the summer months, the old parking lot remains a gateway for climbers to begin their ascents while picnickers dine at the picnic table overlooking the valley.
Just below the Old Ski Bowl, Panther Meadows invites summer hikers to a variety of trails. Below the meadows, Bunny Flat beckons summer hikers to its trailhead and winter enthusiasts to a wonderland. At 6,950 feet, a paved parking lot is open year round. When it snows, the sound of snowmobiles roars over the powdered snow surrounded by walls of pines.
Below Bunny Flat is where Everitt died in the Bear Springs Fire during his first year of service. Flames moved up the southern slopes of the mountain. Everitt scouted the fire alone and when the winds changed direction, he was surrounded by the fire and killed. He became the first forest supervisor killed defending the forest he oversaw.
Close to the location where Everitt died, a vista point was established in his honor. A guard rail and a paved driveway are all the warning a driver has to its location. Trees have grown into the view. The circular parking lot remains, along with a restroom. In the summer, a trail moves through to the forest to the viewing area and what is left of an old ski shelter.
Winter or summer, the highway passes through the curtains of tall trees which fade near the old ski bowl to smaller, hearty survivors of fierce winds and towering layers of snow. From time to the time, the Trinity divide and Strawberry Valley appear, a green expanse of trees, often carpeted by the snows of winter. Mount Shasta’s peak looks down upon many of the curves.
To get on the highway, take Lake Street exit from Interstate 5 and head toward the mountain, and follow the curve of the road to the left past Mount Shasta High School.
Once, the views along this highway were only open to daring hikers. Now, they can be driven to and enjoyed within minutes. Each trip should be taken in the spirit of John Muir, who enjoyed this mountain and said, “Keep close to Nature’s heart... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”