There’s a lot of heavily populated places here in Northern California, but the rest of the country would be surprised to know that we have plenty of remote, abandoned places as well. We have a unique but fascinating history here. Stretches of our treacherous coast, old ghost towns, and even ancient amusement parks have been left by the wayside, and who knows what ghosts haunt these historic locations.
You can start this drive anywhere on the loop, but we suggest starting off by heading west from the Mount Shasta area.
1. The first stop is Old Shasta City, which is now part of the Shasta State Historic Park.
Located 6 miles west of Redding, California, along Highway 299, Old Shasta City was founded in the 1850's, and was a bustling gold rush town. The shells of many of the brick building still remain.
2. From there, continue on to the abandoned community of Falk, which is accessed by the Elk River Trailhead & Old Town of Falk Walking Trail.
Founded as a company mill town in 1884, Falk grew to 400 residents and thrived for 50 years. In 1937, due to the great depression, the mill had to shut the doors to its once thriving business. A dozen residents remained into the 1940s but by the 1950s, Falk became a ghost town. Bottle hunters sifting through the town's remains and people living in the abandoned buildings became a liability concern for the Sierra Pacific Lumber Co., which owned the town site. To resolve the problem, the company razed the buildings in 1979. Aside from the rose bushes and English Ivy, the town of Falk has literally disappeared, though many of the stories remain. Visit Falk and search for the faint trace of foundations and gardens run rampant. The tenacious redwood forest has reclaimed this area, which you can access via a hike through the woods.
3. Follow the coast south to the Punta Gorda Lighthouse on the Lost Coast near Petrolia.
The Punta Gorda Lighthouse is located on a remote section of the King Range National Conservation Area in Humboldt County. It's so hard to get there that you also can't drive in and it will require a little bit of hiking via an out and back 5 mile trail. The lighthouse was established in 1912 and after it was replaced be advances in technology, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 5, 1976
4. Up next on this road trip is J's Amusements Park in Guerneviille.
The abandoned park is full of dilapidated rides that are slowly being taken over by nature. he park featured a roller coaster, a mad mouse, and several other attractions, including a mini race track. Due to rising costs, the park closed in 2003.
5. From there, continue on to Point Reyes to check out the abandoned ship that sits beached near Inverness.
Known as the Tomales Bay Shipwreck, the Inverness Shipwreck, or the S.S. Point Reyes, the tall fishing boat was originally dragged aground by the land’s previous owner who had intended to fix the ship up. When the land was taken over by a wetlands restoration firm, the boat was an obvious target for removal. But thanks to the attention the local photographers and visitors gave the wreck, the company allowed it stay right where it was.
Today there is a small sign and trail that leads to the picturesque wreck.
6. To see some more abandoned ships, drive south to Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet.
These old, abandoned ships e National Defense Reserve Fleet, a fleet of vessels that serve as a reserve of ships for national defense and national emergency purposes. The reserve fleet program was begun in 1946 at the end of World War II. At its peak in 1950, the program had more than 2,000 ships in lay-up. One of the reserve fleet storage sites is in Suisun Bay, the northern portion of San Francisco Bay. Only a small portion of vessels currently remain with the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet and are slated to be sold at auction or scrapped as they are no longer in good condition or up to date.
7. Donner Pass Train Tunnels
This historic summit is the location of a train pass through the mountains that was originally built in the 1860's. Tunnels and snow sheds were built over the tracks to protect them from the significant snow fall that is common in the high elevation of the Sierra. In 1993, this old route through the mountains was decommissioned by the railroad company after a new tunnel was built about a mile south. The original tracks were abandoned, and this is a popular place to explore and hang out in the area. In the colder months, the ice in the tunnels is spectacular.
8. From there, head north towards Secret Valley near Lassen Volcanic National Park.
Tucked into the sunburned sagebrush of the high desert in Lassen County, California, is an area once known as Secret Valley. One of the few building from this abandoned town that was left standing is said to have been a brothel named Secret Manor. It catered to the men of the wild west who worked on the railroad, and the site is still rumored to be haunted by the spirits of ladies of ill-repute.
9. Wind you way back west as you beging to close the look and aim for Whiskeytown.
Although once a bustling mining town, it is not only an ghost today today, it is completely covered by water. The entire town of Whiskeytown was flooded to make way for Whiskeytown Lake in 1962. Boaters and observers of the lake can still see the buildings and houses located in the lake's depths.
10. Your last stop on this roadtrip is the Tower House Historic District.
Tower House Historic District Loop is a 1.1 mile loop trail located near French Gulch. It's part of the Whiskeytown Recreation Area and allows you to get up close and personal with several Gold Rush era abandoned structures. You can tour these structures on a 1 mile loop walking trail.
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