CA – Ash Creek Butte and Surprise Lake (07/16)

I’m proud to be a Cherry Picker (a hiker who prefers the best of the best) and an opportunist (just say YES). Pretty hard to say NO after I’d seen Steve’s photos and been invited by the man himself, the one who’d done the hard work of figuring out how to access and successfully summit this special place.

Ash Creek Butte is a rock glacier. According to the USFS page, “Ash Creek Butte Fossil Rock Glacier Geologic Area occupies a 300 acre site. The remains of an ancient rock glacier sits in a north–facing glacially carved bowl, or “cirque”. A rock glacier is a tongue–like or lobate body, usually of angular boulders, that resembles a small glacier, generally occurs in high mountainous terrain. Ash Creek Butte is an 8,378 foot peak situated on the boundary of Klamath and Shasta–Trinity National Forests.”

Step 1 – Find Ash Creek Butte and Surprise Lake on your map (near Mt Shasta), then study the USFS and logging roads, plus topo lines to figure out the best route.

Step 2- Using your topography map, compass and skills, start hiking.

If you are successful, you might find Surprise Lake with Ash Creek Butte not only looming large in the background but also reflected in the lake’s mirrored surface. The peak on the right is the high point of the butte (8,378) and our destination.

On this date in early July, there were still patches of snow. Steve remarked how much had melted since his visit a week earlier.

It’s worth taking a slight detour to climb to the ridge above the lake before skirting to the right and then heading up the ridge (glacial rim). We found paths mostly devoid of the lava type rock. As we neared the rim we found some cairns to guide us the rest of the way.

We were granted nice open views of the east side of Mt Shasta as we began our climb. 

You know you’re in the vicinity when you find the first geologic marker. 

White bark pine trees were a welcome sight. 

The skies were a bit hazy on this day due to the Pony Fire (near Happy Camp). After my recent discoveries of sandstone hoodoos, I’ve been intrigued to also find them in glacial areas. 

Looking down the tongue of the glacial flow and up at the rim, our path of choice.

There were a few patches of these flowers, Sacramento Waxy Dogbane. 

Also saw a few blooming and post-bloom Dr. Seuss flowers (aka Pasqueflower aka Anemone). 

Mt Shasta in the background, the glacial rim we’d hiked up in the foreground, with additional buttes to the right including The Whaleback (8,528′). Surprise Lake is on the right, toward the lower middle of the photo, just in front of the cloud shadow.

The summit survey marker looks like it was originally surveyed in 1931 with this marker placed in 1946 (but I could be misinterpreting). 

More hoodoos and a look down at Surprise Lake. 

Hoodooville, a village of many colors. 

The tongue of the glacial flow. 

How’s this for a chair with a view?

If you are into geocaching, there is one at the summit. 

My friend Steve celebrating his success. Special thanks again for the invite!

Rockhounds would love this place. 

A good reminder, there is NO trail. This is a hike that requires navigation and technical hiking skills. 

Goodbye Surprise Lake and Ash Creek Butte. 

Date(s) Hiked: July 3, 2016

Jan’s Tips:

  • It’s always a good idea to check road condition status. You can stop at the McCloud Ranger Station, 530-964-2184.
  • This was about a 6-mile round trip hike with 2,000′ elevation gain/loss.


General Info:


2 thoughts on “CA – Ash Creek Butte and Surprise Lake (07/16)

  1. So much to like here Jan! such an awwwwesome hike. The mirrored view of the lake, the survey marker that wasn’t beat to heck by man, the Dr. Seuss flower! ❤ ❤

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