The Shasta Cascade Region Is the Low-Key Cali Vacation You’ve Been Dreaming Of
In a state that’s packed full of well-documented natural beauty (hey, Yosemite and Big Sur), we’re always looking for a new excursion off the beaten path. And if you’re into the outdoors—or looking for a getaway with great value—then the Shasta Cascade region needs to be on your radar. Two hours north of Sacramento (and three or so from SF), the area borders southern Oregon and, as a result, is sometimes referred to as “Upstate California” for its unplugged and rugged character. The expansive wonderland boasts waterfalls, lakes, rivers, mountains, adorable mining towns, a handful of state parks and even an active volcano. Color us intrigued.
WHAT TO DO
The small city of Redding can act as home base for your trip—you’ll at least want to breeze through so you can catch a glimpse of the famed Sundial Bridge, a contemporary marvel that traverses the Sacramento River. With plenty of hotels and restaurants, Redding also offers the normal creature comforts after a day in the wilderness. Speaking of the great outdoors, make sure to pack your Patagonia and S’well bottle for a subterranean tour of Crystal Ice Cave at Lava Beds National Monument. (FYI: Tours are offered only at special times, for no more than six people, and excellent physical condition is required—there’s climbing involved.) From December through mid-April there’s also twilight skiing and snow tubing at Mt. Shasta Board & Ski Park, a no-frills mountain where you’d be hard-pressed to find a lift line. At McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, which Teddy Roosevelt dubbed the “eighth wonder of the world,” you’ll find plenty of hiking and leaf peeping alongside one of the most picturesque waterfalls in the entire country. Pinterest-worthy travel pics aside, a portion of the park runs through the Pacific Crest Trail, aka the route from Wild. Shasta also holds some of the best relics of the California Gold Rush, both at Shasta State Historic Park, where you’ll find ruins of a once-bustling 19th-century town, and Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, where you can still pan for gold in the uber-clear water (or, you know, go kayaking or paddleboarding instead).
WHERE TO EAT
You’ll need to refill your canteen and your belly from time to time while taking in all that Shasta serenity. Jack’s Bar & Grill in Redding is something of a local institution, having been open since WWII. The menu centers around prime cuts of steak and a serious wine list that celebrates California grape varietals. Cheese pizza egg rolls and other creative spins on crowd-pleasers are reason enough to explore the menu at nearby Clearie’s, just six blocks north. View 202’s esplanade-style space, complete with fire pits and sweeping views of the Sacramento River, is a great place to gather pre- or post-dinner. Meanwhile, at Woody’s Brewing Company, the family-brewed craft beers have fun names like Teacher’s Aide (a malty amber), Swheat Dreams (a refreshing wheat ale) and Pray for Powder Porter. Don’t worry, you can take a Lyft back to the hotel if you have one too many.
WHERE TO STAY
Redding has all the regular hotel chains you’d expect, many with rates hovering around $100 per night (as of this writing). But since you’ll be submitting yourself to something out of a Bierstadt painting anyway, we highly recommend staying outside of town at Highlands Ranch Resort, where you’ll have your very own private cottage, complete with a gas-burning (and therefore easy-to-use) fireplace and large picture windows that frame dense evergreen forest and the towering Sierra Nevada mountains in the distance. The rooms are posh, the restaurant is rustic-chic and the Wi-Fi is limited—available mostly in the lounge—so you can put up that out-of-office and actually mean it. Also submerged in nature is this adorable yurt, available to rent at Strawhouse Resorts, which has its own clawfoot tub, an electric fireplace, relaxing sleeping and lounging arrangements, and even private access to a river.