Lassen County
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The Wild West in Northern California - 9 Day

9 Days / 8 Nights

There’s gold in them thar’ hills — and the 49ers, would be prospectors and other boisterous types, 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.  

Starting in Sacramento, you’ll be exploring the Wild West where it actually happened.  Chico was founded by pioneers who arrived on the frontier.  Your ranch accommodations in far northeastern California are provided by a family that has been in the region for generations.  Drakesbad Ranch still delivers the hospitality envisioned by its founders in 1900.  Redding and Red Bluff are still home to rodeos, performed by cowboys very experienced in Western ways.  Enjoy them all.  It’s a new, yet old perspective for northern California.    

Day One

As you begin your trip, San Francisco opens her Golden Gates to beckon you to “lose your heart.” 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 mile 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 Two

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 Three

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.  

As you stroll downtown Chico enjoying the extensive public art collection, view the Chico timeline at the Chico Museum.  Chico has gained a national reputation for its variety of glass blowing artisans.    

The challenge of maintaining life on the frontier is illustrated at the William Ide Adobe Ranch State Historic Park, where living history portrays the special skills needed to exist away from the urban centers. Exhibits also reveal the far reaching impact Ide had on the state as the author of the California Republic proclamation.  

Experience more of 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 Four

Get an early start exploring Lassen this morning, the main park road in Lassen 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. Some of the nearby thermal features including Sulphur Works, Little Hot Springs Valley, Boiling Springs Lake, Devils Kitchen, and Terminal Geyser, with bubbling mud pots, steaming fumaroles, and boiling water 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.

Authenticity reigns when you reach Cockrell’s Ranch and High Desert Lodging in far northeastern California in Surprise Valley.  Spending the night on a working cattle ranch, you’ll be surrounded by panoramic views of the mountains, 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 at the ranch.  

Day Five

Lassen’s sister volcano at Medicine Lake, a Ring of Fire shield volcano experiencing violent eruptions for the past half million years, holds more than geologic interest.  Cave Loop Road takes you past nearly 20 caves, any of which can be explored.  The unique story of Medicine Lake is revealed during the Modoc War, where the Native Americans used their knowledge of the terrain to hold off US Army forces 10 times their strength.  Lava Beds National Monument encompasses both the volcanic results and the battlefield.  

From the Monument, scenic roads take you across to majestic Mt. 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 Six

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.

On your way to Redding, nearly 6,000 foot tall glacier polished cliffs greet you at Castle Crags State Park. 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. Today, the population in the region is nearing 200,000.

Enjoy the 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 Seven

Start your visit in Redding this morning at Turtle Bay Exploration Park for a great introduction to the area. Turtle Bay Museum, featuring historic recreations and art — all richly layered in interpretive material — is the heart of the Turtle Bay Experience. Native American culture is featured in the Wintu bark house display. The timber-themed forest camp delivers the history of lumbering in northern California. Stroll through 20 acres of the McConnell Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. To get to the gardens, stroll 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”.

You can continue on with an all “Shasta” day this afternoon, exploring Lake Shasta Caverns and Shasta Dam. 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.

Traveling along the Shasta Lake Scenic Byway will take you to the tour through Shasta Dam, which holds back the largest reservoir of water in California. 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.  

Day Eight

After your all Shasta day, today you can have an all heritage day.  Traveling a portion of the Trinity River Scenic Byway, 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.  

Make your way first to Weaverville, an old town that was the inspiration for the mystical Shangri-La in the movie Lost Horizons.  Weaverville’s historic buildings from the original gold rush town are now populated with cafes, shops and antique stores.  The Temple of the Forest Beneath the Clouds at Weaverville Joss House State Park is the oldest continuously used Chinese temple in California.  Exhibits include weapons used in the 1854 Tong War.  

Nearer to Redding, 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 at late lunch in Redding, visit lusty Shasta City, the “Queen City” of California’s mining district still standing in Shasta State Historic Park.  Once the center of the California Gold Rush, the buildings that stand empty and quiet, are all silent, but eloquent vestiges of the intense activity that was centered here during that time.  The County Courthouse has been restored to its 1861 appearance and filled with historical exhibits and an unparalleled collection of historic California artwork.  

Day Nine

All too soon, you’ll be heading back to San Francisco, ready to catch a late flight home.  We are confident you have had a unique, authentic trip through California’s Wild West.  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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