Brought to you by Discover Siskiyou
California’s Siskiyou County is the perfect place to visit for every type of outdoor adventurer. Waterfalls? Check. Volcanos? Check. Alpine lakes? Check. Caves? Check. Historic petroglyphs? Check. There’s simply something for everyone.
When visiting California’s Far North, it may seem difficult to choose exactly which adventure you’d like to experience. Of course, there’s something for everyone in the Siskiyou wilderness, especially for bikers, fishermen, wildlife enthusiasts, history buffs or waterfall chasers. But hiking may be the greatest activity you can do in the region and we have the list to prove it.
Here are 10 quintessential hikes for your next trip to Siskiyou County:
We don’t take the designation of “Best View in NorCal” lightly. Northern California is full of beautiful destinations, and Mount Shasta’s Heart Lake may just take the cake.
Sitting just above Castle Lake is a small lake that packs a major punch. The 2.4-mile roundtrip hike takes you up the mountain to get views of Black Butte, Mt. Shasta and the south side of Castle Crags. It’s a popular place for photographers and hikers in the summer, and if you’re willing to trek through the snow, you’ll find unparalleled views in the winter.
Sitting in McCloud, California is one of the most spectacular hikes in all of the West Coast, with a 3.5 roundtrip jaunt bringing you to three waterfalls, all of which are unique in their own right. The McCloud Waterfalls Trail sits about 15 minutes off Interstate 5 near Mount Shasta and will take you to Lower, Upper and Middle McCloud Falls.
The waterfalls are big and beautiful, allowing hikers to stop for a swim or even catch one of the world-famous trout of the McCloud River. For our money, this could be the most magnificent hike in all of NorCal.
The evidence of Mount Shasta’s volcanic history can be see up front and personal at Pluto’s Cave, a 190,000 year old lava tube. The cave is full of big skylights allowing hikers to descend underground without a flashlight and offer some stunning lighting for any photographer.
Pluto’s Cave is actually comprised of several caves, due to the original lava tube collapsing in parts. It now resembles three smaller caves that are easily accessible. The first cave is dusty, and smells faintly musty, no doubt due to the water seeping through the cavern roof. The second tube has a collapse that forms a hole in the roof, allowing for light to pour into the relative darkness. This is a popular location for photographers, as it bathes a subject in a cone of light or can be used to shoot photos of the night sky through.
Combining history and nature, the Ney Springs Canyon Trail near Siskiyou Lake in Mount Shasta City is an easy hike through the 19th century ruins of Ney Springs Resort with a waterfall payoff. With the length of the trail being only 1.2 miles at a low-elevation, this is an easy hike that can be done any time of the year.
A little over 3/4 of the way up the trail, you will find the old ruins of the Ney Springs Resort, a popular destination for local tourists in the 1800’s. From there on continue approximately 0.25 miles down the trail to gain access to Faery Falls. Depending on water flows, you will find a lively 40-ft cataract with a great vantage point.
If you’ve ever visited downtown Mt. Shasta, you’ve likely enjoyed the delicious restaurants, unique crystal stores and quaint coffee shops. But sitting right next to the downtown area is one of the most pristine meadows in all of NorCal hidden in plain sight.
Sisson Meadow is a 7.5 acre gem that offers a relaxing stroll with gorgeous views of Mt. Shasta, the Eddy Mountains and Black Butte. There’s an elevated boardwalk to make the hike more blissful and benches throughout the area to sit down and take in the beauty. While in the meadow, you’ll likely encounter calm hikers drinking coffee, walking their dog or meditating.
To gain access to the Sisson Meadow trail, start by finding Mt. Shasta Ace Hardware at 328 North Mt Shasta Blvd. From there, you’ll walk a few blocks toward Mt. Shasta, and you’ll find the trail. For specific directions, check out the Siskiyou Land Trust’s Sisson Meadow visitors guide here.
Hedge Creek Falls
The glorious Hedge Creek Falls cascades in front of the passage to a 12-foot-high cave, making it one of the most unique experiences in NorCal. The narrow waterfall hardly obscures the not-so-secret cave meaning that you won’t stumble upon any masked heroes on your trip to the feature. Still, the trip the Hedge Creek Falls is well worth the drive the Dunsmuir, CA. Along with the waterfall, visitors can take in incredible views of the Sacramento River and Mt. Shasta from the Hedge Creek Falls Trail.
As you begin, the path starts to descend moderately, and you pass a tiny creek. As the grade of the canyon gets steeper, you begin to go down via a number of switchbacks until you’ll start to hear flowing and falling water. Before you know it, you’re at Hedge Creek Falls. At this point, the trail continues behind the waterfall providing an intimate feel for hikers. Somedays, you can spot rock climbers attempting to ascend the igneous rock wall that reaches 30-35 feet to the source of the cascade.
Mount Shasta Summit
The mighty Mount Shasta is the most coveted peak in all of Northern California. This grueling adventure up to the 14,000 foot peak made Outside Magazine’s “6 Iconic Hikes” list and has been highlighted by outdoor thought leaders like Colombia’s Directors of Toughness.
The difficulty of summiting this mountain is highly documented. From the lack of oxygen near the top to the dreaded stretch appropriately named Misery Hill, many people who attempt to summit Shasta turn back around before the top. There is also a high amount of injuries reported on this mountain every year. This is not a hike to take lightly.
For frequenters of northbound I-5 in NorCal, imposing Black Butte is nearly as iconic as its next-door-neighbor Mt. Shasta. Characterized as a “cluster of overlapping dacite lava domes in a butte”, the feature is more or less a 6,334-foot pile of rock.
From a distance, it may seem that summiting the steeply rising butte requires at least climbing gear if not a death wish. Surprisingly, however, a 2.5-mile moderate trail takes hikers to its apex. Atop Black Butte, hikers can take in stunning views of landmarks in NorCal and Southern Oregon including Mt. Shasta, Lassen Peak, Crater Peak, Burney Mountain, Mt. Eddy and many more.
Lake Siskiyou Loop
The 7-mile hike around Lake Siskiyou is one of the most picturesque experiences in NorCal. The multi-use trail crosses three bridges to circumnavigate the beautiful lake with views of Mount Shasta and the surrounding mountains. The trail goes through the Lake Siskiyou Resort with access to the popular beach on the lake, as well as a convenient stop at the restaurant on the shore.
The Wagon Creek Bridge is a feature onto itself, providing a fun centerpiece for any photography. Along the trail are views of woodlands, meadows and the lake with Mt. Shasta and surrounding mountains in the background. It’s also a great place to ride your bike or swim on hot summer days.
Petroglyph Point – Lava Beds National Monument
In the Lava Beds National Monument sits a wall of stone with petroglyphs that are dated as far back as 6,000 years old. The Petroglyph Point rock wall near the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge in the northeastern corner of Northern California sits as an ancient history book of NorCal.
Petroglyph Point is an easy hike in the Lava Beds National Monument, a little under a mile, and can give you some great insight into the ancient history of NorCal. This very short trail begins on the east side of the Petroglyph Point just beyond the bulletin board on the dirt road. The trailhead parking lot is on top of a short rise across from the trail entrance. Hike to the top to enjoy an impressive view of the basin and the Medicine Lake volcano.
Have fun on your Siskiyou hike! Want some tips from the locals? Learn how to Hike like a Local in California’s Far North.