Embrace the Outdoors at Mill Creek Resort
By Kayla Anderson
Story by Kayla Anderson
Photos by Dani Pagdett
EVEN PEOPLE who travel along Highway 36 from Chester to Red Bluff may not realize that there’s a quiet, safe haven tucked into the woods off of the horseshoe-shaped Highway 172. Mill Creek Resort is located about a half-hour away from Lassen Volcanic National Park’s south entrance and offers a perfect getaway for families, couples or anyone looking to unwind and embrace Northern California’s natural surroundings.
Built in 1936 as a post office and grocery store, Mill Creek Resort’s original owner, William H. Foster, put Mill Creek on the map. Soon after he designated it as his summer vacation spot, more homes and cabins started popping up in the area. The Fosters built a few small cabins on the property and started renting out tent and RV sites. In 1983, new owners Georgene and Terry Neher came in and built a restaurant, put in propane heating, and made some other improvements. Now retired, Mill Creek Resort has been put into the hands of current owners Joseph Van Meter and Jillian Hower who are writing a new chapter of the Mill Creek Resort legacy.
The couple met in San Diego, but both preferred the mountains to the sea and eventually had an opportunity to move up to the Weaverville area.
“We wanted to get out of the city,” Hower says.
When they moved to Weaverville, they came up with the idea to acquire and run a cabin rental property somewhere in Northern California. In 2017, the Mill Creek Resort came up for sale.
“It was right when I took a year off of work, and then this came up for sale. It’s exactly what we wanted, so we took the leap of faith and bought it. “I think this place was waiting for us to find it,” adds Hower.
Now going into their third summer operating season, Hower and Van Meter are in their element, continuing the Mill Creek Resort heritage while connecting with nature, their guests, and the community.
“We meet all sorts of people from all over the place in all different stages of life,” Hower says.
“People from the city come up here and they’re so grateful for the trees and the stars. And there are so many nooks and crannies here waiting to be explored,” Van Meter says.
Being so close to Lassen has its perks, too.
The pair and their guests often see bears, coyotes, herds of deer, the beautiful red-headed pileated woodpecker, and other birds. Plus, being on a volcano there’s geothermal activity going on all over the place.
“The most unique hike I’ve ever been on is Cinder Cone,” Hower says of one of Lassen’s famed trails. “The colors and walking on top of cinders is so cool,” she adds.
“That whole nature experience, camping and being near water under the moonlight, you get this feeling of connectedness. We’re really big nature people. This is our playground of the senses,” Van Meter says.
“People get up here and they say, ‘I’ve never seen this many trees’,”says Hower.
The couple is working on ways to accent their surrounding environment with small improvements, like renovating some cabins and implementing healthy, locally sourced food items into their restaurant menu.
Van Meter is a woodworker, Hower is into design, and they’re both into traveling, so their hobbies and skills perfectly complement the business. While they admit it’s been a bit of a learning curve to understand all aspects of running Mill Creek Resort between the cabin rentals, restaurant, and maintaining the tent/RV sites, the partners have been up to the challenge.
“We’re really excited and passionate to be here, so we’re working really hard,” says Van Meter. “Our goals are to put our own soul and vibe into this place,” he adds.
They’re interested in hosting yoga retreats and more community-involved events.
“We had our first arts and crafts show last summer in the meadow with a barbecue and live music,” Hower says. “We want to do that every year now; we want to be the center for family-friendly events in Tehama County.”
The pair enjoy sharing tales of the Native American history of the area and how more people are seeking out undeveloped areas to vacation in.
“It’s easy to see what a spiritual and cultural area this is. We want to keep that connectedness to nature and make our own story of this place,” Van Meter says.
Mill Creek Resort has nine cabins, eight RV sites and 14 tent sites. Special features include a playground area and a meadow that’s great for playing volleyball, soccer or building snowmen. Mill Creek runs behind the property and offers a refreshing place to swim or fish. All cabins have their own kitchens and bathrooms; RV sites have full water, electric and sewage hookups.
Mill Creek Resort is open May through September and has limited operations in other months.