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Rich Reid/Getty Images

The Lost Sierra

The Lost Sierra
Hike, paddle, and swim in the spectacular Lakes Basin and the Sierra Buttes

You’ve heard all about the Sierra Nevada stars like Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, and Mammoth Lakes. But do you know about the Sierra Buttes? If not, you’re not alone. This alpine wonderland of 8,500 foot peaks, nicknamed "the Lost Sierra" and dotted with turquoise lakes, is decidedly untrammeled. Much of the area lies within the federally protected Lakes Basin Recreation Area, an under the radar gem dotted with 50 plus glacially carved lakes. For sweeping vistas of the lakes and surprisingly rugged peaks, follow 24 Kilometre long Gold Lake Highway, which meets State Highway 89 about an hour north of Truckee.

Gold Lake, the biggest of the lakes, has a public boat launch and rental boats. Swim, fish, or waterski in the morning, then sail or windsurf when the afternoon breezes pick up. At sunset, relax with cocktails at Sardine Lake Resort. Cabins and lodges line the shores of several lakes; alas, they’re usually booked months in advance by families who have been coming for generations. For a luxe option, check out Nakoma Golf Resort, about a half hour north, near Clio. Got your tent? Choose from a dozen drive-in campgrounds, including perfect-for-family sites at Sardine Lake, Salmon Creek, and Lakes Basin campgrounds.

Once you resolve your creature comforts, let your rugged side roam free. Kids love to romp along the easy trails to Upper Sardine Lake or Frazier Falls, while more intrepid hikers conquer the Lakes Basin’s obligatory challenge: the 178 steps to the Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout. It’s a roughly five mile round-trip hike to the tower’s base, then test your vertigo tolerance as you climb, climb, climb to its deck. If the ascent didn’t make you dizzy, the 360 degree view will. The panorama includes 10,457 foot (often snow-capped) Lassen Peak and the turquoise Sardine Lakes, sparkling 2,000 feet below.

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Kodiak Greenwood

Northern California

Discover Shasta Cascade

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14
April
Average (°C)
Mar - May
26°
High
6°
Low
June - Aug
36°
High
16°
Low
Sept - Nov
32°
High
5°
Low
Dec - Feb
15°
High
2°
Low

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.

Joshua Tree National Park
Thomas H. Story/ Sunset Publishing

Travel Alerts

Check out the latest California Wildfire & Travel Conditions

Are there currently wildfires in California?

Recent critical wildfires in California are fully contained and pose no...

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Lassen Volcanic National Park is the only place on Earth where all four types of volcano can be seen.
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Mt. Shasta by Kodiak Greenwood

Trip 4-6 days 10 stops

Volcanoes to the Sea

Booming Waterfalls, Craft Breweries
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Begin your trip in the centre of the state, home to the capital city of Sacramento. Like many cities, California’s state capitol is undergoing an energetic renaissance. Young adults looking for an urban vibe are moving into this low-key city, with microbreweries, gastropubs, and trendy boutiques...

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After so much wildness for so much of your trip, Eureka is an inviting and lively switch. This once rough-and-tumble seaport town, the largest coastal city between San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, has split-personality charm: a sense of history in the handsomely restored, Victorian-era Old...

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Kodiak Greenwood

Burney Falls

Visit a booming cascade nicknamed the “eighth wonder of the world”

One of the most spectacular waterfalls in the state—if not the continent—this 129-foot-tall, fern-draped cascade seems to come out of nowhere....

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Kodiak Greenwood

Shasta Lake

Rent a houseboat to explore the state’s largest reservoir

There’s plenty of room to move on this 30,000-acre/12,140-hectare reservoir, the largest in California. A typical summer day finds the crystal...

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Shasta Dam contains enough concrete to build a 3-foot sidewalk around the world at the equator.
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Kodiak Greenwood

Sundial Bridge

Stroll a futuristic bridge across the Sacramento River

A functional work of art, the remarkable bridge, designed by renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, spans the tree-lined, trout-filled...

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Redding's Sundial Bridge is the largest sundial in the world.
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Kodiak Greenwood

Tehama Trail

Visit farms and farm stands along the Sacramento River

Established by local farmers, the Tehama Trail meanders through rural communities, linking together nearly two dozen vineyards, orchards, and...

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Kodiak Greenwood

Mount Shasta

Experience wildflower meadows, year-round snowfields, and a New-Age-y vibe

Soaring to 14,179 feet/4,322 metres high, this magnificent volcano scrapes the turquoise-blue sky, north of Redding, a totem from almost anywhere...

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Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

Flyfishing

Cast a fly in blue-ribbon waters

Between the volcanic summits of Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen flow some of California’s most celebrated flyfishing rivers. Blue-ribbon waters lace the...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Kid-friendly fun zones, special kids' menus & amazing wine for the grownups

Sure wine country is romantic, but now it’s a surprisingly great destination for families too, with a growing number of vineyards trading in elegant tasting rooms for kid-friendly fun zones that...

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John/ Flickr
Going to the mountains is going home.
John Muir
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Oroville Temple

Oroville

Find a Far East gem in this Gold Rush era town

Located on the banks of the Feather River where it flows out of the Sierra Nevada into the Central Valley flatlands, this Gold Rush town...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Kids get an inside look at wildlife, space, and more

From cool ways for your kids to learn about wildlife, to an insider’s look at a space station, to a chance to walk through a rainforest or learn about the night sky, there’s a bumper...

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Peter Alfred Hess/Flickr
Lava Beds National Monument
Cyril Fluck/Flickr

Lava Beds National Monument

Descend into eerie and historic lava tube caves

A surreal landscape sculpted by molten earth, Lava Beds National Monument contains volcanic tablelands punctuated by cinder cones, pit craters,...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Lava, geysers & naturally heated hot springs

From the snow-capped heights of Mount Shasta in California’s far north to Amboy Crater in the Mojave Desert, signs of California’s volcanic past—and present—dot the landscape. Explore these...

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Lassen Peak by Grant Montgomery/Flickr
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Lava Beds National Monument was a training ground for astronauts heading to the moon.