Outdoor Winter Adventures…
Winter in Northern California generally means cozy fireplaces, comfort food and holidays. But in Siskiyou County, it also spells outdoor adventure. Complete with a ski park, ice rink, Nordic ski center and some of the best fishing and birding in the nation, there’s just about every kind of winter activity imaginable. Siskiyou’s iconic Mount Shasta generally welcomes an average of 80 inches of powdery snow every year, and without the crowds of Tahoe, some consider it one of the best winter destinations in California. But skiing and snowboarding on Shasta’s slopes are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to winter fun. Here are seven ways to indulge in a memorable outdoor experience.
DOWNHILL SKIING, SNOWBOARDING AND TUBING
Siskiyou County is blessed to host Mt. Shasta’s Ski Park with 425 skiable acres, 32 trails, 1,390 vertical feet, three triple chairs and one surface lift. But it also offers another must-do: night skiing on 14 of those trails. It’s also becoming known as one of the best off-trail riding areas in the West, and offers unique opportunities for snow tubing and half-pipes, with a challenging natural and manmade Terrain Park. For beginners, check out the Terrain Park on the Marmot Ridge trail.
Snowmobiling the backcountry in Siskiyou is a thrill ride through some of the most pristine and wild winter scenery in Northern California. The four interconnected snowmobile parks in Siskiyou County all have warming huts, restrooms, loading ramps and parking areas, and 260 miles of groomed and well-maintained trails (plus countless other unmarked, natural trails for more adventurous riders). At the Deer Mountain Snowmobile Park off Highway 97, check out Fun Factory Rentals offering snowmobile rentals and tours, including full moon rides, skiing and snowboarding. Access to the three other snowmobile parks can be found at Pilgrim Creek off Highway 89, the Medicine Lake Highlands in East Siskiyou and the Doorknob Snowmobile Park off of Forest Road 49, one and a half miles south of Lava Beds National Monument. Just don’t forget a permit and a helmet.
Snowshoeing is a growing winter sport. The best places for snowshoeing are at Bunny Flat on Mt. Shasta and around Castle Lake west of Interstate 5. There’s also, of course, the Mount Shasta Nordic Center that offers a great network of snowshoe-packed trails that’s open to snowshoers – and dogs!
CROSS COUNTRY SKIING AND BOARDING
Cross-country skiers will find excellent conditions in the higher elevations throughout Siskiyou County, but Mount Shasta has excellent access via Everitt Memorial Highway, which is plowed in the winter to about 7,000 feet. This leads to two of the most popular backcountry access areas on Mount Shasta: Sand Flat Trailhead and Bunny Flat Trailhead. For a more civilized experience, there is also the Mount Shasta Nordic Center, with several miles of packed trails. You can rent snowshoes and lightweight gear there, or check out any of the stores in Mt. Shasta and McCloud.
Casual sledding is an important mainstay of local winter fun – just make sure to stay on public land and bring your own sled or rent one beforehand. Two of the most popular established sled spots are Bunny Flat at the top of Everitt Memorial Hwy and Snowman’s Hill at the summit of Highway 89 between Mount Shasta and McCloud. Snowman’s Hill was once a ski jump with an average run length of 300 feet, so it is sure to delight anyone looking for a thrill, but it is also better suited for older children. Depending on snowfall, the run can be enjoyed all winter into May. There is also ample parking, restrooms but is also prone to weekend crowds.
ICE SKATING AND HOCKEY
Siskiyou County has its own ice rink – in fact, it’s the largest outdoor ice rink on the west coast and comes with breathtaking panoramic views of Mount Shasta, the Eddys and Black Butte. Located in Shastice Park behind Mount Shasta High School, it’s generally open November through March. On Saturday and Sunday, they’ve also historically offered a pick-up game of ice hockey. Skate rental and hot drinks are available on-site, as well as on-ice support frames for those first time and young skaters.
ICE FISHING AND STEELHEAD
High-elevation mountain lakes and cold temperatures make for incredible ice fishing in Siskiyou. One of the most popular standouts is Castle Lake in Mount Shasta, a 47-acre lake at the end of a scenic drive. Just don’t forget to dress warmly and bring a lawn chair. Siskiyou County also offers the wintering angling rush without the ice by going up against the hard-fighting steelheads on the Klamath River along Highway 96, where 10-pound fish are often landed in winter.