California’s northeast corner is an outdoor paradise with sparkling rivers and lakes, wonderful waterfalls, massive volcanoes, and hushed forests. It is a place for water sports, horseback riding, quiet campgrounds, and inviting hiking trails. Redding, the region’s largest city, makes a good starting point with Sundial Bridge and Turtle Bay Exploration Park. Shasta Lake, with it’s endless water sports, is a good warm-up. Lassen Volcanic National Park, the only place on Earth where all four types of volcano can be seen, is a great base and Drakesbad Guest Ranch is the piece de resistance. Check out our favorite highlights as we discovered the Shasta Cascade region.
Sundial Bridge – Stroll across glass on the Sacramento River
The remarkable Sundial Bridge spans the tree-lined Sacramento River in Redding’s Turtle Bay Exploration Park. The glass block walkway and soaring white tower and suspension cables form a functioning sundial. It’s worth exploring both sides of the bridge before entering Turtle Bay Exploration Park. Athena loved to stare down through the glass tiles that pave the pedestrian-only bridge.
Turtle Bay Exploration Park – Play at Redding’s 300-acre museum, arboretum, sculpture park, and forest camp
Turtle Bay Exploration Park is a fun, 300-acre gathering place featuring the Sundial Bridge, a museum, forestry and wildlife center, arboretum, and botanical gardens. Indoor exhibits shed light on the region’s natural world. Outside, Paul Bunyan’s Forest Camp lets kids learn about what it was like to be an early logger in the region; there are also recreations of a traditional Native American bark house. The park lets kids experience some pretty exciting outdoor areas such as the Parrot Playhouse as well. We paid the extra dollar to have nectar feed and the birds landed on Athena’s hands and head.
Shasta Lake – The state’s largest reservoir
There’s plenty of room to move on this 30,000-acre reservoir, the largest in California. Worthwhile stops around the lake include Tsasdi Resort, including their 230 foot dock with kayaks, paddle boards, and jet skis, Lake Shasta Caverns (a fascinating underground world 250 million years in the making), and more than a dozen nearby waterfalls.
Burney Falls – A booming, cool cascade of beauty
The 129-foot-tall, fern-draped Burney Falls is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the state. Located 60 miles northeast of Redding, Burney Falls is one of California’s biggest surprises. A short path takes you to the main overlook. Continue down the path to the pool where you are likely to look but only briefly touch (The water never goes much above 42 degrees). Even my Canadian roots couldn’t stand the frigid waters of Burney Falls.
Lassen Volcanic National Park – Camp sites, volcanoes, sulfur pots, and lakes
Manzanita Lake – The most photographed lake in Lassen
Manzanita Lake is the centerpiece of the park’s main visitor area. Swimming, kayaking, ranger-led programs, cabin rentals, a large campground, a camp store, and a 1.6 mile hiking trail that circles the lake can all be found here. The north side of the lake is a great vantage point to capture Lassen Peak’s dramatic cone reflecting in the lake’s blue water.
Manzanita Lake’s campground has 179 sites and all the campground niceties including showers, flush toilets, and coin-operated laundry. Camping gear is available for rent or you can stay in an assortment of cabins and bunkhouses.
Bumpass Hell- 16 acres of boiling springs and mud pots, hissing steam vents, and roaring fumaroles
A well-marked trail, three miles round-trip, travels to the geothermal site, Bumpass Hell. Your nose will tell you when you near Bumpass Hell. The rotten egg smell from naturally occurring gases is pervasive, but worth the foulness. Bumpass Hell’s boardwalk trail lets you walk safely around the mud pots and steaming vents.
Drakesbad Guest Ranch – Dine, swim, ride, hike, and stay overnight at a historic ranch
Located in a lush mountain valley within short hikes of steaming fumaroles, bubbling mudpots, and many fascinating hydrothermal wonders, guests have found hospitality, seclusion, and recreation at Drakesbad Guest Ranch since 1900.
With kerosene lamps lighting most of the cabins, comfy wooden chairs resting in front of perfect views, and a hot springs pool, the rustic, remote Drakesbad Guest Ranch is a place to unwind and get back to nature.
Drakesbad is as much for children as it is for adults. While children 7 and under can’t join the adults on the horse trail, they can participate in an hour-long pony ride through the meadow. There are always plenty of carrots to feed the horses as well. Each morning, arts and crafts projects are offered. There are s’mores around the campfire at night and a whole sea of stars above head for your viewing pleasure.
Why discover Shasta Cascade?
Shasta Cascade provided some of the most dramatic landscapes I’ve ever seen. From glistening lakes and bountiful waterfalls to scenic drives, backcountry roads, and hiking trails, Shasta Cascade provides something for everyone to discover and enjoy. We savored the uncrowded, unspoiled wide open spaces that provided us with the opportunity to explore, reflect, refresh, and bond.