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Shasta-Trinity Backcountry Discovery Trail

Updated: Mar 14

Many say the Pacific Northwest begins in the far northern reaches of California; a place that locals adoringly refer to as the State of Jefferson. Largely disconnected from the population centers to the south, it's a region filled with emerald forests, wild rivers and streams- where the granite monoliths of the northern Coastal ranges meet the lava flows and volcanic peaks of the Cascades.

Route Overview

Trip Length & Rating

Adventure Rating: Epic Trip Length:  3-6 days, 257 miles miles Season:   Late April - November (depends on snowpack on Hull Mountain)

Technical Ratings & Terrain

Recommended Vehicle / Moto / Adventure Vans

Fuel, Provisions, and Recommended Gear

Alternative Routes

Camping Recommendations

Discovery Points

Permits, Permits & Other Resources

Digital Maps & GPX Files

Adventure Badge: Get your Shasta-Trinity BDT adventure badge at our online store.


Route Details

In the 1990s and into the 2000s, the US Forest Service, in association with the California State Parks OHV Division, created the California Backcountry Discovery Trail. In reality, the BDT (Backcountry Discovery Trail) was actually a series of independent overland routes that crossed the public lands of Plumas NF, Lassen NF, Modoc NF, Mendocino NF, Six Rivers NF, and Cow Mountain (BLM) that could sometimes be interlinked. For whatever reason, the USFS abandoned its work, and in some cases, the corresponding materials were removed from their websites altogether (Mendocino NF and Six Rivers NF). At Overland Trail Guides, we recognize the good yet laborious work of the USFS in creating the California Backcountry Discovery Trail, and we plan to pick up where the USFS left off, which brings us to the importance of the Shasta-Trinity Backcountry Discovery Trail.

Straddling the coastal ranges to the west and the southern Cascades to the east, the Shasta-T (as locals call it) sits at a key geographical location. We've dubbed the Shasta-Trinity BDT (Backcountry Discovery Trail) the "missing link" as it enables overlanders and off-road enthusiasts alike with the ability to interlink the various Backcountry Discovery Trails, creating a network of mostly dirt roads and trails that extends over 1,000 miles. At over 2.2 million acres, the Shasta-Trinity spans a number of unique geological zones. The mostly sedimentary coastal mountains to the south begin to uplift into craggy granite peaks and monoliths as you move towards the Trinity Alps, while to the east, the volcanic soils and mountains of the Cascades dominate the landscape. The 250+ miles of the Shasta-Trinity BDT travels through lush conifer forests that the Pacific Northwest is famous for, drier and rockier alpine forests at higher elevations, and the high desert that surrounds the northern and eastern flanks of Mt Shasta, extending to the Modoc Plateau.

While the Shasta-Trinity BDT follows a north-south trajectory, it can be driven in either direction. We recommend running the route starting at the southern end, as this allows the opportunity for Mt Shasta to present as the grand finale along the final leg of the route. The track consists primarily of graded dirt forest service roads (and a short stint on a rocky jeep trail on the way to Tamarack Lake), but there is some pavement (backroads and highways) which allows the connection of various dirt backroads and byways. The backroads of the southern portion of the route see very little vehicular traffic, so make sure that you're equipped to handle any potential mechanical issues along the route. As you near Tamarack Lake, expect to see a lot more people in the forest. Speaking of Tamarack Lake, this is one of our favorite campsites along the route, and if you arrive early, you may be lucky enough to snag the lakefront campsite.

Like Shasta-Trinity National Forest, which is well known for its fishing, swimming, and boating/kayaking, the Shasta-Trinity BDT affords similar opportunities. There is an exquisite swimming hole at the South Fork Trinity River (DP4), and more swimming and fishing opportunities at Tamarack Lake, Gumboot Lake, and the East and Main Forks of the Trinity River. If hiking is your thing, consider checking out some of the lesser-traveled trails near Ruth Lake (DP1) and Pickett Peak (DP3). Mt Shasta (permits required in some cases) and the surrounding mountains near Mt Eddy (DP25), Castle Crags (DP22), and Tamarack Lake (DP19) all feature extensive trail networks as well, while Tamarack Lake also features a network of technical jeep trails.

Traveling through a number of diverse ecological and geological zones, the Shasta-Trinity really is an outdoor wonderland. Those that seek solitude will love the emptiness of the southern half of the route. And for those that yearn for the craggy and snow-capped peaks of the alpine, the northern section presents astounding vistas of the Trinity Alps (DP13), Castle Crags, and Mt Shasta. And if you're looking for something a bit more technical, consider exploring the dozens of miles of jeep trails surrounding Tamarack Lake. You really can't go wrong with this track!




Terms of Use: Should you decide to travel a route that is published on, you do so at your own risk. Always take the appropriate precautions when planning and traveling, including checking the current local weather, permit requirements, trail/road conditions, and land/road closures. While traveling, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, and carry the appropriate safety, recovery, and navigational equipment. The information found on this site is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by Overland Trail Guides, the route accuracy and current conditions of roads and trails cannot be guaranteed.

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9 commenti

Jr Sanchez
Jr Sanchez
25 mag 2022

This is what the mud crossing looks right now at Mt Shasta compared to the video. There was a big washout. A little challenging but i was able to cross it. And about a few miles ahead, theres another washout, but luckily there is a bypass.

The second washout. Few miles after the first one.

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Jr Sanchez
Jr Sanchez
26 mag 2022
Risposta a

Oh yeah, i did not explain it well hehe. Yah, i backed track the trail and took Highway 36 to next section.

You'll see this on the trail on first section. A fun short jeep section trail. Not technical but steep. I drove down and went back up the same way.

Here is the bypass for the second washout on Mt Shasta section.

Top two photos are on the top of State Mt. The last quarter mile of trail up here is a little narrow and lots of overhanging tree branches and overgrown bushes. So expect some scratches on you rig. Nice 360 views on top.

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Jr Sanchez
Jr Sanchez
23 mag 2022

I was there yesterday. Followed the map too. I did see two boulders. Somebody kinda made a bypass thru the bushes to the left. So i just followed it. 😅

But i remembered seeing another trail closer to the lake that was blocked by boulders too.

The pics i posted was probably a 1/4 mile away before the Lake.

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Jr Sanchez
Jr Sanchez
24 mag 2022
Risposta a

According to the map i highlighted blue, there should be another way. But i never bothered to check since i wanted some 4wd action hehe.

I camped where i marked Yellow dot, overlooking the lake on top of rocks since there where like 6 or 7 rigs there already on the good spots. And i hiked a little bit to check the other trails. And remembered seeing two boulders again where i marked Green on map.

On the map where i marked Purple is where the easy access to side of lake. From where im camped, there is a hard technical trail going down the lake, very rocky like rock crawling stuff.

Maybe if you stack rocks the subaru might…

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Got a question. This weekend I tried to reach it from Lake Siskiyou area, was following your route. Everything went well till I reached location marked red on a map, it’s actually a pretty nice camp site (lots of trash though). But there was no trail that goes to the lake from there (blue trail). And no fork that is shown on the map, trail just goes north and becomes really narrow. So I was able to reach location marked blue and decided to turn around and go back to the camp because it was already almost sunset. Next morning hiked on foot around the camp and saw no signs of other trails except for one that was blocked …

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