For our first stop, we went to Mount Shasta. Steve and I have heard how beautiful the area is, and decided it was a “must see”. We arrived Saturday evening and will be leaving tomorrow morning. We are not expert mountaineers, so we did not attempt to climb the beast, but enjoyed it surrounding natural splendor – and it did not disappoint!
Mount Shasta is an active volcano located near the Southern end of the Cascade Range, and is an impressive 14,179 feet elevation – making it the fifth highest mountain in California – Mount Whitney is number 1… in case you were wondering. The City of Mount Shasta is a cute, small town, but, driving on Highway 5 you might miss – the town is only 9 miles.
Where We Stayed
We stayed at the Mount Shasta KOA. This was our first time ever staying at a KOA, but as we started planning our trip we realized we could have some cost savings if we joined their loyalty program. By joining we are able to get discounts and perks at the campsites. Now, Steve and I might be snobish… we are used to staying at regional and state parks – which are scenic and beautiful. Even the ones located in the bay area (Del Valle being our favorite) have their charm and allure – this KOA is not that. We were pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to reserve and check-in. We arrived after the office closed, but they left a note with our spot number, Wifi password, and the map of the grounds. This particular KOA has a pool, playground, volleyball courts, basketball court, horseshoe pit, shuffleboard court, arcade, “general store” and laundry (oh yah!). We saw many families taking advantage of those amenities, and we made sure to take advantage of the laundry. However, even with all these features, there were some pitfalls. The KOA (and the entire city of Mount Shasta) is located within a mile of the local train track. Sure, it can’t be that bad… how often do trains come by? Well… turns out popular freight train times are between the hours of 9PM – 12AM AND 4AM-6AM. Needless to say, our first night was a tough one to get through, especially since Sparky woke up with every train horn… also leading to his bladder waking up. Our spot at the KOA was at the end of the row, which was nice to have some privacy from the other KOA “kampers”, but our view was the fence and parking lot of an apartment building.
We are not complaining one bit, because this KOA was well within our camping budget – running $36/night (before our Value Kard Reward)! Yes!!! Plus, we were out exploring nature, we didn’t need a fancy spot to camp at. Steve and I have already decided that should we come to Mount Shasta again, with children, this might be it depending on what activities we have in store for us.
Any other KOA stories out there? We are booked for more – let us know of your experiences.
What We Did
We based a lot of our activities for this area on one of our favorite apps – AllTrails, as well as many other google searches and blogs.
Our first full day (Sunday), we took a hike around Lake Siskiyou. To avoid a bulk of the heat we left around 9:30 AM and started our trekking by 10AM. We had no problem finding the lake, or parking. In fact, we were able to find several parking lots around the lake. You can walk around the lake from the shoreline, but we chose to do the trail, which is just outside of the shoreline. The trail is just over 7 miles. We loved this hike, and Sparky enjoyed spending time in the water. There are many signs stating that dogs must be on leash at all times – which no one abided by, frustrating Sparky whose parents are not cool enough to break the rules. We did let Sparky free in the water and were entertained by his silliness. Once we passed the Marina, about half way through our hike, we stopped for a cold beer and lunch. We finished our hike in the afternoon with the intention of another hike, however, turns out we are not in our normal hiking shape and decided to call it a day.
We did go see the Mount Shasta City park – which is home to the Headwaters Spring. TripAdviser told us that this was a must, and to bring our water bottles to taste the “best water on earth”. This is the start of the upper Sacramento River, and the water comes directly from Mount Shasta. They estimate the water traveled over 50 years to get to this point, so we figured we had to try it. When we parked, we saw people carrying jugs and containers full of water. I walked into the area to fill up our little bottle and toasted Steve – here’s to the best water on earth – which didn’t taste the best, but not the worse. A little bit on the mineral side. We enjoyed a nice walk through the city park. The City of Mount Shasta has an array of people – we saw people meditating, a drum circle, a dance party, a regular family having a regular picnic (as far as we can tell), and lots of dogs off leash – at this point, Sparky was ready to divorce us.
Today (Monday) we decided to drive to McCloud Falls. There are many options here – you can park at one set of falls and hike to all three, or drive to each of the three falls and go to the vista point. We opted to park at the lower falls and hike to the top and back. AllTrails advised us this would be 3.5 miles, it turned out to be more around 4. The hike to the middle falls was beautiful and the middle falls itself is spectacular. We spent about 20 minutes there watching people jump from a 40ft cliff into the water, taking photos and giving Sparky time to rest. The hike from the middle falls to the upper falls had a lot more sun and more elevation. We took it slower than our previous leg to give Sparky frequent water breaks. The upper falls were pretty, but anti-climatic after seeing the middle falls. The hike back down was pleasant and we enjoyed our late lunch by the lower falls (also not as impressive as the middle falls, but a great place to relax) and all three of us had our feet & paws in the water – soaking up the sun and each other’s company.
We loved the water so much, it was time for a swim. We went back to Lake Siskiyou to a spot we knew we could have some privacy, and sure enough we found one. All three of us got to swim, with the best background – Mount Shasta – looming over us. Although we couldn’t get Sparky to swim, no matter how many sticks we threw to the deep water, we felt we made progress. We are thinking of getting him a lifejacket – anyone have some experience on this – please comment below.
We ended our evening with driving through “downtown” Shasta – it really is a cute little town, and even had a farmers market going on.
What Would We Do Next Time
After some discussion, we totally would come back to the Mount Shasta area. We really enjoyed driving through the McCloud area and the surrounding Shasta-Trinity Forrest, perhaps we would stay there. Every time we drove and would get sight of Mount Shasta, we would marvel at its beauty – it really is exquisite. We would also want an opportunity to go to Lassen Volcanic National Park as well.
Tomorrow morning we leave for Crater Lake. This has been on both of our camping bucket lists for some time and are eager to enjoy its wonder. Lucky for us, this will be a short 2.5 hour drive (probably the shortest on our trip). We have found some dog friendly activities for Crater Lake as well as some hikes for Steve and I to do without Sparky. Sparky will be enjoying a day at doggie day care in Prospect – he doesn’t know it yet, but I think he will be happy with a day without us.
Mount Shasta has been awesome, but I have a feeling some more beautiful sites are coming into our lives. Stay tuned for more adventures!