With nearly 445,00 acres of federally recognized wilderness, Siskiyou is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream destination. Its borders encompass rich volcanic history, bio-diverse forests, abundant alpine lakes, wild and scenic rivers, waterfalls, canyons, valleys and peaks. And, even for residents, there’s never a shortage of new natural sights to behold. But for a visitor just getting to know Siskiyou, here is a round up of some iconic only-in-Siskiyou spots. Of course, this list is by no means exhaustive, but these seven natural wonders of Siskiyou should be on your bucket list!
The grand-dame of Siskiyou, the magnificent Mount Shasta is without a doubt the “unchallenged monarch” of Northern California. At nearly 14,180 feet, it is the second highest peak in the state and visible from well over 100 miles away, towering over every other mountain in the region. Many come to summit it, while others come to marvel at it. Whatever calls you to the mountain, you will be changed after experiencing this natural wonder. For places to stay while visiting Mount Shasta, visit here. To experience other summits in the area (and fantastic views of Mount Shasta!) visit here.
Lava Beds National Monument
More than 700 caves, Native American rock art sites, historic battlefields, and a high desert wilderness await you at the unparalleled Lava Beds National Monument. Formed over the last half-million years by flows of smooth lava from the Medicine Lake Volcano, this rugged landscape dotted with diverse volcanic features is definitely one of Siskiyou’s natural crown jewels, and earns a spot in our list of Seven Natural Wonders of Siskiyou. For an alternative way to explore this National Monument, try the free driving audio tour that highlights the historic hotspots during the Modoc War that was fought in the Lava Beds during 1872-1873. To learn more about and access the tour, visit here.
Medicine Lake Shield Volcano
Not your typical “volcano,” Medicine Lake Volcano is what’s known as a shield volcano, where the underlying rock has downwarped under the center of the volcano, leaving its old caldera exposed as Medicine Lake. Rising 3,900 feet above the Modoc Plateau with 140 cubic miles of lava flows, it’s actually the largest volcano by volume in the Cascade Range, which also includes Mount Rainer and Mount Saint Helens. It is believed that the Medicine Lake volcano is unique, having many small magma chambers rather than one large one. To explore more recreational opportunities in East Siskiyou, visit here.
On Siskiyou’s southern border with neighboring Shasta County, the Castle Crags are an estimated 170 million years old, their impressive 6000-feet tall granite spires having inspired many enduring myths and legends. The fact that they are granite also makes them very different from much of the volcanic landscape Siskiyou is known for, affording visitors a slice of Yosemite without the crowds. There is both the Castle Crags Wilderness and the Castle Crags State Park, where 28 miles of hiking trails of varying levels means that everyone can enjoy this natural wonder. It’s also six miles from the charming railroad town of Dunsmuir, filled with great restaurants and lodging. For more inspiration on visiting “The Crags,” see here.
Flowing 257 miles through Oregon and Northern California into the Pacific Ocean, the Klamath River is the second largest river in California and the most important river south of the Columbia River for anadromous fish migration (which means fish that migrate from the sea up to their natal freshwater streams, such as salmon and steelhead). It also includes many of the longest free-flowing stretches of river and whitewater in California, making this one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Siskiyou an excellent recreational destination. For a list of places to stay and play along the Klamath, visit here.
McCloud Falls is unique in that it is actually a series of three waterfalls located all within a walkable mile of each other and each with their own personality. At Upper Falls, the quiet river gathers itself into a massive rock chute, charging the water full of energy before it spills into a pool far below. Middle Falls spreads a sheet of falling water over a lava cliff, into a large pool, while lower Falls is a small chute spilling into a pool below. The water is icy cold, but in the summer you will find people frolicking in it, enjoying this favorite natural wonder. For a list of other visit-worthy waterfalls in Siskiyou, see here.
The Russian Wilderness is a wilderness area within the Klamath National Forest, located just above Scott Valley in Siskiyou. Along with the Trinity Alps Wilderness to the south and the Marble Mountain Wilderness in the north, it forms an important wildlife and recreation corridor. But the Russian Wilderness also happens to hold one of the richest conifer assemblages on Earth, with 18 documented species of conifer (including the Engelmann spruce, one of California’s rarest conifers) in a roughly drawn square mile around Little Duck Lake. This wonderously bio-diverse section of the wilderness has come to be known as the “Miracle Mile,” and can be explored on foot and horseback. Fort Jones and Etna, two of the many quaint communities in Scott Valley, make for a delightful basecamp. For places to stay while exploring the Russians, visit here.
This is just the beginning of amazing places to explore! Come stay in Siskiyou and discover it for yourself.