Lassen County
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The Best of Shasta Cascade - 14 Day

14 Days / 13 Nights

When you think Northern California — images of wine country, lush flowing fields and gently rolling landscapes likely emerge.  Think again!  Think rugged glacier covered mountain peaks looming majestically overhead, thundering waterfalls, caverns, crags, and lava flows.  Think volcanoes sculpted by violent explosions over millions of years.  And think authentic, quaint historic towns that haven't changed much in 100 years.

The Shasta Cascade area of Northern California is unique to the state and to America. Three Ring of Fire volcanoes, sisters of Mount Rainier, Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens, command the landscape. In between, Scenic Byways connect the very fabric of nature on timeless routes through dramatic natural phenomenon.  

Life in Shasta Cascade has retained a bit of the heritage that began when prospectors, lumberjacks and other boisterous characters came to make their fortunes. Descendents of these men now raise their families still involved in traditions brought down from the era when this was California’s Wild West.  Weaverville, Chico, and McCloud, all appear to have dropped out of the pages of history.  Redding on the other hand, is a bustling center of commerce, sporting rodeo and good theater and all the finer things in life.    

Day 1

As you begin your trip, San Francisco opens her Golden Gates to beckon you to “lose your heart.” Prepare to experience a wealth of vibrant sights and sounds found nowhere else.  The city’s reputation as a fun-loving rollicking place is well deserved, dating back to the Gold Rush era when jumping saloons were filled with prospectors with stories to tell.  The city has held out a welcome hand to all and today magically blends a myriad of cultures, ethnic groups, and lifestyles. Mountains and coastlines add a beautiful natural backdrop to this very colorful place.  To enjoy the natural beauty, plan to get out experiencing San Francisco during free time; walk along the beach and ride a cable car to the top of Nob Hill where incredible views await.  

We will assist you to familiarize yourself with San Francisco on the Barbary Coast Trail, a 3.8 route following bronze medallions set in the sidewalks that connect 20 of the city’s most important locations. Marvel at a collection of historic ships, the first Asian temple in America, the birthplace of the Gold Rush and more.  Follow that with a visit to Fisherman’s Wharf, where you can have incredible views of San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge and the cityscape along with your seafood. Nearby Ghirardelli Square transformed a 19th century chocolate factory into a fabulous marketplace of restaurants featuring new one-of-a-kind shops and culinary experts from around the world.  The tour will also take you past San Francisco’s famous “Painted Ladies,” blocks and blocks of Victorian homes that survived the fire of 1906.  

And of course, no visit to San Francisco is complete without a stop in Chinatown. Enjoy authentic Chinese food and revel in the excitement of this electric part of the city.  

Day 2

A second day in San Francisco will allow you to explore the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in depth.  Encompassing the entire area north and south of the Golden Gate Bridge, the area includes the Presidio of San Francisco, a fort perched at the opening of San Francisco Bay for 218 years, Alcatraz, the island prison made famous in the movies, and Muir Woods National Monument, commemorating the father of the environmental movement in the US. Together these famous parks and others in the collection reveal the true natural beauty of the city as well as history from the Native American, Spanish and Mexican eras in the region to the Gold Rush and beyond. Right under the bridge, Golden Gate Park delivers awesome views.  For a real thrill, you will have time to take an exhilarating, wind-whipped walk across the bridge if you wish.  

The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park component of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is located at Hyde Pier, where water-born historic ships are available for touring, such as an 1886 square rigger, a steam ferryboat, a steam tug, a paddlewheel tug and a 1915 steam schooner.  

The ferry to Alcatraz leaves from Pier 33.  We have arranged for pre-reserved tickets to visit, since the ferry can be sold out for weeks in advance.  The audio tour of Alcatraz reveals that it is more than just a famous prison.  A Civil War fortress, a bird sanctuary, the first lighthouse on the West Coast and the birthplace of the American Indian Red Power movement are a few of the stories of the rock.  

Day 3

Visiting Sacramento introduces you to California’s Old West.  John Sutter, famous for setting off the California Gold Rush, did not even know there was gold in the area when he settled in 1839. When gold was discovered in 1848, Sutter’s Embarcadero quickly became the City of Sacramento, off and running as the outfitter for prospectors and other Gold Rush types.  Over 50 historic buildings in Old Town Sacramento, now populated with galleries, restaurants, boutiques and shops, transport you back to this fast moving time. Artifacts at Sutter’s Fort reveal more early settlement details.  

Hop aboard a virtual bus at the California Museum to learn more of the story of California from emigrants telling their stories to a ghost writer who recounts his family’s experience in early California to the present day.  Nearby, the California State Railroad Museum is probably the best railroad museum in the country.  Over 20 meticulously restored locomotives and cars complemented by exhibits illustrate how railroads shaped people’s lives and the unique culture of California and the West.

To get even more up close and personal with Sacramento, we’ve arranged for you to taste your way through two historic neighborhoods with Local Roots on a 3-hour Origins of Sacramento Walking Food and Cultural Tour.  Experience Sacramento’s amazing authentic foods hailing from as far away as Spain, Czechoslovakia, Turkey and China.

Day 4

Yesterday you were introduced to California’s Old West.  Today, you’ll meet the Ring of Fire. Imagine the natural forces that created awe-inspiring Lake Tahoe when erupting ancient Mount Pluto closed the north end of a deep caldera with hot lava.  Uplifting earthquakes pushed the surrounding mountain peaks past 10,000 feet.  For centuries before the first American explorers set foot on Lake Tahoe, it was a summer gathering place for several tribes of peaceful Washo Indians, who considered it a sacred and spiritual place.  Not long after Kit Carson explored the area, silver was discovered in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Fortune seekers and would-be miners rushed to the area.  By the turn of the century, luxury hotels catered to San Francisco’s elite, who also built summer homes and “cottages” around the lake, some of which still exist.  The 1960 Winter Olympics firmly established Lake Tahoe as the skiing center of the western United States.  Remarkably, the beauty of the lake and the authentic charm of the area have prevailed utilizing ancient Washo wisdom to promote environmentally responsible development.

You’ll have the pleasure of taking the Lake Tahoe West Shore drive, for breathtaking views of the crystal blue lake, with water so clear that you can see objects 75 feet below. Sunk deep into a mountain valley, ringed by majestic snow covered mountains, this drive is viewed by some as the “most beautiful drive in America.”   As you stand at Inspiration Point, we know you’ll agree.  

Leaving South Lake Tahoe, a stop at the Tallac Historic Site delivers a fascinating look into Tahoe’s past.  The historic resort is surrounded by century old mansions (or summer “cottages” as they were called by their owners).  Enjoy the striking views of Cascade Lake and Emerald Bay, followed by Eagle Falls.  The drive ends in Incline Village, location of your evening accommodations.

Day 5

Leaving Lake Tahoe, the scenic beauty of the Ring of Fire blends integrally with California’s Old West on the Yuba Donner Scenic Byway. Traveling through the Tahoe National Forest, the road is nestled among rugged mountains covered with lush forests.  Small pristine lakes dot the landscape.  Since the road covers the route traveled by the ill-fated Donner party and other California 49er’s as the Gold Rush crowd was called, it is also one of the most historic in the state.  

Catching the Feather River Scenic Byway, you’ll be on your way to Quincy and Chester.  Just off this route in Portola is one of the best railroad museums in California, Western Pacific Railroad Museum.  It even offers the opportunity to drive a locomotive!  Experience the authentic Old West during your stay at Drakesbad Guest Ranch, located in Lassen Volcanic National Park.  The traditions of hospitality have been passed down from the founding family since 1900.  

Day 6

Get an early start exploring Lassen Volcanic National Park this morning, another Ring of Fire volcano awaits!  The main park road offers a variety of scenic vistas and access to hiking trails.  Lake Helen at the base of Lassen Peak lays at such a high elevation that snow and ice often last into mid-summer.  Traversing the entire park, you will encounter ecosystems similar to Yellowstone National Park, including alpine meadows and thermal vents.  The Bumpass Hell Trail is the most accessible way to experience the largest hydrothermal area, which scientists believe are getting hotter. The cinder cone area with Fairfield Peak, Hat Mountain, and Crater Butte is forested with pine and fir. Warner Valley, featuring hot spring areas--Boiling Springs Lake, Devils Kitchen, and Terminal Geyser boasts a forested, steep with a gorgeous large meadow.

Heading north on Hwy. 89 from Lassen VNP, several significant attractions await you. Subway Cave provides the opportunity to actually walk through a lava tube, more than ¼ mile long. Going further north on Hwy. 89 is McArthur Burney Falls State Park with what President Theodore Roosevelt called the “eighth wonder of the world”. The water volume going over the falls is consistent year round.  

And last but not least, you’ll be arriving at majestic Mount Shasta, jutting an imposing 14,179 feet above sea level.  Famed naturalist, John Muir responded “When I first caught sight of Mount Shasta over the braided folds of the Sacramento Valley, my blood turned to wine, and I have not been weary since.”  We are confident you will feel the same.  

Day 7

To really enjoy Mt. Shasta, you have to experience Mt. Shasta!  Bring your camera and while you are recording wonderful scenic images of waterfalls, lakes and mountain vistas, the guide who has joined you in your car will be entertaining you with local history, myths and legends about the Mount Shasta area.  Shasta Vortex Adventures will take you to where “heaven and earth” meet on the mountain.  

Day 8

After traveling on the Smith River Scenic Byway over to the coast, we know you’ll agree that the majesty of the world’s tallest trees in Redwood National Park and surrounding California State Parks rival the magnificent Mt. Shasta.  The trees are so special here that the parks are both a World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve, designations that reflect worldwide awareness of resources that are irreplaceable.

The Redwoods are rich in Visitors Centers, exhibits and scenic drives.   Redwood Highway 101 traverses the heart of Del Norte State Park.  Howland Hill Road, nestled deep in the forest, puts you in the heart of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Enderts Beach Road offers elk-viewing, whale watching and stunning coastal views.  Further south, Requa Road features breathtaking views from the Klamath River Overlook, towering 650 feet about the sea.  The Coastal Drive Loop delivers stunning views of crashing waves and rugged coastline.  Five Visitor Centers feature different aspects of the story and a variety of ranger-led programs are available to learn more.

Day 9

The National Park Service describes the trees of Redwood National Park as “immense, ancient, stately, mysterious, and powerful.” We know you’ll add your own words when you stand below one of these timeless giants.  Why they grow so tall is a mystery.  Take your time, meander the coast and savor the time to be totally immersed in these incredible trees.    

Reaching Eureka, you’ll quickly understand that the town literally grew out of the forests; the wood was used for hundreds of intricately detailed high Victorian houses standing proudly over Humboldt Bay.  The city was completely focused on the Bay until an overland route was completed between Eureka and San Francisco in 1914.  Eureka has been declared one of “The 100 Best Small Art Towns in America” and Eureka’s Old Town was pronounced as one of the nation’s best preserved original Victorian historic districts, where ornate Colonial Revival, Eastlake, Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne and stick-style painted ladies can be seen in every direction.  Treat yourselves to a walking tour.

If there is time to do nothing else, a drive by Carson Mansion, the ultimate Victorian, is a must do.  A truly exuberant example of what can be done with imagination, time, wood carvers and lots of redwood!  To add to the opulence, Mr. Carson imported 97,000 feet of white mahogany from Central America and onyx from the Philippines.  Stained glass and plasterwork round out the palette.  Enjoy a “family style dinner” at the Samoa Cookhouse, which used to feed the lumberjacks working in the region.  

Day 10

This morning you’ll take the slow road — Trinity River Scenic Byway — to meander back towards Redding and Shasta Lake.  Savor the drive from the Redwood Coast back to the Valley Oaks.  Plan to stop in Weaverville, the real live movie set for Shangri-La, to stretch your legs.  Take a bit of time to stroll around, explore the art galleries and relax.  

Redding is as rich in history as it is in natural beauty.  The area has been continuously occupied since about the year 1000.  Pierson Reading, the first non-native settler, like John Sutter of Gold Rush fame, received a Mexican land grant, which at the time was the northern-most non-native settlement in California.

Plan to spend the afternoon at Turtle Bay Exploration Park for a great introduction to the Redding area.  Turtle Bay Museum, featuring the natural environment, historic recreations and art — all richly layered in interpretive material — is the heart of the Turtle Bay Experience.  The building itself resembles the trees of the riparian habitat outdoors.  Native American culture is featured in the Wintu bark house.  The timber-themed forest camp delivers the history of lumbering in Northern California.  Stroll through 20 acres of the McConnell Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.  The spectacular glass café at the west end of the museum looks out over the Sundial Bridge, a true work of art set in nature.  Steel and glass appear weightless as if floating over the river — “celebrating human creativity and ingenuity.”

Enjoy one of several lodging accommodations in Redding from a romantic B&B overlooking the Sacramento River to more standard lodging along the palm tree accented Hilltop Drive.  

Day 11

You’ll have an all “Shasta” day today, exploring Lake Shasta Caverns, Shasta Dam and Shasta State Historic Park.  The entire Lake Shasta Caverns experience is an adventure.  To reach the caverns, you’ll be boarding a catamaran for a scenic cruise across the lake and from there, a bus to the cavern entrance.  Once inside, the massive limestone caverns are the largest in California.  Stalactites and stalagmites connecting roof and floor are reflected in sparkling pools.  Follow your guide on the well-lit path while listening to an information filled tour about the geology and ecology of the caverns.

Still at Shasta Lake, the tour through Shasta Dam, which holds back the largest reservoir of water in California, is fascinating.  After a tour of the visitors center to learn the basic story of the dam, you’ll be taking a 428 foot elevator ride to the base of the dam to visit the dam’s powerhouse, inner galleries and more.  

After some lunch in Redding, it’s time to get back to land! Lusty Shasta City, once the “Queen City” of California’s mining district now stands in Shasta State Historic Park.  Once the center of the California Gold Rush, the buildings stand empty and quiet.  The County Courthouse has been restored to its 1861 appearance and filled with historical exhibits and an unparalleled collection of historic California artwork.  

Day 12

For several days, you’ve been in the wide open spaces, under looming massive redwoods and looking up at majestic mountains, underground in caverns and lava tubes, over creeks and rivers and on lakes.  We want to ease you back into urban life gently today, by way of Chico, voted one of the 10 best Art Towns in America.  Chico has gained a national reputation for its variety of glass blowing artisans. You can also ease into the wine country, by visiting New Clairvaux winery on your drive to Chico.  New Clairvaux is both the Cistercian Monastery and boutique winery.  Its new chapter house may be the most significant Gothic structure in North America.

Art is all around you on a walking tour of the Downtown Art Benches and Pedestal Art Seat tour.  The benches and seats, placed strategically downtown were created as artistic tributes to world renowned persons who contributed to the character of Chico in some way.  Benches are dedicated to Susan B. Anthony, credited with gaining women the vote in America, the actor Errol Flynn, Julia Morgan, famed California architect, conservationist John Muir and more.   Annie Bidwell, mistress of the Bidwell Mansion, was also involved in woman’s voting rights.  The daughter of a high ranking Washington DC official, she came to Chico to marry John Bidwell and continued to entertain US Presidents, Generals and Governors among others at their opulent home.  

From there, it’s on to wine country, lush with acre after acre of vineyards, and row upon row of vines covering the hillsides.  The name 'Napa' is derived from the Wappo Indians who once shared the lush green valley with deer, grizzly bears, elk and panthers until farmers began settling in the 1830s, lured by the rich volcanic soil and an ideal growing season. The original vineyards were established with cuttings supplied by the Catholic Missions in Sonoma and San Rafael in 1861.

Day 13

Before departing for San Francisco, the only way to see California Wine Country is on the Wine Train, which runs up and down the valley.  Departing at 10:30 AM, you’ll be touring the Raymond Family Vineyards where your adventure begins at Raymond’s Theater of Nature.  You will explore wines, vineyards, and winemaking practices that highlight their commitment to organic and biodynamic farming practices, and sample Raymond’s wine as you are guided through a comprehensive tour. A gourmet lunch follows on the train as you are delivered back to your starting point.  

From there, it’s back to San Francisco for any more sightseeing you are able to squeeze in.  

Day 14

As you depart California today, we are confident that you have had the trip of a lifetime.  We wish you a safe and pleasant journey home.  

Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association
1699 HWY 273, Anderson, CA 96007 | (P) 530-365-7500 | (F) 530-365-1258
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