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Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, Part Three

05/25/2016 05:49PM ● By Kerri Regan

The Adventure Continues

June, 2016
Story and photos by Kerri Regan
If you’re a fan of Mt. Shasta (and who isn’t?), this leg of the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway will delight you - it offers a view from just about every angle. You’ll also find plenty of time for contemplation as you roll through miles and miles of tranquil wilderness area.

Our last installment left off in McCloud, a picturesque community with plenty of accommodations for travelers and nature-lovers. Moving up the byway takes you to the city of Mount Shasta, which also offers dining, recreational, cultural and shopping opportunities, as well as accommodations from quaint chalets to comfortable campgrounds. The Sisson Museum and Mt. Shasta Fish Hatchery are fun places to stop.

The 15-mile Mt. Shasta Everitt Memorial Scenic Drive offers a breathtaking tour of the 14,179-foot peak that has been recognized as one of the world’s seven sacred mountains, thereby attracting visitors from around the globe. And of course, the Mt. Shasta Ski Park draws adventure-seekers throughout the winter as the only ski park on the Byway.

A quick southerly side trip will lead you to Dunsmuir, a railroad town that’s worth the detour - you can even sleep in a 19th century railroad car at the Railroad Park Resort. Hedge Creek Falls is accessible by an easy five-minute walk, and if you continue behind the waterfall, you’ll discover a cave and a spectacular view of Mt. Shasta.

Continuing north on Interstate 5, Weed is home to a historic lumber museum and walking tour, but also a number of volcanic landmarks. From a bird’s viewpoint, Lava Park looks like fingers, where lava poured from the northern side of Shastina some 9,000 years ago.

Pluto’s Cave is a 1,500-foot-long lava tube that’s accessible by two short trails that lead to opposite ends of the cave. Juniper and sage give this area a more desert-like feel than the lush land south of here. The nearby Juniper Flat recreation area is popular for off-road riders; 48 acres of open riding terrain lies in a mostly flat area of sandy soil and lava flows.

Nearby, a snowmobile park anchors a 230-mile snowmobile trail system through the Klamath, Modoc and Shasta-Trinity national forests. It hosts the Siskiyou Sled Dog Races each winter. If hang gliding is your thing, Whaleback Mountain (a shield volcano whose four cinder cones look like a whale’s back) offers excellent hang gliding and paragliding.

If you’re ready for a cultural stop, Weed Historic Lumber Town Museum offers a fun collection of artifacts. For the duffer in your travel party, check out Lake Shastina’s 27-hole golf course.

Heading north on Highway 97 is the Living Memorial Sculpture Garden and Labyrinth, with 11 sculptures dedicated to veterans. Stop and check out the Emigrant Trail marker, where wagon trains crossed into the Shasta Valley in the 1850s.

At this point, you’ll be looking at the north-facing side of Mt. Shasta’s glacier. Descending into Butte Valley, you’ll likely spy some of the millions of birds that pass through the area annually on the Pacific Flyway. This area is also the only national grasslands in California.

In Macdoel, you’ll discover the Herd Peak Lookout, a fire lookout built in 1933 that offers sweeping views of the valley. The 2.2-mile Goosenest Peak Trail traverses the Goosenest Volcano, a shield volcano topped with a cinder cone. 

Dorris, near the Oregon border, is home of what’s said to be the tallest flagpole west of the Mississippi. If you need to re-energize, you’ll find restaurants and motels here.

Nature lovers will want to spend plenty of time in the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges. The Lower Klamath was the first refuge set aside for waterfowl in the nation, and more than 260 species use this refuge, including American bald eagles. Fall and winter are the best times to view the wildlife, but you won’t be disappointed at any time of year. It’s a serene, lovely place to relax and quietly observe your surroundings. And don’t just look toward the water—you’ll likely spot deer and other critters near the hillsides.

The Lava Beds National Monument, a short side trip, includes shield volcanoes, cinder cones, spatter cones, stratovolcanoes and more than 700 lava tube caves—and it’s also the site of the only Native American/U.S. Army battle in California history. The Native American rock art sites are a cultural wonder, with carved petroglyphs and painted pictographs that were created thousands of years ago. (Watch your speed, especially in this area—it’s easy to get a lead foot when there’s no one else on the road, but park rangers will remind you about the speed limit if you go too fast.)

From here, Highway 161 leads to Tulelake, the horseradish capital of the world. Those with an interest in American history can take some time for solemn reflection at several World War II site—a former internment camp for Japanese Americans and a German/Italian prisoner of war camp.

The segment of the byway from McCloud to Tulelake gets more desolate as you loop your way around Mt. Shasta and up toward the Oregon border—there are stretches where you might not
even encounter another human for a good chunk of time. If you need a break from life’s daily demands, these 100 miles will give you plenty of time for quiet contemplation. Take your binoculars, a camera and a keen sense of observation, and enjoy the ride.

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of stories about the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, one of 27 All American Roads in the United States, which connects Lassen Volcanic National Park with Crater Lake National Park. Though it’s possible to travel the byway in one long adventure, we’ll share it with you in five smaller pieces (from south to north). Each makes an easy weekend trip, and if you’re ambitious, you can squeeze it into a day. 

This month: McCloud/Tulelake; Coming up: Klamath, Crater Lake National Park