A hiker takes in the view from the trail up Goosenest Mountain in Siskiyou County, California. [Photo by Lee Juillerat]

Goosebumps on Goosenest Mountain

It must have been one honking gigantic goose.

Goosenest Mountain, easily visible while traveling on Highway 97 between Dorris and Weed, California, got its name from an imaginative person who thought the summit looks like a giant goose nest.

That's not the only time that's happened. Another Goose Nest mountain is located in the northern end of the Sky Lakes Wilderness, just a few miles northeast of another mountain named Goose Egg.

To borrow a sports term, we came up goose eggs looking for any evidence of geese or eggs on Goosenest Mountain. But after scrambling to Goosenest's summit crater, we poached expansive 360-degree, sunny-side-up views that were what we'd hoped.

Goosenest Mountain is the remains of a Cascades Range shield volcano with a massive cinder cone. Because the highest point along the crater summit is 8,271 feet, the views are expansive. The mountain towers upward of 5,000 feet above Butte, Shasta and other neighboring valleys. And because it's only about 20 air miles from Mount Shasta, there are frequent eye-popping views of that snowcapped volcano along the trail and from the summit area.

The trail is relatively short, less than two miles one-way, but almost always uphill, gaining about 1,150 feet in elevation. From the trailhead, it immediately climbs through an old-growth forest, quickly zigzagging around some switchbacks before continuing its mostly westerly path. Although the views of Mount Shasta dazzle, openings also revealed what I later learned is Willow Creek Mountain, along with the valleys far below.

The switchbacks resumed — we counted 10 in all — as the sometimes roly-poly trail continued its climb through forests that include red fir, white pine, hemlock and, in looser cinder near the summit crater, whitebark pines.

At a junction marked by a post without a sign, the trail forked right, easing its way up and around the cinder summit. Along with more and more sightings of Mount Shasta and more distant peaks, we peeked into the crater's massive, heavily timbered interior.

Goosenest doesn't have a genuine peak but, instead, a highpoint along the summit ridge. And from that perch and other openings came surprise sightings — Hamaker Mountain, The Whaleback, Deer Mountain, Black Butte, Castle Crags, Siskiyou Mountains, Trinity Alps, Red Buttes, Mount Eddy, the Klamath River, Pilot Rock, Mount McLoughlin and more.

Instead of doubling back, we continued looping around the summit crater, occasionally following a faint trail, other times just finding a logical route along the rim before eventually returning to the wooden post with the missing sign.

On our way down, about a half-mile from the summit junction, we detoured at a level area that looks like it may sometimes be used as a camp, scrambling through stiff manzanita bushes and boulder-hopping to a rocky overlook. Along with yet another dazzling view of Shasta, the perch showcases the huge lava flow that spilled over Goosenest's western flanks.

Counting our detours and crater loop option, our total hiking distance was less than 4.5 miles. A short but challenging trek, the Goosenest Trail is rewarding for its frequent, captivating, panoramic views, and the sights are good enough to give you goose bumps.

— Reach freelance writer Lee Juillerat at 337lee337@charter.net or 541-880-4139.

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