Spending a night or two in the Panther Meadows campground at the base of Mt. Shasta gives a whole new meaning to the term “camping under the stars”. This campground is rich in history as well as beauty. Located near the timberline of Mt. Shasta at 7,500 feet, it offers 15 developed campsites that include fire rings, picnic tables, and a vault toilet that serves the entire campground. There is no potable water in the area, so you’ll need to bring your own. However, there is a natural spring that flows through the meadow. You can collect and sterilize this water if needed.
Last summer my girlfriend Laura and I spent the night at Panther Meadows for the first time. We arrived in the early afternoon and were lucky to get one of only three available sites. The campground is absolutely beautiful. Although most of the area is pretty sparse, the campground is nestled into a grove of trees that offer some shade and shelter. There are many beautiful things to see here. The campground is literally at the base of Mt. Shasta, offering majestic views of the mountain. The meadow (lower) itself is home to some really interesting tree and flower species.
There are two hiking trails that lead out of the campground. There is a short trail to the Upper Meadows and to Gray Butte. I have hiked Gray Butte on a previous occasion and it is a great trail for a day hike. Once at the top of Gray Butte you get a 360 degree view of the Northern Sacramento Valley, Mt. Lassen, Trinity Alps, and Mt. Shasta. You can also access trails that lead to the summit of Mt. Shasta a short driving distance from the campground.
After a day of hiking and exploring the mountain, it’s nice to come back to camp, start a fire, have some dinner, and wait for the light show in the sky to begin. Of course this depends on whether or not the skies are clear. Laura and I got extremely lucky the night we were here. There were no clouds and the moon was pretty much non-existent. That night I set my camera up on a tripod, attached my ultra-wide angle lens, and pointed it skyward. The night sky was a canvas of bright stars and the milky way rising to the southwest. I captured a ton of beautiful astrophotography shots that night. My favorite photo from that night is below:
If you are looking for a place near Mt. Shasta to camp with your family, a friend, or even solo, I highly recommend Panther Meadows Campground. With trails to explore and many beautiful sights, it offers something for everyone. The campground typically opens around the 1st of July (depending on snow levels) and closes on November 1st. There is no fee to camp here and pets are welcome too. For more information please click HERE.
From the Mt. Shasta Ranger Station, head east on Alma Street (towards the mountain). Cross the railroad tracks and turn right at the signal onto Mt. Shasta Blvd. Continue two blocks to the next signal at Lake Street and turn left. Stay on Lake Street. You will climb a hill and veer to the left. You are now on Everett Memorial Highway. Stay on this road through the four way stop, past the school (on the right) and over the railroad tracks. You will leave town and begin driving up the mountain. In 12 miles, you will arrive at Bunny Flat Trailhead. Continue another 1.7 miles past Bunny Flat and you will see a sign on your right for Panther Meadows Campground. Turn right into the unpaved parking lot. The campsites are a short walk from the parking area.