Brought to you by Discover Siskiyou
For nearly the entirety of 2020, many people were stuck inside as we sheltered in place during the Covid pandemic. Now that places are reopening in 2021, it’s time to live your best life and find adventurous ways to get into the great outdoors. Look no further than California’s Far North – Siskiyou County.
The outdoor utopia that is Siskiyou County might pack the most adventure in one area on the entire West Coast. From massive volcanoes to pristine waterways and everything in between, there’s so much to see in the region. Luckily for you, just one trip to Siskiyou can yield plenty of bucket list destinations.
Here are 21 destinations or outdoor adventurers to visit in Siskiyou County in 2021 (and beyond):
Technically, this could count as three separate adventures, since McCloud Falls offers visitors three distinct waterfalls in one short hike. But since there’s so many great places to visit in Siskiyou, we’ll leave it at one destination.
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.
As you head just north of Mount Shasta, there’s a fantastic lake that offers limitless outdoor activities and unparalleled views. You’ve probably seen photos of Lake Siskiyou with Mount Shasta hovering in the background and it’s a view you’ll never tire of when visiting in person.
In the winter, you can find a desolate experience at the lake, where you can hike around to find Shasta views or maybe even bike the Lake Siskiyou Loop. In the summer, there are opportunities for motor boating, windsurfing, sun bathing, fishing, pedal boating, rock climbing, paddle boarding and of course, swimming. The resort offers inexpensive rentals of canoes, life jackets, double and single kayaks and paddleboards, so there’s no need buy or lug expensive equipment out to the resort. Also, fishing remains a popular activity on the lake where anglers can lure rainbow and brown trout as well as bass.
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 just outside Mount Shasta at 5,440 feet elevation is lake surrounded by the mountains of the Shasta Trinity National Forest. Visiting the lake can be a vastly different experience depending on the season, but the views remain consistently beautiful.
Castle Lake is one of the hidden gems of the Mt. Shasta region, with most locals driving past Lake Siskiyou and finding open space at the high-alpine beauty. In the summer, you’ll find plenty of kayakers, paddle boarders and fishermen enjoying the sunshine on the water. In the winter when the lake freezes, you can walk all the way out to the middle, most likely passing the many holes for ice fishing along the way. Whenever you visit, you’re bound to be amazed.
Upper Sacramento River
The Sacramento River is one of the staple tributaries of Northern California, bursting out of the ground at the base of Mount Shasta and running all the way down into the San Francisco Bay. While most of the river is calm, the upper stretches prove to be one of the great rafting spots in NorCal.
The water on the Upper Sac is perfect in the early summer and springtime, giving rafters continuous Class III rapids as they make their way through the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, with views of Mount Shasta and Castle Crags. You’re also guaranteed to see some spectacular wildlife as well as some big fish while you’re floating on one of California’s best fisheries.
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.
Hedge Creek Falls
Similar to hideout entrances seen in Batman movies and the Legend of Zorro, Hedge Creek Falls cascades in front of the passage to a 12-foot-high cave. 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.
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.
When discussing whitewater in Siskiyou, most people will immediately point to the Klamath River. In fact, it may be the favorite river for rafting enthusiasts on the entire West Coast.
The Wild and Scenic Klamath River is the second largest river in California and features more than 180 miles of premier whitewater rafting. To see all of the rapids, you’ll have to endure a 2 to 3 day trip, camping along the way. The trip includes over 30 rapids ranging from Class III to IV+, including two rapids each over a football field long.
The Klamath River begins in Southern Oregon and moves down into NorCal through the rugged Siskiyou Mountains. The upper section begins near Ashland, Oregon and ends all the way down into California at Copco Lake. The lower section begins in Happy Camp and is one of the most well-loved trips for families with small children. The remote stretch of the “Lower K” is full of wildlife and even includes a side hike to Ukonom Falls. Watch out for Bigfoot, since this is where legends place his origins.
Marble Mountain Wilderness
Although relatively unknown, the Marble Mountain Wilderness in the Klamath National Forest is one of the most sprawling and desolate outdoor areas in all of NorCal. Craggy peaks, abundant meadows, large streams, and a whopping 89 lakes highlight this wild and pleasant area.
This particular wilderness area is designated for the truly adventurous. There are no shelters, picnic tables, facilities, or other conveniences, but there are incredible rock formations filled in the spring and summer months with wildflowers such as Western columbines, butterfly sunflowers and checkerblooms. It’s also home to a famous Bigfoot sighting.
Now that you’re nice and rested, you can head up to the mighty Mount Shasta to get an up close view and maybe do some hiking in the summer or backcountry skiing in the winter.
Near the end of the Everitt Memorial Highway sits Bunny Flat, known to many as the gateway to the Mount Shasta wilderness. A convenient parking lot can give you access to the popular ski areas on the mountain like Avalanche Gulch, or head up the way to popular hiking areas like Panther Meadows.
There are so many wilderness areas at you disposal from Bunny Flat. Here’s where you can find it:
Pacific Crest Trail
The Pacific Crest Trail was one of two trails named to the national system of recreation and scenic trails when the National Trails System Act was passed in 1968. Theoretically it allows hikers to hoof it all the way from Mexico to Canada, a distance of 2,699 miles. People do it every year.
The PCT in Siskiyou County is considered one of the more rigorous sections of the entire trail with some big elevation gains and drops, and long distances between access points. At least water is readily available, unlike the Hat Creek Rim in Shasta County.
From where the PCT crosses I-5 on Soda Creek Road in Dunsmuir, the trail climbs through Castle Crags State Park and into the Trinity Alps Wilderness. A lot of hikers are surprised to learn that the PCT is not exactly a north-south trail. Generally it is, yet from I-5 it meanders quite a bit to the west before swinging north again in the wilderness below Callahan.
Mt Shasta Ski Park
Probably the most popular winter activity near Redding is to go for a ride down the slopes of Mt. Shasta Ski Park. Just over an hour drive from Redding, the locally owned ski resort is a great place for the whole family during the wintertime. Whether you want to ski a black diamond, go tubing down the mountain or just relax with a hot chocolate in the lodge, this really is the best place for a winter adventure in the area.
The ski resorts boasts three main ski lifts with 425 acres of skiable terrain across 1,435 vertical feet. There’s also a bunny slope for the newbies and tubing for the kiddos. For the adventurous skiers or snowboarders, there are three terrain parks (depending on conditions) for the beginner, intermediate and advanced riders. Heck, you can also stay in a slopeside cabin and ride all the backcountry your heart desires!
Lava Beds National Monument
Sitting in the the tippy-top of Northern California is one of the most beautiful, historical parks in all of California. Combining geology with history and just good ol’ fashioned outdoor beauty, this rugged terrain is one of NorCal’s most fascinating and underrated outdoor destinations.
The Lava Beds National Monument is a land of turmoil, both geologic and historic. Over the last half-million years, volcanic eruptions have created a rugged landscape dotted with diverse volcanic features. Lava tube caves, Native American sites, historic battlefields and a high desert wilderness experience highlight an adventurous trip to the park.
Living Memorial Sculpture
The Living Memorial Sculpture Garden is an exceptional 136-acre art installation and war memorial along Highway 97 on the Goosenest Ranger District of the Klamath National Forest. Created in 1988 by a dedicated group of veterans, the site is now maintained under an agreement with the USDA Forest Service.
Under the shadow of Mount Shasta, you can reflect on the beauty of the area and the sacrifice of veterans by viewing the Hot LZ Memorial Wall, labyrinth and ten sculptures by veteran and artist Dennis Smith.
Tule Lake & Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges
As you drive west through Siskiyou County, you can stop at one of the premiere birding destinations on the West Coast. Tule Lake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges are something of a bird Mecca and make for a quick road trip stop to see some breathtaking wildlife.
Just below the Oregon state line near Newell, Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge has a lot of open water and leased crop lands, attracting primarily water birds. Within the refuge is a 12-mile (paved and unpaved) all-season road kept open to wildlife viewing all year long. There are also two hiking trails for viewing wildlife eyeball to eyeball, the Sheepy Ridge Trail and the Discovery Marsh Trail.
As you continue to head west, a stop at America’s very first designated National Wildlife Refuge is on the itinerary. The Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge was established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 and a National Historic Landmark in 1965. The Klamath has about 3,100 acres of wetland habitat, making it a great spot for finding waterfowl in the winter. The area’s 8,000 acres of upland habitat also makes it a great spot to find birds like the Western Tanager in the spring.
As you head down into the Mount Shasta, you’re going to need a place to stay right? Look no further than LOGE Camps, Mount Shasta’s brand-new hotel built specifically for outdoor adventurers. When you enter the hotel rooms, you’re greeted with bike and ski racks, Yeti coolers and a hammock going across the room.
Nestled right in downtown Mount Shasta, this hotel will give you all the accommodations you need for your outdoor adventure and provide you with comfort and entertainment at the end of the day. It may just be the most unique hotel around!
The California Salmon River, otherwise known as the Cal Salmon, is no doubt one of Northern California’s best kept secrets. Located in a remote wilderness area just south of the Marble Mountains, the Cal Salmon runs through deep canyon walls creating legendary Class IV and V rapids throughout three forks of the river. The river is free flowing and is usually best rafted in the spring, but you can also do it in the winter.
The Cal Salmon isn’t close to anything, almost guaranteeing you’ll have the entire place to yourself throughout the day. It is a prime destination for expert kayakers, including the world-famous Rush Sturges, who grew up in nearby Forks of Salmon.
While the rapids are enough to make this run entirely worth the long haul into the NorCal wilderness, the scenery is no doubt the icing on the cake. Frequent wildlife sightings of black bear, deer, and many species of birds, found amidst a dense, lush forest, and snow covered mountains.
Headwaters of the Sacramento River
The Sacramento River is one of the most important water resources on the entire West Coast. You’ve most likely seen the beauty of the large river throughout Northern California, but one of the most spectacular views can be found where it’s just a tiny creek gushing out of the ground in Mount Shasta.
Located in Mt. Shasta City Park, the headwaters of the Sacramento River are a popular destination for spiritual enthusiasts and outdoor lovers looking to see nature in action. The water of the famed Big Spring aquifer comes from snow that has fallen on the slopes of Mount Shasta and although it’s not treated in any way, it’s considered safe to drink after filtering through the volcanic rock of the mountain for 50 years. Watch as locals and fill up their water jugs from the springs and ponder the natural process of the water, which becomes a crucial waterway throughout different areas of NorCal.
Here is the location of the park:
Mt Shasta Fish Hatchery
You may have past it while driving to Lake Siskiyou in Mount Shasta. There’s a small sign announcing the Mt. Shasta Fish Hatchery along the popular roadway, although many people have no idea that it’s the oldest operating fish hatchery west of the Mississippi.
During the spring months, visitors to the hatchery can see over 3 million baby trout swimming in the waters of the operation. The visit is especially pleasant on a sunny day, where you can relax on the shady picnic tables with a view of Mount Shasta.
After the fish have grown large, they are moved to the large outdoor ponds where fish food dispensers are readily available to get the fish moving excitedly. This is a fun adventure for everyone, especially kids.
Have fun on your outdoor adventure in Siskiyou County! For more information on things to do and places to stay, go to DiscoverSiskiyou.com.
Northern California’s Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine