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While the southern and central portions of the Golden State garner the most attention, California’s northern region beckons us, too. It's a sometimes-overlooked beauty waiting to be discovered.
Let’s tour this unsung neck of the woods by starting in the town of Redding, home to Shasta Lake, an enormous body of water with numerous opportunities for boating, fishing, and hiking. The city itself is surrounded by such mountain ranges as the Cascades, the Coast Ranges, and the Sierra Nevada, each one worthy of its own explorations for outdoor adventures. Along the shores of Lake Shasta, be sure to take time to explore the magnificent Lake Shasta Caverns. To see how northern California is balancing the delicate needs of both man and nature, check out the massive Shasta Dam and power plant then visit the Coleman National Fish Hatchery, which helps maintain the region’s all-important population of salmon.
From Redding, let’s head coastward along Hwy 299 a few miles and stop at Whiskeytown (yes, that’s its real name). Head down along Whiskeytown Lake to enjoy the scenery before visiting its very own dam and hydroelectric power plant that helps supply the area with electricity.
Keep your heading westward until you find yourself entering Gold Rush country, an apt title for these parts—where cities and towns survived the boom and bust cycles with varying results. Learn about the Chinese immigrants’ heritage and their major contribution to building the West at Weaverville’s Joss House State Historic Park. The town’s major ranger station is an ideal hub to launch your escapades into the massive Klamath National Forest.
Continuing west along Hwy 299 be sure to stop and smell the roses at the Horse Mountain Botanical Area. Okay, this is northern California, so there probably aren’t many roses to stop and smell. However, with more than 1,000 acres of California’s native plants within its borders, a stopover here is sure to satisfy.
Before hitting the coast, anglers won’t be able to resist pulling over in this section of Six Rivers National Forest and trying their luck along the Trinity River, a particularly lively fishing area, where several pristine rivers converge to provide bounties of trout and salmon.
The coastal town of Eureka is our next stop. A town where fishing and lumber industries used to thrive, Eureka features many attributes of a frontier town. Enjoy a stroll through Old Town where some of the historic buildings, like Carson Mansion, remain from the glorious gold rush years. Other featured venues here include the Sequoia Zoo and the Humboldt Bay Maritime Museum.
Our route north along Hwy 101 takes us along the scenic coast, passing through the towns of Arcata to the south and McKinleyville to the north. Be sure to enjoy Lady Bird Johnson Grove, near the town of Orick, and its 100,000-plus acres of majestic redwood forest.
Finally, let’s wind up in the northernmost big town of Crescent City. Use the city as a base camp to explore the nearby Redwood National Forest. Notice the pristine Pacific Ocean backdrop to the Battery Point Lighthouse. For a unique side-trip, visit the wreckage of the S.S. Emidio, a tanker that became one of the first American casualties of World War II when it was destroyed by torpedoes from a Japanese submarine. The ship was then abandoned by survivors and drifted 85 miles north before grounding on the rocky shore off of Crescent City.