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Heart Lake Hike

Heart Lake is a small heart-shaped alpine lake perched in the mountain above Castle Lake. The short one-mile hike to reach the lake is almost as beautiful as the lake itself. Hikers are treated to alpine vistas and stellar views of Mount Shasta as they climb nearly 700 feet in less than one-mile. When you reach the lake, dip your toes into the water and take in the views to the south, as the lake’s infinity pool-like edge seems to drop into the base of Mount Shasta.

This popular hike isn’t signed very well and the lake can be an adventure to find. Download my GPS tracks from CalTopo in case you get lost or need some help navigating to the lake.

The view of Mount Shasta from Heart Lake rewards hikers for their efforts

Heart Lake Hiking Guide

Pick up the trail behind the information board at the Castle Lake parking area. There aren’t any trail markers, but from the parking area the trail passes the boat ramp and briefly skirts the shore of Castle Lake before crossing a small creek and heading uphill. (The creek outlet crossing is only 30 yards from the beginning of the trail.)

At the start of the uphill section you’ll see a private property sign. While Heart Lake isn’t private property, I believe that Little Castle Lake (which can also be accessed via this trail) is private property and parts of this trail may technically be private property. I don’t know of people being ticketed on this trail, but hike at your own risk.

As you climb uphill Castle Lake will be on your right. The trail is steep and can be slippery in some places. As the trail climbs, the trees will thin and you’ll get great views of Castle Lake. After about a half-mile the trail seems to end at a rocky outcropping. Head to the right here and follow a rocky drainage up the mountain. If you are here in the early summer the mountain will be green and covered in wildflowers.

Follow the creek bed as it curves to the right and crests the ridge. You’ll see Heart Lake from the top of the ridge. Follow the trail a short distance to drop down to the lake.

This small lake can get crowded. To reduce your impact and to help keep the area pristine please pack out all of your trash and toilet paper.

Best Time to Hike to Heart Lake

If you want to see the lake when it isn’t covered in snow you’ll want to complete this hike in the summer or early-Fall. But, the road to Castle Lake is plowed year-round, so with some good route-finding skills this is a great snowshoe hike in the winter and spring.

Views of Castle Lake from the Heart Lake trail.

Getting to the Trailhead

Take the Central Mt. Shasta exit. Turn left and then go south on South Old Stage Road. Veer right onto W.A. Barr Road and drive 2.6 miles. After crossing the dam, Castle Lake Road will be on the left. Follow the paved road for 7.1 miles and arrive at the parking area.

The Trailhead

The trailhead is located behind the information board at the end of Castle Lake Road.

The Route

Pick-up the trail behind the information board at the road's end. Follow the trail for about 30 yards before crossing a creek and heading uphill. As you climb uphill Castle Lake will be on your right. After about a half-mile the trail ends, head to the right and take the rocky drainage up the mountain.

Other Details

Trail Safety

Like all outdoor pursuits, hiking can be dangerous. It is up to you to assess your fitness level and education yourself about any potential dangers. While I try to regularly update these hiking guides, you should always research trail conditions before heading out.

Being prepared means arriving at the trailhead with water and some basic provisions. Each and every time I hit the trail I bring a backpack with more water than I think I need, a small first aid kit, and a snack. I also share my itinerary and plans with friends or family and I carry an InReach so I can summon help if needed. If you want to know what I carry in my pack during day hikes check out my blog post about essential gear for day hikers.

Stay safe, enjoy the trail, and soak up the magic of nature!

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