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If you’ve never heard of McCloud, a onetime lumber town with around 1,100 residents in Northern California’s Shasta Cascade region, you’re not alone. A good three-and-a-half hours from Sacramento and nearly 300 miles northeast of San Francisco, McCloud isn’t on the radar of many travelers—even though it’s only 15 minutes off Interstate 5.

But outdoor travel writer Ann Marie Brown absolutely adores this Siskiyou County town for its history and natural beauty. And on the most recent California Now Podcast she shares tips on how best to experience both McCloud’s past and its modern-day attractions.

In the Shadow of Mount Shasta

Rising to 14,180, the great volcanic cone of Mount Shasta is visible from every street in McCloud, says Brown. But the mountain is more than a backdrop. “It really is the heart and soul of McCloud,” she says.

As an introduction to the world of Mount Shasta, she recommends driving up the mountain on a road that nearly reaches the summit and leads to spectacular views along the way. “It’s a land of crystal-clear water, deep, dense forests, and so much beauty. Just driving up there is a treat, even if you never set foot on a trail,” says Brown.

A Lumber Legacy

For more than a century, McCloud was a lumber town until the last mill shut down in 2002. “But even though the mill closed, these wonderful old historic buildings are still there, and they’ve been turned into great hotels, restaurants, and places you’d want to visit.”

As a first stop, Brown recommends the McCloud Mercantile, the old lumber company store building that now houses a host of businesses, including the McCloud Mercantile Hotel. “It’s a wonderful place to spend the night,” she says, “with king beds, feather comforters, and big high ceilings. “The hotel is historic but also very modern because it has been renovated.”

She also likes the McCloud Hotel, which was built in 1916 as housing for lumber workers. “It’s a fantastic place to stay and really get a feeling for what McCloud used to be like.” You won’t go hungry in McCloud, not with fine dining at the McCloud Hotel’s Sage Restaurant, which Brown recommends as the place to go for a special dinner. She also likes the Siskiyou Brew Works for its craft beers and pizza but an even more casual spot, Floyd’s Frosty, is a special favorite. “Every now and then," Brown says, "you just want to have a root beer freeze, right?”

Four Seasons of Outdoor Adventure

With hiking and fly-fishing at the Nature Conservancy’s McCloud River Preserve and winter fun along the slopes of the old-school Mt. Shasta Ski Park near town, there’s no off-season for lovers of the outdoors. Brown especially loves visiting the three waterfalls along the McCloud River, which she says are accessible via an easy trail. “If you’re staying in McCloud, the waterfalls are must,” she says. “They’re all completely different and a way to get a taste for how beautiful this region is.”