Soaring to 14,179 feet/4,322 meters high, this magnificent volcano scrapes the turquoise-blue sky, north of Redding, a totem from almost anywhere in the northern part of the state. And while some mountains climb gradually, this one rises from surrounding flatlands in such perfect, cone-shaped, snow-capped majesty that it seems almost unreal—the perfect projection of a child’s fantasy of what a mountain should be.
"Yet this is no childish vision—it’s a very real, very big volcano (last erupted in 1786) that is on the bucket list of serious mountaineers."
(Famed naturalist John Muir wrote that his “blood turned to wine” when he first caught sight of the Fuji-esque peak.) Summiting the mountain is for the hardiest of climbers; ask about guide services at The Fifth Season outdoor store in the town of Mt. Shasta, a New Age-y enclave on the mountain’s west side. (Get the town’s vibe at The Crystal Room , a prism-filled visual feast.)
Fortunately, you don’t have to bag the peak to enjoy this alpine paradise. Easy paths loop through wildflower-filled meadows and into cool forests. One of the prettiest trails, a mellow two-mile path along the McCloud River on the mountains south, leads to a trio of waterfalls—all beautiful, though Middle Falls is the real head-turner. There’s camping, caverns, and world-class fly-fishing too. Most winters, there’s skiing too, at low-key and local Mt. Shasta Ski Park, on the mountain’s western slope.
California’s north-east 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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