There’s nothing better than hitting the road and seeing that open stretch of highway before you, except for maybe finally reaching your destination and being blown away by the beauty of Northern California. Luckily for us, where we live we don’t have to travel far to witness some pretty amazing destinations. A lot of these incredible places are state parks, so we decided to compile a list of destinations in this road trip, which is a one of a kind tour of Northern California.
Grab all the necessary outdoor equipment, fill up the tank of gas, and hit the road!
Be sure to stop in and stretch your legs at each of these parks. Hike, camp, skip rocks or beachcomb. Just get out and explore.
1. Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park
This state park is located in Shasta County and is best seen by boat. Here you can paddle through reeds and grasses as you take in incredible views of Mount Shasta. Over two thirds of the area is covered by recent (three to five thousand years) lava flows including vast areas of jagged black basalt. Find the park from McArthur by turning north off Highway 299 on to Main St., continuing past the Intermountain Fairgrounds, crossing over a canal and proceeding 3-miles north on a graded dirt road ending at a dirt launch ramp.
2. Castle Crags State Park
The landscape here is dramatic and awe-inspiring, to say the least. More than 170 million years old, these 6000-feet tall granite spires in the Castle Crags Wilderness border the northwestern edge of Castle Crags State Park. There are several places to camp and hike in this area. Castle Crags State Park is located 6 miles south of Dunsmuir or 48 miles north of Redding along I-5; exit 724.
3. Humboldt Lagoons State Park
Formed by the clash of two tectonic plates, this state park lies on a windswept stretch of Humboldt County coastline. It's part of the largest lagoon system in the country and visitors like to hike, paddle and swim here. It's located 40 miles north of Eureka and 55 miles south of Crescent City on Highway 101.
4. Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park
Ride your bikes around the paved campground loop, stroll through an old growth redwood grove, or gather around the campfire for docent-led story telling at this rustic state park. It's one of the few traditional places left in California that offers old fashioned, community oriented campground experiences. It's located 15 miles east of Highway 101. Expect rainy or misty weather!
5. Plumas Eureka State Park
Established in 1956, Plumas Eureka State Park gives visitors a glimpse of the past and plenty of incredible views of the surrounding mountains. This area was once the site of a bustling mine, and visitors can tour the stamp mill, original bunkhouse that now serves at the museum headquarters, stable, and blacksmith shop. Its located five miles west of Blairsden on County Road A-14.
6. Empire Mine State Park
For another historic gold rush experience, check out the Empire State Mine, which was once the richest and longest operating mine in California. Here a history buff gives a demonstration to some eager youngsters. In addition to the mine’s buildings, the owner’s home and restored gardens, visitors can also explore the 8 miles of trails on the property. To find the park, drive 24 miles north of Auburn on Highway 49 to Empire Street exit in Grass Valley. It is located at 10791 East Empire Street.
7. Emerald Bay State Park
This breathtaking state park lures thousands, if not more, people to the shores of Lake Tahoe every year. Visitors soak in the view of this stunning bay from the ridge line above, or they can walk down to Vikingsholm, a stunning Scandinavian inspired castle on the lake. The island in the middle of the lake hosts what remains of a small cottage, which is also fun to explore. It is located 12 miles north of South Lake Tahoe.
8. Marshall Gold Discovery State Park
This iconic spot is the reason why many of our ancestors headed out west and how California became a state in the first place. James W. Marshall discovered gold in 1848 on the South Fork of the American River in the valley the Nisenan Indians knew as Cullumah. This event started the gold rush and the area has never been the same... it has been well preserved, however! In addition to the historic buildings and interpretive trails, it's now a popular white water rafting destination and camping area. The park is located in Coloma on Highway 49 between Placerville and Auburn.
What did you think of this road trip? Are you ready to hop in the car and drive? Be sure to share your thoughts with us, and if you are looking for more road trip itineraries, be sure to read
The Charming Small Town Northern California Road Trip.
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