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Wild West in Northern California

"There’s gold in them thar’ hills!" — prospectors exclaimed as they descended on northern California for instant riches. Two decades earlier, hardy pioneers and ranchers arriving in wagon trains and carved new lives out of the rugged landscape. Gold forever changed the region, but the rugged individualism of those early pioneers set the stage for life today.    

In California’s Wild Wild West, you can step into the pages of history. Things have settled down a bit, but many towns have not changed dramatically in more than 150 years. Life moves at a slower pace. You’ll soon discover that the authenticity and hospitality is genuine in residents who are very proud of their heritage.

Below are 1-3 day itinerary highlights to explore depending on which part of the Shasta-Cascade region your journey takes you to.

Butte, Tehama, Lassen and Plumas Counties - Wild West History:

The heritage of Chico, California emerges right out of the Old West.  Founder General John Bidwell arrived by wagon train, employed by John Sutter of Gold Rush fame. A Mexican land grant, Rancho Arroyo Chico acquired by Bidwell in 1860 evolved into today's Bidwell Mansion State Park. Mrs. Bidwell, the daughter of a prominent Washington, DC family, who arrived in Chico upon her marriage to the General in 1868, began building an opulent home that boasted indoor plumbing, gas lighting and an internal water system. Frequent visitors with high society connections were entertained on a regular basis.  Expand your knowledge of Butte County history at the Chico Museum and don't miss the opportunity to stroll historic downtown where there are plenty local eateries and shops with local handcrafted goods.

Heading north to Tehama County, Red Bluff combines the Victorian era and western heritage with Victorian homes built from the 1860's to the early 1900's. Visit the William Ide Adobe Ranch State Historic Park in Red Bluff and discover the challenges of maintaining life on the frontier.  At the park you will experience living history portraying the special skills needed to exist away from the urban centers. Exhibits reveal the far reaching impact Ide had on the state as the author of the California Republic proclamation. Walk into a vanishing America at the Kelly-Griggs House Museum where Victorian-garbed mannequins "live" among the authentic antique furnished rooms. If visiting in April, the Red Bluff Round-Up Rodeo is not to be missed, the largest rodeo in the nation!

Heading east to Lassen Volcanic National Park? Experience more of the authentic Old West during your stay at Drakesbad Guest Ranch, the only accommodations located in the national park, where the traditions of hospitality have been passed down from the founding family since 1900.  While in Lassen Park explore incredible mountain scenery reminiscent of Yosemite as well as fascinating thermal wonders similar to Yellowstone. Lassen offers remarkable hydrothermal features, all four types of volcanoes, and a myriad of naturally occurring lakes, streams & meadows. It’s a hiker’s dream!

After exploring Lassen head southeast to Plumas County and the quaint town of Greenville where its historic Main Street exemplifies western charm with former saloons and bordellos refurbished into modern day stores of finery and fashion. One of the best-kept secrets of Plumas County is the clear blue waters of Lake Almanor. An overnight at Plumas Pines Resort with a casual dinner overlooking the lake is where you will find many locals on warm summer evenings.

Further east via the Lassen Scenic Byway is historic Susanville which still honors the lifestyle and neighborly hospitality of an era long passed. The Historic Susanville Depot is the trailhead for the Bizz Johnson Rail Trail. Visitors can step back in history viewing the photographs of railroads and logging trains that rolled through town. If visiting in October don't miss the Rails to Trails Festival and the Bizz Johnson Trail Marathon races. The annual Magical Country Christmas celebration in historic uptown Susanville each December is a festivity full of holiday spirit.

Shasta and Trinity Counties - Wild West History:

Redding is a recreational hub city located in the middle of the Shasta-Cascade region, home to the annual Redding Rodeo performed by cowboys very experienced in Western ways. In addition to western culture, Redding boosts world-class fishing, endless trails, dining, golf, the beautifully restored historic Cascade Theatre, and the Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay Exploration Park.

For an all “Shasta” day, explore Lake Shasta Caverns, Shasta Dam, and Old Shasta the “Queen City” of California’s mining district in Shasta State Historic Park. The entire Lake Shasta Caverns experience is an adventure. To reach the caverns, you’ll cruise across the lake and from there take 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 that are over 250 million years old.

Traveling along the Shasta Lake Scenic Byway will lead you to Shasta Dam, which holds back the largest reservoir of water in California. Free tours are available daily that go deep into the dam and explain the dam's history and significance to California.

Traveling 10 minutes east of Redding is Shasta State Historic Park, once the center of the California Gold Rush. The buildings that stand empty and quiet are eloquent vestiges to the intense activity that was centered here during the gold rush. The County Courthouse has been restored to its 1861 appearance and filled with historical exhibits and an unparalleled collection of historic California artwork. Continuing east on highway 299 at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area you will learn how pioneer prospectors Charles Camden and Levi Tower reshaped the landscape to create a home for their families and an “oasis” for many travelers during and after the California Gold Rush. The Tower House Historic District surrounds their home built in 1852. Try your hand at finding gold the old-fashioned way, with a gold pan in the creek.  

After your all Shasta day, experience an all heritage day. Travel a portion of the Trinity River Scenic Byway, where you can walk in the footsteps of early American mountain men, prospectors and settlers who sought opportunity and fortune in the “untrammeled” West.  Three interesting historic sites along the byway make this era come alive.  Along the byway make your way to Weaverville, an old western town that was the inspiration for the mystical Shangri-La in the movie Lost Horizons. Weaverville’s historic buildings from the gold rush era are now populated with cafes, shops and antique stores. The Temple of the Forest Beneath the Clouds at the Joss House State Park in Weaverville is the oldest continuously used Chinese temple in California. Exhibits include weapons used in the 1854 Tong War.


Siskiyou and Modoc Counties - Wild West History:

From Weaverville travel north on the Trinity Heritage Scenic Byway - highway 3 - through the Trinity Alps leading to Siskiyou County. Much of the byway follows the path of 19th century gold miners and settlers with scenic views of mountainsides, jagged cliffs, and dramatic vistas. There are limited services available along the route so be sure to gas up in Weaverville or Trinity Center. Highway 3 will lead you to the town of Yreka born out of one of the largest gold strikes in California history and is home to a number of Gold Rush era monuments and parks. More than 70 pre-1900 houses can be seen in the older part of town near West Miner Street which is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Step back in time as you stroll quaint shops, restaurants, and visit historical landmarks.

Continue your journey heading south on highway 5. Majestic Mt. Shasta, jutting an imposing 14,179 feet above sea level will come into view so you will want to have your camera ready! Famed naturalist, John Muir remarked “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.  

From Mt. Shasta travel east on highway 89 to McCloud rich in logging history. McCloud River Mercantile Hotel is beautifully appointed and reflects McCloud's history from the 1890s to the 1940s.  The nationally registered historic Mercantile offers a variety of goods and local handmade jewelry. Don't miss the apothecary candy store and The White Mountain Café famed for their original soda fountain from 1930. After some sweet treats and lunch head to McCloud Falls, a nature attraction that will soothe your soul.

Now it's time to jump on the Modoc Volcanic Scenic Byway rich in Native American history, full of wildlife, destination - Lava Beds National Monument! Over 700 lava tube caves, about 20 available to explore, are remnants of arteries that transported lava from its source.  Evidence of the Modoc Tribe and their ancestors are in the thousands of carvings at nearby Petroglyph Point, revealing human life in this region dating back 10,500 years. Emigrant Trail Scenic Byway will take you into central Modoc County through the Warner Mountains which have one of the most unique obsidian deposits in the United States, with four areas open for collection. The byway route will take you through part of the "Pacific Flyway" where 75% of the migrating waterfowl pass through the nearby Klamath refuges.  

Alturas is the historic town in the center of Modoc County.  Make sure to stop at the historic Niles Hotel with recently renovated rooms and a saloon featuring a Victorian back bar built in 1875 by the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company. If you are up for spending the night on a working cattle ranch, head to Cockrell’s Ranch and High Desert Lodging in Surprise Valley where the authentic Wild West reigns. You will be surrounded by panoramic views of the Warner Mountains to the west and the Nevada Mountains to the east. Savor the solitude and peace offered by this setting or participate in activities on the ranch.  Become a wrangler by day and a stargazer by night. With the absence of city lights, the star filled night skies are an astronomer’s dream!

There is so much to see and do in the Shasta-Cascade region of UpState California; full of history, natural scenic beauty, volcanos, waterfalls, lakes, and old fashion hospitality!  Come travel in the footstep of gold miners, loggers, Native Americans and early settlers. Experience the Wild West in UpStateCA and leave enriched with California history and cherished memories of a journey at a slower pace, where time to relax is more the norm than an exception in everyday life.

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