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California Mountain Views
Five Days in the Northern Golden State Peaks
Enjoy this five-day tour of northwestern California's mountainous landscapes and scenic overlooks, from the Lassen Volcanic National Park, Lava Beds National Monument, and Mount Shasta.
Day 1: Redding
Visit Shasta State Historic Park, three miles west on 299, site of the historic old mining town of Shasta. Pierson B. Reading, who had worked with John Sutter, discovered gold here in 1848. By 1852, nearly $2.5 million of gold was shipped out of the town and it had become the major trading center in northern California. By 1857, it began to be by-passed by other roads and the stagecoach line leading to its demise. There is an old general store, courthouse, and one of the oldest Masonic Lodges in the state that has been restored.
Further west on 299, is Whiskeytown Lake, part of the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, (530) 246-1225, great for boating and water sports. A memorial to John F. Kennedy, who dedicated the dam just prior to his death, is on the south shore.
At Weaverville, north of CA 299 and 3 junction, visit the Jake Jackson Memorial Museum-Trinity County Historical Park, (530) 623-5211, with memorabilia from the gold-mining past, Native American artifacts and Chinese immigrant exhibits. The Joss House State Historic Park, (530) 623-5284, is the oldest, continuously used Taoist temple in California. Built in late 1800s.
Back in Redding, the Carter House Natural Science Museum, (530) 243-5457, 1710 Rio Drive in Caldwell Park, provides nature, science and animal displays from the area. At the same location is the Redding Museum of Art & History with Native American artifacts and exhibits of local and national artist. For all of the attractions north of Redding, see Day 5 of the tour. Spend the evening in Redding.
Day 2: Burney Falls
Depart on 299 east to 89 then north to McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park for a short hike to the awesome 129-foot Burney Falls. Back on 89 go south to Lassen Volcanic National Park, (530) 595-4444, boiling lakes, bubbling mud pots and hot springs. The 10,457 ft. Mt. Lassen Peak is the dominant formation in the park, and is considered an active volcano. It last erupted between 1914 to 1921. The park has 50 wilderness lakes, with self-guided tours, hiking trails and cross-country skiing in the winter.
Continue south on 89 to 36, then east on the Lassen Scenic Byway through the central portion of the Lassen National Forest past Lake Almanor, (530) 258-2426, near Chester, through Westwood to Susanville. The Bizz Johnson Trail runs for 31 miles along a historic railroad grade between the two towns and is used for hiking, horseback riding, and in the winter for cross-country skiing.
Day 3: Susanville
The earliest residents of the area were the Washo and Paiute Indians. Issac Roop, from Shasta, became the first white settler in Honey Lake Valley (Susanville) when he arrived in 1853 and built a hotel to serve the travelers on the Noble Emigrant Trail. A year later, Peter Lassen arrived and in 1855 struck gold. The area was so remote the settlers formed their own government and territory, calling it the Territory of Nataqua. It included portions of Nevada.
Roop took on the county, state (Nevada), and federal government in a short-lived “Sagebrush War.” He called his cabin Fort Defiance. After a few shots were exchanged between Roop and the county sheriff, it was over. Boundary lines were redrawn making Roop’s territory part of Lassen County. He named the town after his daughter. The Roop’s Fort/William H. Pratt Memorial Museum, (530) 257-4323, has artifacts from the area’s early days.
Check out the old Railroad Depot on Richmond Road and the Lassen Historical Museum, (530) 257-2151, on North Weatherfowl Street. Eagle Lake, California’s second largest natural lake, is north of town. Depart on US 395 north to Alturas for the night.
Northwest of Likely at Infernal Caverns is where a band of Shoshonis, Paiutes and Pit River Indians fought one of the more famous battles with California pioneers in 1867. Look for pronghorn antelope, deer and waterfowl as you pass through Modoc National Wildlife Refuge.
Day 4: Alturas
Alturas was originally known as Dorris Bridge, named after the first white settler, Presley Dorris, who built a bridge over a creek east of town. His house and the wooden bridge are still in place. Visit the turn-of-the-century jailhouse at the Modoc County Museum, (530) 233-2944, 600 S. Main. It also has historical artifacts from the area. Three of the more infamous emigrant trails passed near here: Applegate, Noble and Lassen Cutoff. In 1865 the Army established Ft. Bidwell about 45 miles northeast of Alturas on the northern end of dry Upper Alkali Lake to protect the settlers and travelers from the neighboring tribes.
A marker identifies the site, which is part of the Ft. Bidwell Indian Reservation. Follow 299 west to Canby and take 139 northwest through the Modoc National Forest to the Lava Beds National Monument Road 10. Take it west as it loops through the Monument and rejoins 139 south of Tulelake. The Visitors Center is open during the summer months with maps, history and interpretive materials on the monument. It is part of over 50,000 acres of volcanic rocks, caves, lava tubes and cinder cones from a group of volcanoes that erupted in the Klamath Basin thousands of years ago.
The Modoc Wars, took place here in 1873. The battle was the last ditch effort of the Modoc tribe to save their homeland from invaders “from the East” and resist being placed on the Klamath Reservation with their traditional enemies, the Klamath and Snake tribes. Outside the northern entrance of the monument are caves and cliffs with some of the oldest and most impressive pictographs and petroglyphs, Indian rock art, to be found in the country. Near Newell, where 10 rejoins 139, is a California historical marker identifying the site of the Tulelake Relocation Center, one of ten such centers in the country where U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry were incarcerated during World War II. Tulelake National Wildlife Refuge is west of the highway as you go north. Continue into Klamath Falls, Oregon and take US 97 south to Weed on I-5 and to Mount Shasta for the evening.
Day 5: Mount Shasta
The Mount Shasta Ski Area, (530) 926-8610, offers 32 downhill ski runs with a mountain topping out at 14,162 feet, making it one of the tallest in country. Five glaciers grace the snow-covered mountainsides. According to Indian legend, the Great Spirit resides at the summit where the hot springs bubble. Also Nordic skiing is available, (530) 926-8600. Excellent hiking trails in the summer, (530) 926-4511, makes the location an all-season attraction.
Visit the Sisson Fish Hatchery built in 1888 and until 1979, the largest rainbow trout hatchery in the world. The original building is now a fishing museum worth seeing. Self-guided tours of site. Follow I-5 south for Dunsmuir and enjoy visiting this picturesque railroad town. At the Dunsmuir Museum, you will see railroad memorabilia from the area. Continue on I-5 for six miles to Castle Crags State Park, (530) 235-2684. Here crags, formed more than 225 million years ago from volcanic activity, reach heights of 6,000 feet.
Battle Rock is the highest of the crags and was the site of another conflict between the Modocs and early settlers. A historical marker at the head of the trail tells some of the story. There are numerous hiking trails in the park overlooking the Sacramento River. Entrance to Shasta Dam and Lake Shasta is 45 miles south of Castle Crags on I-5 where it connects with Shasta Dam Boulevard. The Visitors Center is seven miles west at Shasta Lake City (530) 275-1554.
The dam is the second largest and highest concrete structure in the country, three times higher than Niagara Falls and has 365 miles of shoreline. This beautiful scenic Lake covers 29,500 acres, is part of the Central Valley Project and is incredible for water sports and fishing. Allow time for a 2-hour excursion to Lake Shasta Caverns, (530) 238-2341. Take the O’Brien/Shasta Caverns exit off I-5, 15 miles north of Redding for the Caverns’ headquarters chalet. Visitors are ferried across the McCloud arm of the lake to the caverns. Guided tours every hour on the hour in summer, three tours daily in winter. Return to I-5 south for Redding.