Covering 50,000 square miles, the massive Shasta Cascade region is one of the most expansive and wildly beautiful areas in the Golden State. Natural wonders like glassy lakes, verdant forests, and snow-capped peaks are only part of the fun. California’s northeasterly corner is filled with unexpected hidden gems, from sustainable breweries to sock-hop-style diners imported from 2,600 miles away. Explore it all on this road trip from Tahoe City to Mount Shasta.
Kick off your trip at Lake Tahoe
Tahoe City, nestled between Lake Tahoe’s north shore and the head of the Truckee River, is the perfect jumping off spot for your Shasta Cascade road trip. As the largest alpine lake in North America, Lake Tahoe will give you a taste of the natural grandeur to come. Before you leave town, make sure to dip your toes in at Commons Beach and take a short trek along the Tahoe Rim Trail, which extends an astonishing 170 miles point-to-point.
Time travel in Truckee
Trade crystal-clear waters for evergreen forests as you follow the Truckee River all the way to town. Truckee, a railroad community-turned-skiing hotspot, still retains its Old Western charm. Stop in the Old Jail Museum for a tour of the longest-continuously run jail in California which once held notorious troublemakers like Baby Face Nelson and Ma Spinelli. For lunch, hop a few decades forward at Jax at the Tracks. This authentic 1940s diner was shipped all the way from Philadelphia by an enterprising restaurateur. The Americana-meets-Cali fare includes chorizo breakfast burritos and southern-fried steak and eggs.
Say so long to Truckee and veer west on Interstate 80, stopping for a quick splash at Indian Springs, where the south fork of the Yuba River forms natural swimming holes. Towel off and continue west to Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico. Long before craft beer was cool, Sierra Nevada was growing its own hops for pitch-perfect pale ale. After a tour of the estate, belly up for a tasting. Stay for dinner at the Taproom, where wood-fired pizza dough is made from fresh brewer’s yeast, before tucking into your four-poster bed at Hotel James.
Paddle out at Lake Almanor
The next morning, enjoy two hours of wide-open mountain driving along State Route 32. You’ll notice the Douglas firs grow increasingly taller as you make your way north to Lake Almanor. Along the lake’s southern tip, you’ll spot signs for Lake Almanor Kayak. Choose your vessel—standup paddle boards, as well as single and tandem kayaks are available for rent—before enjoying the pristine water and views of snow-capped Lassen Peak.
Explore hidden caverns
Continue toward your trip’s North Star, the massive Mount Shasta, which looms like a beacon. On the way, don’t miss Lake Shasta Caverns. This National Natural Landmark in Lakehead is a must-see. Getting there via catamaran, switchback bus ride, and vista-filled short hike is half the fun, but the caverns are the real showstopper. Explore the 250-million-year-old limestone caves filled with stalagmites, flowstone, and soda straws as you wind your way through tight tunnels and well-lit rooms.
Hike around Mt. Shasta
Less than an hour later, you’ll reach your final stop. From the crystal shops that line the city of Mt. Shasta‘s main drag to the beckoning trails, this town is all about the mystical draw of its 14,180-foot-tall mountain. Featuring an on-property spa, golf course, and restaurant, Mount Shasta Resort is the perfect spot to enjoy some pampering after a few days on the road. Check in before driving toward the mountain itself, which remains an active volcano to this day. In summer months, head to the Mt. Shasta Wilderness to hike along wildflower-dotted fields with mind-bending vistas. In winter, enjoy the 80 inches of annual snowfall, which makes for plenty of powder days.
California’s northeast corner is an outdoor-lover’s paradise, with safe-to-explore volcanoes, hushed forests, and trout-filled rivers. This is the place for blue-ribbon fishing, houseboats anchored in cool lakes, countless campgrounds, and inviting trails for hiking and mountain biking.
"When I first caught sight of it I was weary and 50 miles away and afoot. Yet all my blood turned to wine, and I have not been weary since.” --Author John Muir, upon seeing Mount Shasta in 1874.
All this, plus friendly towns like Chico and Chester, and inviting rural farms in fertile lands near the Upper Sacramento River. Redding, the region’s largest city, makes a good base, with riverfront trails, Turtle Bay Exploration Park, and elegant Sundial Bridge, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.
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