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Volcanoes to the Sea

Heading north from Sacramento, this trip includes stops at two California classics—Lassen Volcanic National Park and Mount Shasta.

Start:Sacramento
End:Eureka
5 - 7Days,10Stops,492Miles
Sacramento
River North Photography/Getty Images
Milk Money
Vesna Jovanovic/Getty Images
Sierra Nevada Brewery
Drew Kelly
Tehama Trail
Kodiak Greenwood
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Peter Hagenouw/Getty Images
Drakesbad Guest Ranch
Jouni Välkki/Getty Images
McArthur Burney Falls Memorial State Park
Skylar Santeo/Getty Images
Mount Shasta
Michael Schober/Getty Images
Shasta Lake
Geri Lavrov/Getty Images
Eureka
Lord Runar/Getty Images
Stop 1

Sacramento

1215 19th St, Sacramento

California’s state capital is undergoing an energetic renaissance. Young adults looking for an urban vibe are moving into this low-key city, with micro breweries, gastropubs and trendy boutiques popping up to serve them. Award-winning chefs are gaining attention for their focus on hyper-local ingredients, and relationships between restaurants and surrounding farms and ranches have become not a novelty, but the norm. Hot summer days create some of the nicest evenings anywhere in the state, where locals sit on porches in elegant Victorian era homes, and children scamper in leafy parks until the sun goes down.

As the state capital, there is plenty going on, and gatherings of various colourful groups around the cupola topped Capitol are common. Museums are centred largely around the Capitol Mall area and in historic Old Sacramento, the renovated area along the Sacramento River that was a core hub during the Gold Rush. Getting to all these different locations is easy, and traffic jams are fleeting. Granted the gold award for cycle friendliness by the League of American Bicyclists, Sacramento is also a great place to explore by bike, with wide designated lanes and paved paths along the American and Sacramento Rivers. There is also a convenient light rail system linking popular sites around town.

SPOTLIGHT

Milk Money

1715 R St suite 100, Sacramento

Venture to Sacramento's Midtown for a bite to eat at one of the area’s hippest restaurants Milk Money, be sure to try the vanilla brioche doughnut.

Stop 3

Sierra Nevada Brewery

1075 E 20th St, Chico

The leafy city of Chico makes for an inviting destination. It’s home to a state university and where there are students, there is likely beer—in this case, very good beer.

Get a taste for where California’s current craft beer craze began with a visit to Sierra Nevada Brewing's extensive tasting room/restaurant/brewery complex. Take a self-guided tour, or join a guided one—offerings include a sustainability tour showcasing California’s largest privately owned solar installation, and an in-depth exploration of the brewery’s inner workings. Cool off with a frosty pint in the trellis-shaded Taproom & Restaurant. Sierra Nevada Brewing has been the catalyst for other small batch breweries to open in the area. Stop by the Handle Bar for a great selection of craft beers on tap.

Stop 4

Tehama Trail

250 Antelope Blvd., Red Bluff

Continuing north from Chico, discover a surprisingly abundant region near the leafy and cool Sacramento River. Rich soil and plenty of water make this fertile area a prime place for farms and ranches, and many invite visitors to come by to buy fresh produce, artisanal olive oils, and other local food products.

Established by local farmers, the Tehama Trail meanders through rural communities, linking together nearly two dozen vineyards, orchards, and grass fed beef ranchers and other speciality meat producers. Though you can hop onto the route at any point, the driving tour technically begins in Corning, a town that has been linked with olives for generations. Stop in at the iconic Olive Pit for samples of traditional black and green olives, or try more exotic options, such as herb and garlic cheese stuffed Sicilian olives. Head over to the sleek and shiny tasting room at Lucero Olive Oil to sample artisanal olive oils and vinegars and shop for classy gifts.

Continue along the Tehama Trail to sample and buy heirloom tomatoes, juicy peaches and plums, and freshly picked berries, as well as fresh pies and honeys. Swing by New Clairvaux Vineyard in tiny Vina, just south of Redding, where Trappist monks (yes, monks) invite you to sample their Barbera, Pinot Grigio and other varietals in a large tasting room on the monastery grounds. 

Your road trip now swings east and north to take in some of California’s most amazing and wild regions. First up, a visit to a remarkable, ultra family friendly guest ranch near the south entrance to Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Stop 5

Lassen Volcanic National Park

21800 Lassen Peak Hwy, Mineral

Steaming sulphur vents, splattering mud pots and boiling springs, these lively features at Lassen Volcanic National Park prove that our planet is a living entity. Start at the outstanding Kohm Ya-mah-nee Visitor Center, then head out to explore some of the park’s remarkable and safely accessible features, such as the geothermal site Bumpass Hell (open seasonally, check website for details). An easy, well-marked trail travels past roaring fumaroles and hissing vents (the 3-mile round trip is worth the effort). Along the way, a short spur trail leads to a stunning panorama of peaks, actually the remnants of a massive volcano called Mount Tehama, which exploded some 500,000 years ago. The park’s signature volcano Lassen Peak, last blew its top in May 1914. Today, things have settled down, and trails and viewing points let you safely see and learn about volcanic activity. In the park’s southern reaches, you’ll find two easy-to-reach waterfalls: 50-foot/15-metre-high Kings Creek Falls which can be accessed by a downhill walk through a verdant meadow and then a descent down a rocky staircase alongside Kings Creek. Mill Creek Falls plunges 75 feet/23 metres over a moss-covered cliff (to see it, walk 1.5 miles from Southwest Campground).

SPOTLIGHT

Drakesbad Guest Ranch

14423 Chester Warner Valley Rd, Chester

Drakesbad Guest Ranch is located at the south entrance of Lassen Volcanic National Park. This 1900-built hotel offers cosy rooms with nice extras, including massage services, guided trail rides, a welcoming restaurant and a hot-springs pool.

Stop 7

McArthur Burney Falls Memorial State Park

24898 Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, Burney

Burney Falls, the 129-foot/39-metre-tall, fern-draped cascade, 60 miles north-east of Redding in McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the western US. It’s no wonder 26th President Teddy Roosevelt dubbed it 'the eighth wonder of the world'.

As you approach the main viewpoint, you’ll have to raise your voices to talk (or be happy in silence)—the broad wall of water faces you head on—splashing down the fern-covered face, tossing spurts and shards of rainbows left and right before finally plunging into a clear pool.

Continue down the path to the pool, where you are likely to look but only briefly touch: the water never goes much above 42°F/5°C. Fishermen don’t seem to mind; the big pool at the base and Burney Creek above and below the cascade, are popular for catch and release fly fishing.

Stop 8

Mount Shasta

Mt Shasta

If skies are clear, this perennially snowcapped peak will dominate your view, a behemoth rising from the flat valley floor, topping out at a staggering 14,179 feet/4,322 metres high. While some mountains climb gradually, this one rises from surrounding flatlands in such perfect, cone-shaped majesty that it seems unreal. (Famed naturalist John Muir wrote 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 shop in the town of Mt Shasta, on the mountain’s western side.

You don’t have to bag the peak to enjoy this alpine paradise. Easy paths loop through wild flower filled meadows and into cool forests. A mellow two mile path, along the McCloud River on the mountain’s south side, leads to a trio of beautiful waterfalls—though Middle Falls stands out. You can camp, explore caverns, and fly fish too. In most winters, there’s skiing at local Mt Shasta Ski Park, on the mountain’s western slope.

Stop 9

Shasta Lake

16349 Shasta Dam Blvd, Shasta Lake

Spend the day exploring California’s largest reservoir. A typical summer day finds the crystal blue waters sprinkled with fishing boats, jet skis, inner tubes, almost anything that floats. Nearly 370 miles/595 kilometres of shoreline wrap around coves ideal for dropping anchor in to cast for bass, crappie, catfish and sturgeon.

Plan an overnight (or longer) stay on a deluxe houseboat. Rental boats range from basic models with comfortable accommodation to multi-tiered, floating palaces, with whirlpool spas, gourmet kitchens and master suites with flat screen TVs.

Other worthwhile stops around the lake include a free tour of the 602-foot Shasta Dam, the second largest concrete dam in the country. Prepare for your visit by listening to 'This Land is Your Land', Woody Guthrie’s ode to America, which he wrote while helping to build the dam’s arch barrier. Or take a guided tour of Lake Shasta Caverns, a fascinating underground world 250 million years in the making—only accessible by boat (boat ride included with tour).

Stop 10

Eureka

240 E Street, Eureka

Eureka is an inviting North Coast town, the largest coastal city between San Francisco and Portland. Start your visit on the waterfront, where a pretty esplanade provides nice views of the harbour and adjacent Humboldt Bay. Explore the small maritime museum, then board the MV Madaket, a cosy ferry that has been plying the bay since 1910, for a 75-minute guided cruise. In the Victorian-era Old Town district, see the hundreds of ornate 19th-century homes, such as the Carson Mansion, a paragon of Queen Anne architecture that now houses a private club at the end of Second Street, or head to the Eureka Visitors Center, where you can sample local wines, beers and oysters; ask for recommendations for nearby galleries, gift shops and restaurants; and book guided tours and adventures.

Eureka also has the distinction of being the southern gateway to the collection of reserves known as Redwood National & State Historic Parks, a World Heritage Site and one of the most unforgettable settings in California.

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Road Trip Snapshot

Find out more about the amazing locations featured in this road trip. Ready to plan your trip? Print the itinerary or map your adventure to get started.

Stop 1Sacramento
1215 19th St, Sacramento
Stop 3Sierra Nevada Brewery
1075 E 20th St, Chico
Stop 4Tehama Trail
250 Antelope Blvd., Red Bluff
Stop 5Lassen Volcanic National Park
21800 Lassen Peak Hwy, Mineral
Stop 7McArthur Burney Falls Memorial State Park
24898 Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, Burney
Stop 8Mount Shasta
Mt Shasta
Stop 9Shasta Lake
16349 Shasta Dam Blvd, Shasta Lake
Stop 10Eureka
240 E Street, Eureka

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