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Shasta Cascade region, California

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Did You Know … ?

  • Redding’s Sundial Bridge is the world’s largest sundial and tells time correctly only on June 21.
  • The largest population (500-plus) of bald eagles in the lower 48 winters at Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
  • In 1941, northern Californians and southern Oregonians tried to create a U.S. state called Jefferson; Pearl Harbor intervened.
  • Astronauts heading to the moon used Lava Beds National Monument for training.
  • Shasta Lake has more houseboats than any other body of water in the world.

On the Ring of Fire

The Shasta Cascade region encompasses most of California’s northernmost counties and accounts for about 25% of the state, but 3% of the population.

The mountainous area was home to several Native American groups, claims to be the true home of Paul Bunyan the woodsman and saw its own mid-19th century gold rush — facts that translate into related museums, festivals and other features of interest to visitors. Food and wine produced at local ranches, farms and wineries offer another layer of diversions.

However, the Shasta Cascade region attracts more allegiance for its outdoors appeal and its uncrowded spaces. It seems made for those interested in a scenic drive and a quiet float on a houseboat or whitewater rafting and a shot at climbing a volcano.

A huge portion of the region is accounted for by state and national parks, wilderness areas, wildlife refuges, forests and recreation areas. Shasta Cascade also boasts numerous recreational lakes, some manmade because of dam construction; forest-covered mountains; rushing rivers good for fishing and rafting, and waterfalls stunning to look at.

The mountains stand out most, literally, beginning with the area’s tallest, Mount Shasta (14,179 feet), a dormant volcano that appears to rise straight from the land, unconnected to other topographical features though it is part of the Cascade Range. It’s such a stunner that those who don’t want to climb it instead want to camp within view of it or circle it on foot or in a car, and to take photos.

Lassen Peak, considered an active volcano (last erupted in a 1914-1917 series), is at the southern end of the Cascades and the centerpiece of the 106,000-acre Lassen Peak National Park. In addition, the park’s hydrothermal features include boiling pools, roiling mud pots, hissing fumaroles (steam and gas vents) and steaming ground. Farther north, the Lava Bed National Monument counts some 778 lava tube caves, obviously, the place for cavers.

Quite a lot of the Shasta Cascade is about volcanoes. The Cascades are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, a string of volcanoes encircling the Pacific. The Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway lets visitors build an itinerary around the phenomenon.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Go wakeboarding or waterskiing on Shasta Lake.
  • Taking note of National Park Service guidelines and regulations, go caving among lava tube caves at the Lava Beds National Monument. More than 20 of the 778 caves have been developed for exploration. Look at Native American rock art while on site.
  • Go whitewater rafting, or kayaking, on the Klamath, Salmon or Scott River.
  • Camp in Lassen Volcanic National Park (June to September) at any of eight campgrounds, some quite rustic. There are scores of other camping options, too, such as among the region’s six national forests, at Lava Beds National Monument, near lakes and in the Mount Shasta area.
  • Climb an active volcano, the 10,457-foot Lassen Peak, last active about a century ago. Or, if you are a hardy mountaineer — and ambitious, climb the 14,179-foot Mount Shasta, which last erupted in 1786.
  • Take care in the swiftly flowing waters while fly-fishing for wild trout in the Fall and Pit rivers or in Hat Creek.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Attend the Redding Rancheria’s Stillwater Pow Wow in autumn. While in town, look for the Wintu cedar bark house, a version of a teepee, at the Turtle Bay Exploration Park — and make your way to the Sundial Bridge, too!
  • Take to skis or the snowboard at Mount Shasta Ski Park.
  • Attend the Dark Sky Festival, a three-day event in late summer, at Lassen Volcanic National Park, or attend a ranger-led astronomy program offered other days throughout the summer. Other events may suit your schedule or inclinations better, such as the springtime Red Bluff Round-Up Rodeo or the Oroville Salmon Festival in autumn. At the latter, see a Maidu Indian salmon ceremony and dancing.
  • At the Wild Horse Sanctuary in Shingletown, join a weekend trail ride to see wild horses.
  • Build a trip around some or all the 500-mile Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway All American Road, which takes you from volcano to volcano in Northern California and Oregon. It’s the longest, but there are other very scenic routes, too.
  • Hold your nose at Bumpass Hell, 16 acres of boiling springs and mud pots, steam vents and fumaroles, a fitting attraction in a volcanic landscape at Lassen Volcanic National Park. Further annoy your nose at Sulphur Works, a former mining operation now inside the park.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Go to Paradise (the town) to see the Gold Nugget Museum for insights into 19th century mining life. Here’s another museum idea, about another way of life: the Weed Historic Lumber Town Museum in a town called Weed.
  • Buy olives of all sorts at Corning, dubbed America’s olive capital. If you really like those sour balls, come for the summer Corning Olive Festival for olive tastings, plus bed races, lawnmower races and some other, more sensible pastimes.
  • Give yourself a self-guided walking tour among the Victorians in Yreka, or among the Victorians and adobes in Red Bluff.
  • Drive the Tehama Trail, visiting any or all of nearly two dozen orchards, vineyards, ranches and other meat producers. Maybe, add the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico; sign up for a behind-the-scenes exploration of the brewery (limited to five persons).
  • Rent a houseboat at Lake Oroville, Shasta Lake or Trinity Lake, and spend your vacation floating and touring from your base.
  • Look for bald eagles in Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge. There are lots of them in January and February.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association at