While most people think of the Bay Area as Northern California, Siskiyou County is California’s true north. Five hours from San Francisco, it borders Oregon. And with 4,322-metre Mount Shasta and other snowcapped peaks in the Cascade Range rising over its historic small towns, this is where California merges with the Pacific Northwest.
For anyone who loves the outdoors, Siskiyou County is a year-round paradise. Winters are especially enticing, considering Mount Shasta gets an average of 2 metres of snow each year. Easily accessible from Interstate 5 and the city of Mt Shasta, the Mt. Shasta Nordic Center lets you cross-country ski through silent forests (and get a terrific workout), offering a dozen groomed routes to glide along). The county boasts over 400 acres of skiable terrain on 32 runs, and offers night skiing, two terrain parks, snow tubing and off-piste skiing. Unique to Mount Shasta, there are even guided snowshoe meditation tours, for those interested in exploring the mountain’s spiritual side.
In the summer, the snow retreats to the higher elevations, and you can explore the slopes of Mount Shasta on routes such as the easy Panther Meadow Loop—a great spot for wildflowers. Or go caving at Lava Beds National Monument, where the Cave Loop leads to a range of subterranean adventures, from easy walks to crawls through low, narrow lava tubes.
With its lakes and rivers, Siskiyou County is also a haven for water sports. Beneath the towering turrets of Castle Crags State Park, fish for rainbow and brook trout at Castle Lake, a short six-mile drive from Dunsmuir. Head out on easy floating trips in the western part of the county along the Klamath River, or get your heart pumping while rafting or kayaking the white water on the Trinity River.
Spring and autumn are the best times to witness the remarkable flocks of migrating waterfowl at Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, where nearly two million birds pass through in some years. Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge is another birding hotspot. Come here between November and April to observe more than 500 bald eagles, or marvel at North America’s largest concentration of snow geese in spring.
As wild as much of Siskiyou County may be (this is California’s fifth largest county by area but has fewer than 45,000 residents), it has a more civilised side too. The city of Mt Shasta makes a perfect base for your explorations. Native Americans considered the surrounding area to be sacred, and seekers from around the world come to the town for guided outings to vortices and spiritual sites. You’ll also find inventive farm-to-table dining at Lily’s and more than 160 teas, including many rare varieties, at Sereni-Tea.
Originally a mining camp and now the county’s biggest town, Yreka (say it 'wy-ree-ka') is home to the West Miner Street Historic District, where buildings dating to the 1850s have earned this area a prestigious designation as a national historic district. For more history, the Siskiyou County Museum tells the region’s story with exhibitions about gold mining, trapping and Native American cultures.
Agritourism is also becoming an increasingly popular industry, and Siskiyou is proud to offer a few unique travel opportunities. Belcampo Farms offer an amazing educational and culinary experience with 'Meat Camps', where visitors learn to cut, barbecue, serve and marinade meat, mix farm cocktails and enjoy fireside chats in the company of fellow meat lovers. The camp is all-inclusive with accommodation provided in luxury glamping tents on the Belcampo Farms grounds.
Similarly, at Five Marys Farms, visitors can 'glamp' on the ranch in well-equipped tents and get their hands dirty while learning all about life on a livestock farm, including cast-iron cooking and basic butchery skills.
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 river front trails, Turtle Bay Exploration Park and elegant Sundial Bridge, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.
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