California is, without question, one of the most beautiful states. Just look at the numbers: It has a whopping nine national parks. With so many incredible landscapes to choose from, though, some get overlooked. Sure, Yosemite's jaw-dropping valley and Joshua Tree's mysterious desert landscapes are absolutely worth a visit, but so are the volcanoes and geothermal oddities of Lassen Volcanic National Park. Its location is more remote, at the northern tip of the state, so it makes for an incredible escape into nature. And the national park isn't the only gem worth visiting in the area. Here's a road trip through Lassen that highlights its hidden gems.
Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of California's most underrated gems. It's just as striking as Yosemite, just as serene as Redwoods, and just as quirky as Joshua Tree, but in its own way. What sets it apart is its volcanic geology; it's one of the only places in the world that has all four kinds of volcanoes in one area. Hike the five-mile trail up and down Lassen Peak, the park's plug dome volcano which happens to be one of only two volcanoes to erupt in the US in the 20th century; check out the Cinder Cone Natural Area, studded with dramatic black cinder cone volcanoes you can hike up; Brokeoff Volcano is a composite volcano with a 7.4 mile trail to its peak; and Prospect Peak is an example of a shield volcano, offering a shady and quiet 6.9 mile hike to the top, with sweeping views from the peak. But the most famous hike in the park is Bumpass Hell Trail, which highlights colorful mudpots, steaming pools, fumerols, and other geothermal oddities.
You'll find the Mt. Lassen / Shingletown KOA Holiday nestled in a shady forest not too far from the park, so it makes a perfect hub for exploring Lassen Volcanic and the surrounding areas. There's no shortage of activities for kids right in the campground. This KOA has tree swings, bike and pedal cart rentals, a heated pool, sports courts, a birdwatching area, a dog park, and a playground. Stay the night in your tent or RV, or rent a Deluxe or Camping Cabin, and then enjoy the Friday night movie screenings, Saturday morning pancake breakfasts and Saturday afternoon ice cream socials (all of which occur weekly in the summer). No matter what's going on at this KOA, you'll feel right at home.
Volcanic soil has long been known to grow exceptional wine grapes, and that's not the only thing Alger Vineyards has going for it. The pure snowmelt waters from the national park, sloping hills, and perfect amount of sunlight mean the grapes Alger grows are something truly special. You'll find mostly red wines (and a rosé), but the variety is still impressive. The sweet dessert wines, complex cabernet sauvignons, fruity syrahs, and bright malbecs will delight any wine-lover. The tasting room is open on weekends, and you can sample organic wares and get a souvenir tasting glass for $5. The vineyard also sells local crafts, and the space has a patio and a pond, so you can really soak up the fresh mountain air.
Northern California isn't all volcanoes and geysers. Another geological oddity of this part of the state is its caves. Lake Shasta Caverns, which is a National Natural Landmark, is a great place to experience subterranean beauty. A trip to these caves starts with a boat ride across beautiful Lake Shasta, followed by a scenic bus ride up the mountain to the entrance of the ancient cavern. From there, the tour explores several uncovered rooms in the cave system. The limestone caverns display all sorts of incredible formations, from stalactites and stalagmites to cave coral, flowstone, soda straws, and more. There's also a snack bar, a playground and the Sandy Creek Mining Sluice next to the Lost Cabin Mine, where you can buy gemstones and fossils, perfect souvenirs to commemorate your trip.
Relax for a day or two at the Trinity Lake KOA. The wooded, semi-remote campground is an incredible place to reconnect with nature. Like all KOAs, it has tons of amenities to ensure that there's never a dull moment: Mini golf, bike rentals, a heated pool, food, firewood, and more are all available. The Trinity Lake KOA also offers plenty of chances to get on the water and enjoy the lake. You'll find a tackle and bait shop and a fish-cleaning station, and the KOA rents boat slips if you happen to have your own boat. Otherwise, rental kayaks are available so you can explore on your own. And, of course, there are plenty of different accommodation options here as well. Tent Sites on forested loops, RV Sites, and Deluxe Cabins mean there's something for everyone.
Weed is a small town in California that was, in the early 20th century, best known as a lumber town. The plentiful trees and strong winds for drying wood made it an ideal location for the lumber industry. In fact, in the 1940s, it had the world's largest sawmill. Lumber remained a big part of Weed's economy until the 1980s, when tourism took over as the major industry. Make sure to stop by the Weed Historic Lumber Town Museum for a look at the town's past. It displays all kinds of artifacts that show off what life was like during Weed's lumber days. You can see re-creations of an early 1900s kitchen, sewing room, and bedroom; tour the town's old jail cells; learn about Weed's own Charlie Byrd, the first African-American sheriff in California; and see a huge variety of lumber equipment, from old hand tools and snag pushers to bulldozers and tram cars.
Enjoy a night in the shadow of the famously beautiful Mount Shasta at the Mount Shasta City KOA Holiday. This part of Northern California offers some great conditions for camping, and the Tent and RV Sites here make the most of the setting. You can find sites with fire pits, BBQs, picnic tables, and even water and electric, as well as full RV hookups. They also offer Camping Cabins and Deluxe Cabins for those who want to stay at the KOA but don't want to bother with a tent. And since this is a KOA, it has tons of awesome amenities like a dog park, a group campfire, laundry, a pool, and a store that sells snacks and drinks.
There's no shortage of incredible hiking around the route, but one of the best is the trail out to Hedge Creek Falls. It's not a long or particularly strenuous hike, as it's only half a mile roundtrip, but it lets hikers experience the lush forests that make the Mount Shasta area feel so magical. The 35-foot-high waterfall is best seen in the spring or after a rainfall, but even if the cascade isn't at its strongest, you can still enjoy another feature of the falls: the cave behind it. You might get a bit wet from the mist, but it makes for some beautiful pictures.
You can't take a road trip through the area without making a stop at the stunning McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. The centerpiece is Burney Falls, a unique waterfall that's stream- and spring-fed. Snowmelt water pours out from reservoirs held in the porous volcanic basalt. It's not hard to see why Teddy Roosevelt called the falls "The Eighth Wonder of the World." There are five miles of hiking trails to enjoy here, including the stunning ¾-of-a-mile Falls Loop Trail, which shows off the waterfall from various angles. The park also contains Lake Britton, which is great for fishing, boating, and swimming,
The Lassen and Mount Shasta regions of California hide some of the most strikingly beautiful gems in the whole state. The area is a natural wonderland filled with caverns, volcanoes, waterfalls, lakes, and forests. Enjoy the peace and quiet and serenity of this remote, uncrowded location.
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