The summer is right around the corner in Northern California, meaning it’s time to start planning those great family vacations you look forward to all year. There’s plenty of great places to take your family in California, but for our money, Siskiyou County might have the best family-friendly experiences around.
With the mighty Mount Shasta as a centerpiece, Siskiyou County has become one of the top destinations for nature lovers in California. The smorgasbord of waterfalls, lakes and small-town vibes can’t be matched on the West Coast, and its a great place to get outside with the whole family.
Let’s explore 30 family activities you can do during your trip to Siskiyou County:
Mt. Shasta Ski Park
Probably the most popular winter activity near Redding is to go for a ride down the slopes of Mt. Shasta Ski Park. Just over an hour drive from Redding, the locally owned ski resort is a great place for the whole family during the wintertime. Whether you want to ski a black diamond, go tubing down the mountain or just relax with a hot chocolate in the lodge, this really is the best place for a winter adventure in the area.
The ski resorts boasts three main ski lifts with 425 acres of skiable terrain across 1,435 vertical feet. There’s also a bunny slope for the newbies and tubing for the kiddos. For the adventurous skiers or snowboarders, there are three terrain parks (depending on conditions) for the beginner, intermediate and advanced riders. Heck, you can also stay in a slopeside cabin and ride all the backcountry your heart desires!
Living Memorial Sculpture
The Living Memorial Sculpture Garden is an exceptional 136-acre art installation and war memorial along Highway 97 on the Goosenest Ranger District of the Klamath National Forest. Created in 1988 by a dedicated group of veterans, the site is now maintained under an agreement with the USDA Forest Service.
Under the shadow of Mount Shasta, you can reflect on the beauty of the area and the sacrifice of veterans by viewing the Hot LZ Memorial Wall, labyrinth and ten sculptures by veteran and artist Dennis Smith.
Technically, this could count as three separate adventures, since McCloud Falls offers visitors three distinct waterfalls in one short hike. But since there’s so many great places to visit in Siskiyou, we’ll leave it at one destination.
Sitting in McCloud, California is one of the most spectacular hikes in all of the West Coast, with a 3.5 roundtrip jaunt bringing you to three waterfalls, all of which are unique in their own right. The McCloud Waterfalls Trail sits about 15 minutes off Interstate 5 near Mount Shasta and will take you to Lower, Upper and Middle McCloud Falls. The waterfalls are big and beautiful, allowing hikers to stop for a swim or even catch one of the world-famous trout of the McCloud River. For our money, this could be the most magnificent hike in all of NorCal.
Mt Shasta Fish Hatchery
You may have past it while driving to Lake Siskiyou in Mount Shasta. There’s a small sign announcing the Mt. Shasta Fish Hatchery along the popular roadway, although many people have no idea that it’s the oldest operating fish hatchery west of the Mississippi.
During the spring months, visitors to the hatchery can see over 3 million baby trout swimming in the waters of the operation. The visit is especially pleasant on a sunny day, where you can relax on the shady picnic tables with a view of Mount Shasta.
After the fish have grown large, they are moved to the large outdoor ponds where fish food dispensers are readily available to get the fish moving excitedly. This is a fun adventure for everyone, especially kids.
Headwaters of the Sacramento River
The Sacramento River is one of the most important water resources on the entire West Coast. You’ve most likely seen the beauty of the large river throughout Northern California, but one of the most spectacular views can be found where it’s just a tiny creek gushing out of the ground in Mount Shasta.
Located in Mt. Shasta City Park, the headwaters of the Sacramento River are a popular destination for spiritual enthusiasts and outdoor lovers looking to see nature in action. The water of the famed Big Spring aquifer comes from snow that has fallen on the slopes of Mount Shasta and although it’s not treated in any way, it’s considered safe to drink after filtering through the volcanic rock of the mountain for 50 years. Watch as locals and fill up their water jugs from the springs and ponder the natural process of the water, which becomes a crucial waterway throughout different areas of NorCal.
Railroad Park Resort
Sitting in Dunsmuir, California is the remnants of a historical railroad operation near the base of Mount Shasta. The Railroad Park RV Resort is home to numerous old railroad cars which were converted into hotel rooms for visitors. They also have an RV hookups and a campground, making it the perfect place to explore the area under the shadow of Castle Crags. The area is filled with history and there’s even a restaurant in an old railroad car.
Sitting just outside Mount Shasta at 5,440 feet elevation is lake surrounded by the mountains of the Shasta Trinity National Forest. Visiting the lake can be a vastly different experience depending on the season, but the views remain consistently beautiful.
Castle Lake is one of the hidden gems of the Mt. Shasta region, with most locals driving past Lake Siskiyou and finding open space at the high-alpine beauty. In the summer, you’ll find plenty of kayakers, paddle boarders and fishermen enjoying the sunshine on the water. In the winter when the lake freezes, you can walk all the way out to the middle, most likely passing the many holes for ice fishing along the way. Whenever you visit, you’re bound to be amazed.
Lava Beds National Monument
Sitting in the the tippy-top of Northern California is one of the most beautiful, historical parks in all of California. Combining geology with history and just good ole’ fashioned outdoor beauty, this rugged terrain is one of NorCal’s most fascinating and underrated outdoor destinations.
The Lava Beds National Monument is a land of turmoil, both geologic and historic. Over the last half-million years, volcanic eruptions have created a rugged landscape dotted with diverse volcanic features. Lava tube caves, Native American sites, historic battlefields and a high desert wilderness experience highlight an adventurous trip to the park.
Historic Downtown Dunsmuir
Stepping into Dunsmuir is like taking a time machine back into the 1920’s. The downtown area has kept the same vibe for nearly a century with plenty to do in the region. Along with historic structures and beautiful murals, the town has plenty to explore nearby including Hedge Creek Falls and Castle Crags.
Situated along the Upper Sacramento River just below Mount Shasta, Dunsmuir’s official town slogan is “Home of the Best Water on Earth.” Fly fishermen come from all over to catch the wild trout of the river and enjoy the small-town vibes of downtown. The town is easily walkable and includes great food at Yaks on the 5 and delicious craft beer at Dunsmuir Brewery Works.
We love staying at the Mossbrae Hotel or nearby Railroad Park Resort. Find more places to stay in Dunsmuir here.
Combining history and nature, the Ney Springs Canyon Trail near Siskiyou Lake in Mount Shasta City is an easy hike through the 19th century ruins of Ney Springs Resort with a waterfall payoff. With the length of the trail being only 1.2 miles at a low-elevation, this is an easy hike that can be done any time of the year.
A little over 3/4 of the way up the trail, you will find the old ruins of the Ney Springs Resort, a popular destination for local tourists in the 1800’s. From there on continue approximately 0.25 miles down the trail to gain access to Faery Falls. Depending on water flows, you will find a lively 40-ft cataract with a great vantage point.
Dunsmuir Botanical Gardens
Dunsmuir, California is home to plenty of popular outdoor destinations like Hatchet Creek Falls and the waters of the Upper Sacramento River. But hidden right in the middle of town is a garden area that rivals the most relaxing and beautiful places in NorCal.
Located in the Dunsmuir City Park, the Dunsmuir Botanical Gardens encompass ten acres of hilly, wooded area with a meadow containing various gardens. There’s also a playground area and picnic sites that border the beautiful Upper Sacramento River, where you can fish on a catch and release basis.
The gardens are home to native plants like white dogwood, Shasta lilies and azaleas, as well as other introduced plants like rhododendrons, hostas, ferns and Japanese maples. There are numerous walking trails throughout the garden and an annual Tribute To the Trees concert is the a great way to experience the area.
Historic Downtown Yreka
If you’re looking for a historic vibe in California’s Far North, a stay in Yreka is just what you’re looking for.
The small town of Yreka, California, sitting just to the north of the mighty Mount Shasta, has a prominent history in the early settlings of Northern California. As a crucial stopping point along the Siskiyou Trail, gold was found nearby and 2,000 gold miners quickly settled into the area in 1851. According to Mark Twain, the town was named as a misspelled palindrome of the word “bakery.”
A walk through Yreka’s historic district will give you plenty to do, including a visit to the Siskiyou County Museum which offers a plethora of educational opportunities for history buffs. You can stop for a beer and food at the Etna Brewing Co or grab some delicious eats at the Miner Street Meat Market. You’ll find plenty of historic sites along the way.
Find more places to stay in Yreka here.
Tree of Heaven Campground
Sitting along the Klamath River between Yreka and the Oregon border is a beautiful campsite with fantastic fishing, rafting access and epic hiking. The Tree of Heaven Campground was named after the tree that 19th century Chinese immigrants planted in the area during the gold rush, and it certainly lives up to its name.
This campground has shady sites near the Klamath River for tents or RVs and plenty of commemorative plaques teaching the history of the Chinese immigrants who once lived in the area. There’s also an interpretive trails along the Wild and Scenic Klamath River that’s great for any outdoor enthusiast.
If you’re staying in downtown Mt. Shasta, you can head up to the mighty mountain to get an up close view and maybe do some hiking in the summer or backcountry skiing in the winter.
Near the end of the Everitt Memorial Highway sits Bunny Flat, known to many as the gateway to the Mount Shasta wilderness. A convenient parking lot can give you access to the popular ski areas on the mountain like Avalanche Gulch, or head up the way to popular hiking areas like Panther Meadows.
As you head just north of Mount Shasta, there’s a fantastic lake that offers limitless outdoor activities and unparalleled views. You’ve probably seen photos of Lake Siskiyou with Mount Shasta hovering in the background and it’s a view you’ll never tire of when visiting in person.
In the winter, you can find a desolate experience at the lake, where you can hike around to find Shasta views or maybe even bike the Lake Siskiyou Loop. In the summer, there are opportunities for motor boating, windsurfing, sun bathing, fishing, pedal boating, rock climbing, paddle boarding and of course, swimming. The resort offers inexpensive rentals of canoes, life jackets, double and single kayaks and paddleboards, so there’s no need buy or lug expensive equipment out to the resort. Also, fishing remains a popular activity on the lake where anglers can lure rainbow and brown trout as well as bass.
Weed Historic Lumber Town Museum
In 1893, the Siskiyou Lumber and Mercantile Company bought timbered property in what is now the downtown area of Weed, from H.S. Williams and his wife Olive Williams. When the Siskiyou Lumber and Mercantile Mill north of Black Butte desired to sell their business, Abner Weed was willing to buy it. He sold his mill on the east slope of Mt. Eddy to a man by the name of Durney and that mill was subsequently known as Durney’s Mill until about 1920. In 1897 Abner Weed bought for the sum of $400.00, the Siskiyou Lumber and Mercantile Mill and 280 acres of land in what is now Weed.
Today, exhibits in the old courthouse feature artifacts from the timber industry and life in early Weed, as well as the life of Charlie Byrd, the first elected African American county sheriff in California. The museum stands as a tribute and educational experience dedicated to the early settlement of Northern California during the Gold Rush.
Hedge Creek Falls
Similar to hideout entrances seen in Batman movies and the Legend of Zorro, Hedge Creek Falls cascades in front of the passage to a 12-foot-high cave. The narrow waterfall hardly obscures the not-so-secret cave meaning that you won’t stumble upon any masked heroes on your trip to the feature. Still, the trip the Hedge Creek Falls is well worth the drive the Dunsmuir, CA. Along with the waterfall, visitors can take in incredible views of the Sacramento River and Mt. Shasta from the Hedge Creek Falls Trail.
As you begin, the path starts to descend moderately, and you pass a tiny creek. As the grade of the canyon gets steeper, you begin to go down via a number of switchbacks until you’ll start to hear flowing and falling water. Before you know it, you’re at Hedge Creek Falls. At this point, the trail continues behind the waterfall providing an intimate feel for hikers. Somedays, you can spot rock climbers attempting to ascend the igneous rock wall that reaches 30-35 feet to the source of the cascade.
Anybody that grew up in the area most likely has a memory of sledding at Snowman’s Hill in Mount Shasta. The designated sledding hill, located on Highway 89 right across the road from the Ski Park Highway, is usually packed with enthusiastic sledders on a snowy weekend day. The average run is about 300 feet and there are ample parking and bathrooms for visitors.
As you head down into the Mount Shasta, you’re going to need a place to stay right? Look no further than LOGE Camps, Mount Shasta’s brand-new hotel built specifically for outdoor adventurers. When you enter the hotel rooms, you’re greeted with bike and ski racks, Yeti coolers and a hammock going across the room.
Nestled right in downtown Mount Shasta, this hotel will give you all the accommodations you need for your outdoor adventure and provide you with comfort and entertainment at the end of the day. It may just be the most unique hotel around!
Historic Downtown Etna
Who knew there was so much to do in the middle of nowhere? Etna is located approximately 30 minutes west of Yreka and is a popular stop for Pacific Crest Trail hikers traveling through the area. The Scott Valley area is great for hiking, biking and camping in the Marble Mountains, and Etna makes for the perfect basecamp for your adventure in the mountains.
Even as a small town at the base of the Marble Mountain Wilderness, Etna packs a big punch in terms of things to do in the downtown area. The most popular destination is Denny Bar, which sits as a fantastic restaurant, bar and distillery sitting right in the middle of town. There is also plenty of history to see just walking around.
For places to stay, the historic Collier Hotel in Etna is a unique experience. Find more places to stay in Etna here.
Siskiyou Ice Rink
As a Northern California resident, skating on a beautiful outdoor ice rink seems foreign. When you add to the spectacle the stunning view of Mount Shasta constantly hovering above, you realize that this isn’t just another ice rink.
The Siskiyou Ice rink continues to be our favorite outdoor ice rink in Northern California. Nestled under the beautiful Mt. Shasta, this rink provides all kinds of outdoor skating opportunities throughout the winter season, including family skating and ice hockey.
Siskiyou County Museum
We’ve covered a lot of great historical destinations in this article, but if you want an overview of the history of Siskiyou County, the Siskiyou County Museum is the place to go.
Nestled in the Gold Rush-esque downtown Yreka, the museum offers a plethora of educational opportunities for history buffs. You can see a fascinating collection of articles donated by the descendants of early pioneers, along with an Outdoor Museum that displays original and recreated buildings from all over Siskiyou County. It’s the perfect place to see the past 200 years of California’s Far North!
When discussing whitewater in Siskiyou, most people will immediately point to the Klamath River. In fact, it may be the favorite river for rafting enthusiasts on the entire West Coast. And with an experienced guide, you can maneuver the rapids with the whole family
The Wild and Scenic Klamath River is the second largest river in California and features more than 180 miles of premier whitewater rafting. To see all of the rapids, you’ll have to endure a 2 to 3 day trip, camping along the way. The trip includes over 30 rapids ranging from Class III to IV+, including two rapids each over a football field long.
The Klamath River begins in Southern Oregon and moves down into NorCal through the rugged Siskiyou Mountains. The upper section begins near Ashland, Oregon and ends all the way down into California at Copco Lake. The lower section begins in Happy Camp and is one of the most well-loved trips for families with small children. The remote stretch of the Lower Klamath is full of wildlife and even includes a side hike to Ukonom Falls. Watch out for Bigfoot, since this is where legends place his origins.
Karuk Tribe People’s Center Museum
There are plenty of historical destinations that dive deep into the region’s past 200 years, but the Native American history can give you thousands of years of history.
In Happy Camp sits the Karuk Tribe People’s Center Museum which is devoted to the preservation, promotion and celebration of Karuk history, language, traditions and living culture. The facility includes an exhibition gallery, a gift shop, a Basketweaving classroom, a library, a collection’s storage area and the Karuk Language Program Office. This is a great place to earn everything you need to know about the Native Americans of Siskiyou County!
If you’ve ever visited downtown Mt. Shasta, you’ve likely enjoyed the delicious restaurants, unique crystal stores and quaint coffee shops. But sitting right next to the downtown area is one of the most pristine meadows in all of NorCal hidden in plain sight.
Sisson Meadow is a 7.5 acre gem that offers a relaxing stroll with gorgeous views of Mt. Shasta, the Eddy Mountains and Black Butte. There’s an elevated boardwalk to make the hike more blissful and benches throughout the area to sit down and take in the beauty. While in the meadow, you’ll likely encounter calm hikers drinking coffee, walking their dog or meditating.
To gain access to the Sisson Meadow trail, start by finding Mt. Shasta Ace Hardware at 328 North Mt Shasta Blvd. From there, you’ll walk a few blocks toward Mt. Shasta, and you’ll find the trail.
For specific directions, check out the Siskiyou Land Trust’s Sisson Meadows visitors guide here.
Tule Lake & Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges
As you drive west through Siskiyou County, you can stop at one of the premiere birding destinations on the West Coast. Tule Lake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges are something of a bird Mecca and make for a quick road trip stop to see some breathtaking wildlife.
Just below the Oregon state line near Newell, Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge has a lot of open water and leased crop lands, attracting primarily water birds. Within the refuge is a 12-mile (paved and unpaved) all-season road kept open to wildlife viewing all year long. There are also two hiking trails for viewing wildlife eyeball to eyeball, the Sheepy Ridge Trail and the Discovery Marsh Trail.
As you continue to head west, a stop at America’s very first designated National Wildlife Refuge is on the itinerary. The Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge was established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 and a National Historic Landmark in 1965. The Klamath has about 3,100 acres of wetland habitat, making it a great spot for finding waterfowl in the winter. The area’s 8,000 acres of upland habitat also makes it a great spot to find birds like the Western Tanager in the spring.
Dunsmuir Baseball Field
Dunsmuir is known for its beautiful waterfalls and proximity to Mount Shasta, but not a lot of people know it was once the stop of Babe Ruth’s west coast exhibition tour, where he and Yankee teammate Bob Meusel travelled through California playing local teams. One of those teams was the Dunsmuir baseball team, which played the Babe on October 22, 1924.
If you were to visit the Baseball Hall-of-Fame in Cooperstown, New York, you would find a poster promoting the event, with admission costing $1.10 for adults (plus a war tax) and 25 cents for children. Dunsmuir Mayor Cornish declared a half holiday on that day for the town to attend the event.
According to legend, Ruth hit a ball so far during the game that it was never found. Today, the field and stands still sit in downtown Dunsmuir, commemorating the memorable visit from the baseball icon.
McCloud River Mercantile Hotel
The well-known historic hotel of the town of McCloud is McCloud Mercantile, which opened in 1897 as a store and hotel for the mill workers at the McCloud River Lumber Company and their families. Today, the hotel and store remain a mainstay in the town of McCloud, attracting visitors from all over the west coast to enjoy the town’s history and shop the unique vintage lines that are still available in the store.
Castle Crags Wilderness
Castle Crags seems to hide in plain sight. Though clearly visible from I-5, the magnificent geological oddity receives less mention than other North State attractions. Maybe people prefer volcanoes to granite spires.
Whatever the reason for Castle Crags State Park’s relative anonymity, the destination certainly deserves a visit. From the hike to Castle Dome to finding waterfalls like Root Creek Falls and Burstarse Falls, there are so many reasons to make a trip to the legendary Crags.
Yaks on the 5
Probably the most known restaurant in Siskiyou County due to its “Top 100 Restaurant in America” moniker from Yelp, Yaks on the 5 delivers on quality burgers and much more. Located in Dunsmuir, this small diner brings locals and visitors everything from humongous burgers, beer on tap and sticky buns TO DIE FOR! It’s a fun stop for the whole family on your way to Siskiyou adventure.
Have fun on your family adventure in Siskiyou County!