‘Lonely as God, and white as a winter moon, Mount Shasta starts up sudden and solitary from the heart of the great black forests of Northern California,’ wrote poet Joaquin Miller on the sight of this lovely mountain. A sight of it is so awe-inspiring that the new age prattle about its power as an ‘energy vortex’ begins to sound plausible even after a first glimpse.
There are a million ways to explore the mountain and surrounding Shasta-Trinity National Forest, depending on the season – you can take scenic drives or get out and hike, mountain-bike, raft, ski or snowshoe. At Mt Shasta’s base sit three excellent little towns: Dunsmuir, Mt Shasta City and McCloud. Each community has a distinct personality, but all share a wild-mountain sensibility and first-rate restaurants and places to stay. In the same dramatic vicinity rise the snaggle-toothed peaks of Castle Crags, just 6 miles west of Dunsmuir.
Northeast of Mt Shasta, a long drive and a world away, is remote, eerily beautiful Lava Beds National Monument, a blistered badland of petrified fire. The contrasting cool wetlands of Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges are just west of Lava Beds.
Further east, high desert plateaus give way to the mountains of the northern Sierra. Folks in this remote area are genuinely happy to greet a traveler, even if they’re a bit uncertain why you’ve come.