Another one of our adventures was up in beautiful Siskiyou County. On this multi day trip we conquered crags, swam like polar bears in ice cold waterfalls, hiked to some hot spring/mud pits, journeyed through a lava tube and enjoyed many culinary delights.
Our first stop was Castle Crags State Park. Here is where our base camp was located. Castle Crags State Park is located about an hour north of Redding off highway 5. Castle Crags is a breathtaking granite rock formation that has taken millions of years to create. The Crags are a result of granite being eroded by glaciers over thousands of years. The first chunk of land was a purchase of 925 acres back in 1933, and now the park consists of nearly 4000 acres. When you get off highway 5 and head west towards the campground you will pass on your left a gas station/convenience store that can be easily hiked to from the campground; they even have ice cream! As you drive up past the rangers kiosk you are greeted by the majestic view of the Crags that lay just above the treeline. There are 64 campsites here as well as flush toilets and coin operated showers that have been well kept every time we've visited here. You can purchase firewood at the rangers station as well as get maps and information on the area. The park has two campgrounds, the three Loop campgrounds (by the ranger station) and the Riverside campgrounds that are next to the Sacramento River. We set up our campsite at #60, in the Upper Loop sites. At lunch time we enjoyed the Day-Use Area by the river. There's a neat little cable suspension bridge that goes over the river near the Day-Use Area.
We came here during midweek in July and and were pleasantly surprised to be only one of four campers to utilize this campground. On one night there was only one other group. We have a suggestion, enjoy the stars. Camping Girl and I walked up behind the bathrooms where there is a large clearing in the trees. We lied down in the middle of road and enjoyed a star filled sky and a multitude of shooting stars that evening.
To get to the trail head to Castle Crags follow the road past the campsites until you reach the parking lot. From there you can walk to the Vista Point or take the trail up to the Crags. The Vista Point is a short walk from the parking lot. Here you have amazing views of both the Crags and Mt. Shasta. The hike to Castle Crags is 5.3 miles round trip and is considered an intermediate hike. Bring plenty of water and a snack, you'll need it. The hike seems like a never ending 2.7 mile climb uphill. It does though have the occasional flat spot to catch your breath if needed. As tough as the hike is, the vistas are well worth it.
The town of Dunsmuir is just a 10 minute drive further north up Interstate 5. Dunsmuir and the surrounding towns are rich in history. In the late 1800's the Central Pacific Railroad completed a railroad switching yard, turntable, roundhouse and a repair shop in Dunsmuir. The town became the Southern Pacific Railroads home of the Shasta Division. Here is where extra engines were added to continue the journey further north. With that being said anyone who enjoys trains should at least visit Railroad Park Resort and possibly spend the night. We've never stayed but we did walk the grounds and checked out a couple of the cabooses that are used as rooms. We thought they were pretty cool.
Before our trip I did a little research on places to eat near the campgrounds. There were two standouts, one was Yaks and the other was Dunsmuir Brewery. One morning we stopped at Yaks and had some of their sticky buns. Wow, they were simply amazing. A definite must. They roast their own coffee here as well as making their own syrups. Dunsmuir Brewery was spectacular as well. Whatever you choose to order you can't go wrong. You must go here. Their handcrafted beer and root beer are super tasty and their food compliments it superbly.
During our stay we made a day trip to McCloud Falls. Here you can enjoy three separate falls. Upper, Middle and Lower Falls. We spent most of our time jumping off the rocks and lounging in the river near the Lower Falls. Most of the crew (4 of 6) jumped off the rocks at the lower falls. The jump is about a 15'-20' from the rocks to the river. This spot is very popular, locals and tourist seem to flock her in droves. later in the afternoon we decided to head up to the Middle falls. You can either take the trail along the river or drive. We chose the later. The Middle falls is probably the most spectacular of the three falls. The hike from the parking lot to the falls will take 10-15 min. I know the distance between the Lower Falls and the Middle Falls is a short distance, but I tell you what. It could just be me but there seemed to be a 5-10 degree difference in the water temperature. Lower Falls(COLD), Upper Falls(PIN PRICKLY COLD). After you go numb it's not so bad. Camping Girl watched the crew and I swim over to the falls and back. She's not too fond of water that cold, no bueno. If you hang there long enough you may witness one or more daredevils that are crazy enough to jump from the ledges. See picture below. One of the ledges is probably 30'-40' from the water, and the other is at least another 30' higher than the first. We saw a guy do a back flip off the top ledge. CRAZY. This is beyond dangerous, please do not attempt.
After our day at McCloud we went back to camp to enjoy another meal by the campfire. During our meal we talked about the days events and looked at pictures we took. We slept like rocks that night.
The following morning we packed up camp and said our goodbyes to the Crags. This was the day we headed home, and by no way was the adventure over.
On our trip back home we took hwy 89 which took us past McArthur Burney Falls and through Mt Lassen National Park. On our way to McArthur Burney Falls we split two forest fires which had started from lightning strikes the night before. Later that day they ended up closing part of Hwy 89 due to the fires.
This was our first time here at Burney-McArthur State Park and the falls are pretty amazing. They're 129' high and each day over 1 million gallons of water flow over them. The falls were named after a pioneer settler named Samuel Burney who lived here in the 1850's and the McArthurs who were pioneers as well in the 1880's. They bought the property and later gifted it to the State in the 1920's.There is a new visitors center which was still under the final stages of construction when we were there. If your looking to stay here there are cabins as well as tent sites. It seems there is something to do for just about anyone visiting this park. You can have a relaxing day hanging out at your camp or cabin or jaunt down to the lake where they have various water sport rentals available as well as miles of trails and even scavenger hunts for the kids. We couldn't stay this time but drove through the campground and snapped some photos of Burney Falls. Next on our itinerary was the lava tubes of Lassen. A.k.a., Subway Cave.
Subway Cave was formed 20,000 years ago by the Hat Creek lava flow. The hike through the tubes is approximately 1/3 of a mile in length. The trail goes between two tube collapses. You should bring a coat and some form of light. In the tubes it's 46 degrees on average and pitch black. The tubes are accessed be two sets of concrete stairs, once inside the floor is pretty level for the most part. Non the less, watch your step and your head. Across Hwy 89 is the Hat Creek Resort and RV Park. We didn't stop here. But from what I've read there is a motel, yurts, RV and tent camping available. Both the tubes and the campground are closed Nov thru mid April, weather permitting.
Our next stop was Bumpass Hell in Lassen Volcanic Park. Hell ya! This is a miniature Yellowstone, with all the rotten egg smell and mud pits to boot. This is the largest geothermal feature in Lassen National Park. It's named after Kendall Bumpass who lost his leg falling into one of the boiling pools back in 1864 while taking visiors on a guided tourt. From the parking lot across from Lake Helen the hike is a relatively easy 1.5 miles with an elevation gain of 300'. You can also reach it by a second trail. This trail is a tad longer and starts from Kings Creek picnic area and is 2.5 miles long. The scenery here is spectacular but make sure to stay on the trail. This was our last stop before heading home.
Final Thoughts: All of the places we visited are destinations in themselves. You could easily spend a week in Burney-McArthur and another in Lassen alone. There is always an adventure waiting so get out there and explore!