Guided Tour To My Top Five Outdoor Favorites, In Northern California

The great outdoors of Northern California is my home, and I love it. There’s several small towns that I like in the area, and that I surely appreciate to visit, but it’s the great outdoors that is my home; the mountains, the never ending National Forests, our National Parks, our volcanoes, our waterfalls, the lakes, the streams, the sky, the fresh air…you get the picture. When other people think of San Francisco, and Sacramento when they think of the northern part of our state, I’m more of the let’s take the backroads kind of girl. If you want to see a smile on my face, take me for a ride on your favorite dirt road, and you just made a new friend. It’s that smile, and that feel-good-feeling that I want to share with you, with my photos, and this post. That’s where I’m taking you on this guided tour.

It would be impossible to get all my favorite places in one post. After a lot of consideration I picked five of my favorites, just for you! It was really difficult to pick just five, I could of easily picked 100, but that would of been a really loooong post. (I didn’t even touch Lake Tahoe, Shasta Lake, Subway Caves, or Yosemite in this post. Places I love dearly.) A couple years ago I actually started to write a book about my favorite places in Northern California; hikes, day outings, small towns, favorite scenic drives, beautiful architecture, ghost towns, vista points etc. One day I might just finish the book, bear with me, and enjoy this post for now. One could easily spend a lifetime exploring wilderness areas of Northern California and still only be scratching the surface.

 

Faery Falls;

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Faery Falls is located in Ney Springs Canyon, north of Castle Crags (CA.) My daughter and I found Faery Falls on our second attempt to find this beauty. We read reviews, and descriptions of how to get there, even used a trail app on the phone, but we still managed to get lost twice, before actually finding the falls. There’s no signs, and a gazillion different trails. The reviews we’d read had warned us for this. In the end we decided to follow the sound of the rushing water of the 40 ft waterfall. The forest is dense, and the sides are steep, but we finally found the right trail. It’s actually a short hike 1.2 miles from the road we parked at. Next time we will get there in no time. Why I really like this place? The beauty, the tranquility, and the potent air, filled with the scents of the surrounding pine forest. The challenge of finding it only added to the thrill of the adventure. My 5 year old had some opinions of the steep uphill hike on the way there, but those opinions faded away when we actually found the falls. She even found a cave on the right side of the fall, and her day was made.

These are the coordinates that will take you to the trailhead: 41.265953, -122.32439. The trail you’re going to take is the old dirt road, on your right side. It’s only a road in the beginning, it turns into a trail. Keep walking until you pass the ruins of an early 1900’s spa. It’s pretty cool. There was a group of people admiring the ruins as I passed by, I didn’t wan to intrude, so I did not stop for pictures this time. After the ruins, it’s about 1/4 mile to the falls. I suggest taking the second, bigger trail, on the left side to get to the waterfalls. (There are other options as well.)

 

Burney Falls;

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Burney Falls on the other hand is super easy to find, and you can drive all the way. I visit this waterfall at least 2-3 times a year, to inhale the unearthly beauty deep into my system. I enjoy going here when there’s little chance of meeting other people, on rainy days, and during the off season. During the most popular season it has lots of visitors, because it’s so easy accessible. Here’s a link to my last visit.

These are the GPS coordinates to Burney Falls 41.0107° N, 121.6528° W. You hardly need them though, there’s plenty of signs as you pass the small town of Burney. The falls are located approximately 6 miles (10 km) north of town. It’s really easy to find.

 

Lassen Volcanic National Park;

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Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of my absolute favorite hiking destination. You can go for day hikes, or longer multiple-day-hikes in the wilderness (need permit for that.) Above is Lassen Peak, reflected in Manzanita Lake. During winter the park is a popular destination for snowshoeing. During summer there is a road winding its way through whole park, giving you a fantastic experience right from your vehicle. There’s several fantastic vista points that are well marked along the way. The through road is completely blocked by massive amounts of snow 8 months out of the year.

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This is one of the roaring fumaroles, a steam and volcanic-gas vent, in Lassen Volcanic National Park. They indicate that the volcanic center in Lassen is active and that there is a potential for a future eruption at some point. Most of the hydrothermal features in the park is a mix of condensed steam, and near-surface ground water. They are extremely hot, near boiling, and one should keep a SAFE distance to them. The ground that surrounds them can give in at any moment. If you’re on the designated trails, and follow signs, you’ll be fine. You can view, and read more about Mt. Lassen here. I usually visit Lassen Volcanic National Park many times every year.

Lassen Volcanic National Park is located about three hours northeast of Sacramento. The park is accessed via Hwy 44 (to the north) or Hwy 36 (to the south). Plenty of signs will take you there. Both entrances have visitor centers. During the summer months I recommend entering from one direction, for example Hwy 36, and driving a loop through the park, and when exiting taking Hwy 44 towards Redding, or the other way around. Which way you choose as your starting point doesn’t really matter. It’s a scenic drive, and by entering from one direction, and exiting the other way, you get the most out of your visit. Mt. Lassen is close to Subway Caves, and Burney Falls as well. If you’re in for a bigger adventure!

 

Castle Lake; 

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Castle Lake is a glacial lake located in the Trinity Mountains, in Siskiyou County of northern California. Castle Lake is the deepest and largest alpine lake in the Shasta area. It has quickly become one of my favorite spots, and I’ve returned many times since my first visit last Thanksgiving. You can drive up to the lake and have a nice family picnic, or go fishing. There’s decent restrooms at the parking lot. If you want adventures, there’s several awesome hikes, and amazing photo opportunities. I took this photo of Castle Lake while hiking the Castle Lake Trail (yes, it’s Mt.Shasta in the background,) up to Heart Lake, during one of my first visits, this was in the beginning of winter. I’ve done the same hike up to heart lake when the trail was covered with snow as well. It’s well accessible with good hiking boots. You don’t have to follow a particular trail, just aim for the ridge right behind the lake (while standing at the parking lot,) you will see Castle Lake beneath you as you climb up, when you’re at the top you’ll see Heart Lake. It’s easy to see the heart shape when the landscape isn’t covered with snow. For now, bring your ice skates. Castle Lake is not safe to skate, but Heart Lake often is. I’m not responsible for your safety if you choose to enter the ice! That said, I’ve done it many times. During the weekends there’s often people skating on Heart Lake. 

Trailhead address: Castle Lake, Castle Lake Road, Dunsmuir, CA 96025. It’s easy to find the parking lot, the road ends here.
Trailhead coordinates: 41.2303, -122.3816 (41° 13′ 49.07″N 122° 22′ 53.76″W)

 

Mt Shasta;

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Since I mentioned one of our two volcanoes, I feel a need to mentioned the other; Mt. Shasta, also a part of the Cascade Range. Mt. Shasta, and Mt. Lassen are two important landmarks in our part of Northern California. You can see one of them, or both  from a distance of hundreds of miles. I took this photo of Mt. Shasta two days ago, while driving back from Castle Lake with some friends. If I walk outside, down the street I live on, I can see Mt. Shasta, and further down the street Mt. Lassen as well. Mt. Shasta has a town with the same name, at the base of the mountain. It’s a beautiful, little mountain village, with friendly, open minded, outdoorsy, mostly spiritual inclined inhabitants. You can drive to town and enjoy amazing vistas of the mountain, and the equally fantastic food at the local restaurants. During summer time Mt. Shasta offers great hiking, and (sometimes) during winter the ski park offers snow activities for the whole family. I actually got a ski pass here for Christmas, but the park have only been open a couple times so far, and I haven’t had a chance to try the slopes yet. I promise an update on the slopes later in the season.

Mt. Shasta is located 60 miles north of Redding, and 60 miles south of the Oregon border, along Interstate 5. It’s impossible to miss if you’re driving along the I-5.

I hope you enjoyed the tour, and will consider another one soon! There’s so many crazy amazing places to enjoy the great outdoors here in NorCal. Feel free to link to this post, share it on your Facebook wall, or with anyone you think could use some ideas for amazing experiences in Northern California. With the exception of Faery Falls, the other destinations are easily accessible, suitable for day outings, and family friendly. For the more adventurous explorer, they could be turned into as big of an adventure as your imagination allows! Follow me on Instagram to check out my latest adventures.

Love,

Ms Zen

PS. If you’re interested in prints of any of these photos, just click on the photo.

 

Naturally all your adventures are on your own risk. I am not responsible in any way if you choose to explore any of these destinations. Wilderness areas are amazing, but you need to be prepared for weather, it can change quickly. Our area is known for extreme heat in the summer, and these destinations can be very cold during winter. We have lots of wild life, including; black bears, mountain lions, bob cats, rattle snakes, and spiders. I often bring my German Shepherd on trails where dogs are allowed, but I would never bring a smaller dog. Younger children need to be within reach at all times. I’ve taken my daughter out in our National Forests since she was a newborn, in a baby carrier. I love sharing the great outdoors with her. I also see it as my responsibility to educate her of the potential dangers, and our responsibility towards the sometimes fragile nature we’re enjoying. Follow directions, pack in, pack out. Respect other people, as well as animals we might encounter. Bringing plenty of water is a must, in any weather. It’s very wise to use plenty of sunscreen, and/or a hat/clothes that covers well. The sun is strong. Be sure to know what poison oak looks like, you will see it. I’m not trying to scare you, just doing the best I can to make sure that your visit will be pleasant, and memorable in a good way.

 

A Zen-Minded Thanksgiving Week, part 2

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Mt Shasta

 

When I first caught sight of it I was 50 miles away and afoot, alone and weary. Yet all my blood turned to wine, and I have not been weary since.

– John Muir about Mt Shasta in 1874.

 

I have a favorite hike that I keep coming back to. It’s my favorite spot to admire the magnificent Mt Shasta from. I don’t know how many times I’ve done this hike. I’ve lost count. It’s that many times. It’s Chamise Peak trail, off Flanagan Rd, outside Redding (CA.) I love hiking up to Chamise Peak for several reasons.

  • It’s a relatively short hike, doesn’t take much planning.
  • It’s not a heavily trafficked trail, especially not early in the morning (my favorite time.)
  • The 360 degrees views from the top, are unmatched in beauty on a clear day.

 

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Early on Thanksgiving morning I took my best friend with me, to watch the sunrise from the top. We started out with flashlights while it was still pitch dark out. The morning became a little cloudy, and you couldn’t see as far as I had been hoping for.

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Shasta Dam, behind beautiful fall foliage, as seen from Chamise Peak Trail.

On a clear day you’re able to see Keswick Reservoir, Shasta Dam, Shasta Lake, Mount Shasta and the City of Shasta Lake. We did see some of it, and it was the perfect start of our Thanksgiving celebration. The fact that I know what the views are like on a clear day, serves as a great motivation to do the hike soon again 🙂

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Keswick Reservoir, seen from Chamise Peak.

This is a review of Chamise Peak Trail, that I wrote on AllTrails (the hiking app I’m using to track my hikes,) after my first hike to the peak;

Yesterday my daughter and I, hiked up to Chamise Peak. It was easy to find the trail head, by punching in the address: 17171 Flanagan Rd, Shasta Lake, CA 96019, in the GPS. It takes you straight to the trail head, at Flanagan Rd (right outside Redding, CA.) I have Verizon, and had cellphone reception the whole time (only two bars at the trailhead, but four bars most of the time.)
You start out following Flanagan trail, for a little more than one mile. It’s impossible to miss the turn to Chamise Peak trail. The trail is very well marked, and maintained. There was never any questions of where to go. There are other ways to reach the top (from Sacramento Ditch Trail,) but this is the most popular, and easiest way. This packed dirt trail circles its way straight up to the top, without being to steep, or strenuous.
It was my first time hiking this trail. My 3,5 year old daughter, could rather easily managed the 2.4 miles climb up the peak. (Chamise Peak trail is only 1.2 miles, but since you have to start at Flanagan Rd trailhead, the total length that you hike, one way, is 2.4 miles.)
It’s a turn around trail, so the distance from the parking lot, and back, is 4.8 miles. I would rate the hike as easy+ (it’s rated moderate in some hiking apps,) it is uphills all the way to the top, and then downhill on the way back. Definitely family friendly. The only downside I can think about is, that there’s no restrooms, or trash cans at the trailhead. (Be sure to take all your trash with you. Pack in, pack out. Leave no trace.)
The sun was shining, it was around 70 degrees Fahrenheit when we started out (around 10am,) and almost 80 when we finished (around 1.30pm.) Nice t-shirt weather, without being too hot (February.) There was a light breeze in the air. The forest was quiet, and smelled like fresh pine. Beautiful manzanita trees decorated both sides of the trail, in the beginning of the hike. I know manzanitas are like weed here, but for a Swede like me, they will always be exotic.

Bring enough water! My daughter and I drank two water bottles each, I wouldn’t recommend bringing less (we had more with us.) Our dog drank from a creek in the beginning of the trail, I’m certain that creek will be completely dry later in the season.

I’ve equipped us with sturdy winter hiking boots, thinking it might be snow higher up. There wasn’t any snow. Better safe than sorry..lol. The ground was dry, no steep climbs, or trees over the trail.
The 360 degree view at the top is hard to beat. The peak stands at 1,628 feet high. I knew the view was going to be spectacular, but it totally took my breath away. All my daughter said was ”WOW! ”
On a clear day you will see: Shasta Dam, Shasta Lake, Mt Shasta, the City of Shasta Lake, Keswick Reservoir, Trinity Alps, and even Mt Lassen. We were lucky, and was able to see it all. I wanted to do this hike now, while the mountains still are covered in white. I especially wanted to get a good shot of Mt Shasta, covered in snow. I got it!
We had some leftover pizza (that we made for the Super Bowl,) that we enjoyed at the picnic table, on the top of Chamise Peak Trail. The fresh mountain air, and exercise made us very hungry. I recommend bringing something to eat! We stayed at the top for about 40 min. After drinking a lot of water, munching on the pizza, a couple energy bars, and some apples, we headed back down. We took our time, and strolled slowly down the mountain side. I held my daughter’s hand most of the time, because it was too tempting for her to run down the trail. The sides are rather steep, and the trail is narrow on some places. I felt that it was safer keeping her closer to me. The hike down to the parking lot was very enjoyable.
We had a marvelous day. The views from the top are magnificent. I imagine this as the perfect spot to bring out of town guests. The hike is not too exhausting, and can be made in a few hours. Locals use the trail for every day exercise. This could be your perfect Sunday trip for the family, a great place for a date, or a picnic with friends, and it’s definitely dog friendly.
This trail, and the view from the top, showcase the beauty of Northern California at its best. We’re definitely going to do this hike again!

 

I hope you enjoyed the hike! Have an awesome day!

 

Love,

Ms Zen

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Serene

Sunrise At Sundial Bridge

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Watching the sunrise is one of my greatest pleasures. It’s my favorite time of the day. This is my morning experience last Sunday, at Sundial Bridge, Redding (CA.) The Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay is the worlds largest working sundial. The bridge runs across the Sacramento River. The mountain in the background is Mount Shasta.

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I love the cold mornings this time of the year.

Nothing burns like the cold. –  George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

 

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The Sundial Bridge is designed by my favorite architect Santiago Calatrava. The bridge itself is spectacular, and amazing to experience in person. It’s a glass decked, cable-stayed cantilever suspension bridge, reaching 217 feet into the sky.

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I am always searching for more light and space. –  Santiago Calatrava

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The bridge was actually closed to pedestrians last Sunday morning, when I took these photos, due to ice on the glass floor of the bridge. When my friend and I entered the park, where the bridge is located, we met a kind police officer that took one look at my camera, smiled and said; be careful if you’re planning to cross the bridge, it’s very slippery. We crossed the bridge holding hands, taking baby steps. It was definitely worth it! It was an incredible sunrise. One of the best I ever experienced.

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I have tried to get close to the frontier between architecture and sculpture and to understand architecture as an art. –  Santiago Calatrava

This was the first time I experienced the bridge without lots of people around. The Sundial Bridge of Turtle Bay is a popular meeting place for both locals, and tourists alike. It’s a warm and inviting place.

If you’re interested in prints of these photos, feel free to visit my new gallery. Have an amazing day, and a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday with your love ones ❤

Love,

Ms Zen

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Transformation