Nestled in the northeastern corner of California, you’ll discover Shasta Cascade’s Lake Almanor, one of the Golden State’s best-kept secrets. The large man-made lake with 52 miles of coastline has something for everyone—including family-friendly activities and picture-perfect mountain vistas from practically every vantage point.
“The average reaction when people first come here is probably a little bit of awe,” says Todd Geer, owner of Plumas Pine Resort, about the remote reservoir, which is located three hours north of Sacramento. It was completed by Great Western Power in 1927 and named for the three daughters of a company executive: Alice, Martha, and Eleanor.
Play a round of golf among towering pines, encounter black-tailed deer munching on breakfast during a sunrise hike, coast over the reservoir’s glassy waters on a Jet Ski, or soak in the sunset’s fiery aspen glow over Lassen Peak, an active volcano that measures 10,457 feet.
It’s this volcano—and all of neighboring Lassen Volcanic National Park—that helps makes the Lake Almanor region so unique.
“It’s a really interesting place geologically speaking,” says National Park Ranger Kevin Sweeney. “All four types of volcanoes found in the world are found here at Lassen. You’ll drive past these volcanic mud pots, these steaming vents without even having to leave your car.”
But you’ll sure want to leave your car to see the park in its full glory. Bubbling magma, steaming lakes, black lava beds, lava tubes almost one-third of a mile long—the incredible landscape is a result of a series of eruptions that began roughly 100 years ago, propelling a 12-mile-long mud flow through the surrounding areas and transforming the land into much of what it is today. There are more than 150 miles of hiking and biking trails with names like Devil’s Kitchen and Bumpass Hell. (The story goes that in 1864, explorer Kendall Bumpass lost his leg after stumbling into one of the trail’s boiling mud springs.)
Though an average annual snowfall of 55 feet makes much of Lassen inaccessible during the winter months, some trails are still open for snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and skiing.
It’s all the beauty of Yosemite National Park but with fewer people, given its under-the-radar status. In fact, only about 400,000 people visit Lassen each year, compared with Yosemite’s four million.
“What’s so fabulous about this place is it’s extra tranquil,” says Laurie Baker, general manager of Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association. It has, she adds, “a special calm.”