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Northern California:Take a cool trip around geological hot spots

Mother Nature shows off her best side on this Northern California adventure. Bring your skis, fishing rod or hiking boots—depending on the season.

Drive 287.8 miles, 4 hours, 46 minutes


1. Red Bluff

Starting Point

Nestled in the northern Sacramento Valley, Red Bluff is known as the “Victorian City on the River” because of the numerous Victorian homes restored in this unique town. With over 65 lakes, streams and reservoirs nearby, it makes perfect sense that fishing is a favorite sport. Cast your rod for rainbow trout, or go in search of the largest run of Chinook salmon in the state. The Sacramento River offers boating, fishing, swimming, tubing, kayaking and canoeing, along with walking, hiking and birding trails for a great day outdoors.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

2. Redding

32.5 miles, 28 minutes

Living in the “Second Sunniest City in the Nation,” Redding residents and visitors alike enjoy active outdoor pastimes. Take a stroll across the Sundial Bridge, a 700-foot-long freestanding work of art that pulls double duty as world’s largest sundial and as a pedestrian bridge. The span connects the north and south sections of the Turtle Bay Exploration Park, home to museums, an aquarium, arboretum and gardens. Step back in time at the Shasta State Historical Park, a restored Gold Rush ghost town where you can wander through the old courthouse and see the ruins of hotels, meat markets, barbershops and saloons of a by-gone era.


3. McCloud

67.8 miles, 59 minutes

Located in the shadow of Mt. Shasta, McCloud is a nature lover’s paradise offering cross-country and alpine skiing and trout fishing, along with several hiking trails. Set out on the Squaw Creek Trail with its deep canyons, the Black Lava Trail that traverses through old growth forests, and Black Butte Trail with its hidden gorges. Waterfalls abound in the area; don’t miss McCloud Falls or Mossbrae Falls for amazing thrills, chills and spectacular views. Climbers can head up Mount Shasta, Castle Crags or the Trinity Alps before cooling down in the Lake Shasta Caverns.


4. Hat Creek

58.2 miles, 54 minutes

Stop at Hat Creek before moving to Lassen Volcanic National Park, with its heated history and otherworldly trails, including the wheelchair accessible Devastated Area Interpretive Trail, littered with eruption artifacts. The Spatter Cones trailhead has lava mounds and two spatter cones, and the Devil’s Kitchen cooks up geothermal delights, including mud pots, steam vents and boiling water. The Subway Cave is a winding lava tube with small lavacicles—drips that formed from the ceiling as the lava cooled. Put it all in perspective at the Loomis Museum, where you’ll learn the story of the most recent eruption of Mount Lassen, just one hundred years ago.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

5. Susanville

62 miles, 1 hour, 1 minute

This former logging and mining town is home to an amazing variety of outdoor adventures. Grab a bike, horse or walking stick and cover over 65 miles of trails at the Susanville Ranch Park. Wind your way through canyons, up challenging hills and across quiet meadows for dramatic views of California’s geographic crossroads, where four distinct physiographic regions meld into one breathtaking vista. The Hat Creek Ranger District of the Lassen National Forest lets you walk among dormant and extinct volcanoes.


6. Quincy

67.3 miles, 1 hour, 24 minutes

This little Gold Rush town offers plenty of outdoor activities, including hiking, skiing, golfing and horseback riding. But there’s another side to Quincy that’s for the birds: the Sierra Nevada Avian Center works toward the preservation of fowl, such as the willow flycatcher, the great gray owl and other regional wildlife species. The Plumas County Museum houses artifacts from the Maidu Indians, along with mining and logging equipment, a working blacksmith shop, a horse-drawn hearse and a restored miner’s log cabin along with other Gold Rush relics.