Northern California Hidden Gems Weekend Road Trip
Northern California has a number of incredible off-the-beaten-path destinations. This weekend road trip itinerary will take you to Lassen Volcanic National Park, a lesser known national park with geothermal features. Next you will visit the beautiful Burney Falls and McCloud Falls. Another hidden gem in Northern California is the area around Mount Shasta which has many hiking trails with great views. Continue reading to plan your road trip to see these hidden gems in northern California.
How to get to Lassen Volcanic National Park and other California hidden gems
The closest airport to Lassen Volcanic National Park is only 40 minutes away in Redding but it has limited flights. Alternatively, you can fly into Reno (2.5 hour drive) or Sacramento (2 hours 40 min drive). You will need a car for this road trip so don’t forget to reserve one in advance on Discover Cars where you can compare rental car rates across companies and find the best price.
Where to Stay Near Lassen Volcanic National Park
Redding is the closest town to Lassen Volcanic National Park with a range of accommodations. It is also a good place to stay since there are restaurants and grocery stores nearby. Another option is to stay in the town of Mt Shasta. We stayed in this Airbnb in Redding which was very comfortable and perfect for a weekend in northern California. If you prefer a hotel you can search for options on booking.com.
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What to Pack for a Weekend in Northern California
- Daypack: Bring a backpack to carry your water, camera, and snacks during the day.
- Water bottle: Don’t forget to bring a reusable water bottle. This Stanley water bottle stays cold for 12 hours.
- Hiking Clothes: This itinerary consists of several hikes so make sure to bring comfortable clothes.
- Snacks: There aren’t many food options in this area of Northern California so make sure to bring plenty of high- protein snacks with you.
- Camera: Bring your fully charged camera to capture the memories!
Tips for Visiting Hidden Gems in Northern California
- The entrance pass for Lassen Volcanic National Park varies from $10 to $30 depending on the season. If If you are planning to visit several national parks in one year, I recommend purchasing the America the Beautiful Annual Pass. At $80, it is valid for one year and covers entrance fees to over 2,000 federal recreation sites including National Parks, National Monuments, and National Forests.
- Make sure to bring snacks with you each day you are exploring these hidden gems in Northern California because there are limited food options outside of the bigger towns.
- You will need to drive on dirt roads for parts of this northern California itinerary the roads don’t require a high clearance vehicle.
- This remote area doesn’t always have service so make sure to download the google maps of the area ahead of time and save these destinations so you can navigate without service.
Northern California Weekend Road Trip Itinerary
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park is a unique park with hydrothermal features that makes it feel like a mini Yellowstone (without the crowds). Highway 89 guides you through the park where you can stop at different areas and do a short walk to see mud pots and more geothermal features.
A hiking trail that must do during your visit to Lassen Volcanic National Park is this 3-mile hike called Bumpass Hell which features boiling springs, mud pots, steam vents, and fumaroles. The trail starts with views of the surrounding forest and takes you to an elevated boardwalk near the hydrothermal basin. You will see Big Boiler, largest fumarole in the park, which has been measured to be as hot as 322 degrees Fahrenheit.
As you continue to explore the park make sure to stop when you see a nice view of Lassen Peak. There are many pull outs along the national park road where you can stop.
Burney Falls is a beautiful hidden waterfall located in Northern California within McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. There is a nice 1-mile loop trail that takes you down to the falls, across the creek on a bridge, and back up the other side. You don’t have to do the full loop to see the falls but I recommend it! You won’t want to swim at Burney Falls as the water temperature is usually between 42-48 degrees Fahrenheit. While only 129 ft tall, the daily water flow is 100 million gallons.
Located near the town of McCloud and 40 minutes from Mount Shasta you can find three beautiful waterfalls along the McCloud River. Each waterfall has its own parking lot so you can visit each individually with a short walk. The best way to see all three waterfalls is to start at upper or lower falls and do the 4-mile round trip trail along the McCloud River. The most impressive waterfall is McCloud Middle Falls, so if you are short on time make sure to prioritize this waterfall. McCloud Falls is a must-see during your weekend exploring Northern California hidden gems.
Heart Lake Trail from Castle Lake
Castle Crags Wilderness in Northern California has amazing hiking trails with views of Mount Shasta. A must-do hike during your weekend in northern California is Heart Lake Trail from Castle Lake. This 3-mile round trip trail has views of Castle Lake and Mount Shasta, which is the fifth highest peak in California, at 14,179 ft tall. The best view long this trail is past heart lake at a viewpoint overlooking Castle Lake with Mount Shasta towering above.
Read More: Napa Valley Weekend Getaway
Make It a Long Weekend - Seven Lakes Basin
If you have an extra day on your northern California road trip then I recommend hiking Seven Lakes Basin via Pacific Crest Trail or choose another hike in this wilderness area. This trail is about 7 miles and has views of Mount Shasta and several lakes. You don’t have to do the whole trail if you don’t have time, you can always turn around before the small loop at the end and still see incredible views and pretty lakes.
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links for products and services I recommend. At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
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