Why Siskiyou County Should Be On Your California Exploration Road Trip


By Julie Diebolt Price


ON BIG BLEND RADIO: Travel writer / photographer Julie Diebolt Price shares her road tripping adventures throughout Siskiyou County in Northern California. Watch here in the YouTube player or download the podcast on PodBean or SoundCloud.


Siskiyou County is home to stunning Mt. Shasta in the Siskiyou Mountain Range and draws outdoor adventurers and nature lovers during all four seasons of the year. The county borders southern Oregon with wildlife and scenic landscapes that will take your breath away in Lower Klamath National Wildlife, Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, and Lava Beds National Monument.

Prime industries in Siskiyou County are wood products, agriculture, and cattle ranching. Add the beer trail, a distillery, along with terrific dining options, and you have an undeniable recipe for pleasure.

If you are looking for off-the-beaten-path destinations on your road trip, here are some things to do in Siskiyou County that will captivate you.

Dunsmuir is a walkable town complete with Ted Fay Fly Shop. A seemingly endless lure selection makes it hard to pick the best. They also provide guide services to eager anglers. The Sacramento River is close and accessible.

Across the street is the landmark California Theatre built in 1926. This classic theater hosted many famous actors when they were on promotional tours by train in the day.

The Dunsmuir Amtrak station is a key stop today on the Coast Starlight route between Los Angeles, California, and Portland, Oregon.

Pops Performing Arts Cultural Center, named in tribute to Louis Armstrong, draws artists from the community and surrounding regions.

Sacred Well is a popular spiritual guiding service downtown. The Kuan Yin Sanctuary behind the store is exotic and thought-provoking. The colorful mural is always open to the public.

Railroad Park Resort provides unique lodgings in Dunsmuir. Twenty-three cabooses offer king-sized beds and all the comforts of home, plus a climb-up cupola. For train lovers, this resort and museum will fulfill your lust for railroad history. Vintage railroad cars house the Dining Car Restaurant and artifacts from the glory days of railroading in Siskiyou County.

Castle Crags State Park presents an easy trail to view the monoliths of towering spires and an adjacent view of Mt. Shasta.

An easy scenic trail under Hedge Creek Falls leads to the Sacramento River and another stunning view of Mt. Shasta.

Yaks on the 5 is a quirky and popular restaurant on the main road. The décor is Purple Rain and Prince – gaudy, attention-grabbing, and entertaining. When you place your order, you draw a name from a jar that identifies your order. It was hilarious to hear, “Hunk a hunk a burning love, your order is ready!”

Heading west of US 5, we slipped into Scott Valley and the town of Etna on Highway 3. A profusion of purple lupine greeted us with striking blankets of spring wildflowers covering the valley floor between the Marble and Eddies Mountains in the Klamath Mountain Range.

The list of Etna, California hotels is short. With a population of about 700 and off-the-beaten-path, we discovered Collier Hotel, once an old rooming house. An excellent place for groups and family vacations, the large veranda is a great place to gather and enjoy the tree-shaded backyard festooned with wisteria during the spring.

You must visit the Grain Street Bakery and try their Kouign-Amman (pronounced “queen Amman”). It is a delectable, caramelized mélange of flour, butter, salt, and sugar. Patrons come from as far as Chico and Yreka specifically to get the Kouign-Amman. Forget about your diet when experiencing this pastry.

Denny Bar Co., the only distillery in Siskiyou County, is a hip spot that has successfully combined contemporary spirits-making and artisanal food while preserving the building’s history. Once housing a school downstairs and a brothel upstairs, Denny Bar Co. owners have kept the original room-sized safe intact. Originally used to store gold during the gold rush, the safe makes a wonderful climate to store spirits.

Famous for its briskets and BBQ, Etna Brewing Co. is a craft brewery on the Siskiyou County Beer Trail in downtown Etna. Live performances and skill games keep the clientele entertained until 9 pm.

The community of Callahan was named after M.B. Callahan, a rancher who opened the Callahan Ranch Hotel as a travelers’ stop in 1858. The hotel still stands and is for sale on eBay for $11.00.

In addition to the hotel, Callahan, the population of about 50, lays claim to a post office, the Callahan Emporium, a convenience store, and a bar that is wallpapered with one-dollar bills signed and dated by visiting patrons.

The eccentric character I dubbed Miner Mike sitting on the veranda attracted my attention. Decked out in an old miner’s hat, black leather jacket, and black chaps, at first glance, I thought he was one of those wooden carved statues that you come across at old-time emporiums. A fascinating collection of tools attached to his belt in curious ways was remarkable.

Continuing on our journey to Gazelle, we discovered the magnificent view overlooking Scott Valley that the locals recommended. We spotted a ring-tailed cat and a lynx along the way. Recommendations by the locals afforded unexpected rewards for this road trip off the beaten path.            

The McCloud River is divided into two sections by the McCloud Reservoir. The Upper McCloud is popular with anglers and kayakers and boasts three magnificent falls – Upper, Middle, and Lower. All three falls are easily accessed by the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, Highway 89, and offer lookouts at each fall.

Shasta View Lodge is a comfortable, spacious, and centrally located hotel in McCloud. It’s within walking distance to downtown, where you can pick up a book in the little lending library or enjoy a homecooked breakfast at White Mountain Café, at the corner of the historic Mercantile Building on Main Street.

For more years than I can remember, I have always wanted to explore Siskiyou County. Awed by Mt. Shasta as we drove through to Oregon destinations, this was the year to make my wishes come true.

Plan your Siskiyou County Adventure at www.DiscoverSiskiyou.com.

Julie Diebolt Price is a professional photographer, educator, travel writer, and journalist. She helps corporations and solo entrepreneurs establish their brand with imagery and business training. She educates and mentors aspiring photographers. As a journalist who loves to travel, she creates memorable experiences and shares them with words and pictures. Follow Julie’s travel adventures at https://phototravelwrite.com/

International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association


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