By Ross Lawrence
An expected forty-five minute road trip to Lake Siskiyou had turned into an hour-and-a-half, and hyped up on coffee and Mountain Dew, I was eager get out of our beat up, brown Ford Explorer and stretch my legs. As scenic as the ride had been through rolling hills covered in ponderosa pines, the snail’s pace of the logging truck in front of us and my caffeine-addled mind was beginning to question whether our trip would even be worth it.
A few turns on back roads lined with old growth trees and puny streams later, we finally arrived at Lake Siskiyou Resort & Camp. With the car still moving somewhat, I hopped out – immediately noticing the rejuvenating freshness of the air. The familiar smell of the pine trees that surrounded us and masked the hot sun above harkened me back to my days at sleep away summer camp. After reveling in the fact that we had completed our journey (and that I could finally use the bathroom), I headed straight to the beach. Passing the bar and beach volleyball court, and emerging from underneath the trees, I stood there, shocked by the incredible beauty in front of me.
There it was – the clearest blue water I’d ever seen, trails and tall trees lining the shore, kids and adults joyfully playing on the beach and in the water, crowned by the majestic, snow-topped Mount Shasta.
Though not exactly a world traveler, I have had the opportunity to stay at a hotel overlooking the Himalayas in India and I once visited the beautiful Lake District in England. However, I would say the unadulterated splendor of Lake Siskiyou compares pretty well with both places. Looking out from the beach, Mount Shasta seems so close that you can touch it (making you realize why the water in Lake Siskiyou is so darn clear). Despite there being cars, RVs, campers, a bar, an arcade, and quite a few people in the central area of the resort, walk a couple hundred yards in any direction, and you’re all by yourself basking in the glory of a relatively undisturbed natural setting.
There is a wealth of interesting plants and wildlife on display at Lake Siskiyou. Ponderosa Pines cover much of the area around the lake, but additionally, one can observe Douglas firs, Incense Cedars, Big Leaf Maple trees and Black Oaks. While walking around the lake, I also noticed a bunch of little pink flowers adding some color and character to the trails, which I later discovered were California Wild Roses – a plant unique to California and Oregon. Furthermore, relaxing on the beach you will likely see ducks, Cooper’s Hawks and even Bald Eagles nesting, foraging and soaring across the deep blue sky. Lake Siskiyou serves as a great people-watching locale as well. A positive atmosphere charms the area, and it makes you smile just to see others enjoying their environment.
While I could probably write several articles describing every detail of the lake and its backdrop, I mustn’t forget to mention all the great activities available close by. In terms of the actual lake, there are opportunities for motor boating, windsurfing, sun bathing (although don’t forget your sunscreen), 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. During my visit, I enjoyed watching people climb the large inflatable climbing wall in the middle of the lake where I watched one kid knocking others off in a version of “king of the hill,” only to reach the top and hilariously fall all the way back down into the lake.
Lake Siskiyou Resort’s large camping area and affordably priced campsites and amenities make it a great place for a weekend getaway or a family vacation. Tent sites are only $20 per night. A full RV hook up is only $29 daily, you can rent small or big cabins for less than $200 a night. The resort also offers spacious three-bedroom mobile homes for rent at $250 per day. Because of its size and the endless list of things to do, Lake Siskiyou should be experienced over the course of a couple days. Camping is a terrific way to properly explore the area.
To get a better feel for the area, there is a seven-mile trail that goes all the way around the lake. Completed in 2010 after the installation of the $2.8 million modern Wagon Creek Bridge, Lake Siskiyou trail crosses over several small streams and meadows and connects with other trails including the Box Canyon Dam Trail. On a journey through Box Canyon Dam trail, you will enjoy great views of the dam in a 200-ft deep gorge with towering cliffs on either side as well as the Sacramento River which forms Lake Siskiyou. If you’re interested in spending the whole day hiking, you can find other, longer (and more difficult) trails that take you to close by national forest lands where backpacking, horseback riding and off-roading opportunities are available.
If the trails and lake don’t offer enough diversion, a beautiful 6,035-yard 18-hole golf course sits mere minutes from Lake Siskiyou Resort along with adjacent tennis courts and upscale chalets available for rent. Also, at the end of a long day, it was nice to be able to go to either of the bars nestled nearby the beach to take in the day’s experiences over an ice-cold frothy pint.
They say, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey,” but I couldn’t help thinking that my trip to Lake Siskiyou was about the destination. Then I realized that Lake Siskiyou is a journey in itself considering that you could spend days, scratch that…weeks exploring the area, and still not see or do everything.
With my body beginning to flag after a long day at the lake, and a caffeine crash slowly immobilizing me, I carried myself back to the car knowing all too well that I’d have to wait patiently for another chance to investigate this North State marvel.
Northern California’s Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine