5 unforgettable day trips along the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway

Waterfalls, volcanoes, and more... you might just have to do all 5 trips.

While the Pacific Coast Highway gets most of the attention from travelers looking for a scenic route from California into Oregon, if you go inland you’ll find 500 of the most incredible miles in all of America: the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway.

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The problem, however, is that 500 miles, each packed with things to do and places to photograph, is a lot to tackle. To truly experience the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, you’d have to plan on spending at least a week. Don’t have that kind of time? Don’t worry, here are 5 day trips based on each region of the byway. Do a couple days and head home or be a true adventurer and spend a week exploring each region…

Lake Almanor area

If you’re starting on the Volcanic Legacy Byway from the south, Lake Almanor and the towns of Chester and Almanor will be your first major areas to explore. The lake itself is like something off a postcard, and if you’re a fisher, prepare to spend some extra time on your drive casting a line into the beautiful waters. If you’re more of a water sports kind of person, the lake’s summer temperature of roughly 75 degrees make it perfect for renting a jet ski, going wakeboarding, or sailing around the 53 miles of shoreline.


As you drive around the lake, little camp resorts and inns dot the shore, and the town of Chester is the ideal place to grab dinner, supplies, or stay for the night. (P.S. Chuck Norris has a vacation home here so you might even see Chuck!)

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Heading northwest out of the Lake Almanor area, the next big area to explore is Lassen Volcanic National Park. Here you’ll find Lassen Peak, a massive plug dome volcano along with the geothermal wonders of Bumpass Hell and Boiling Springs Lake.

For outdoors folks, Lassen Volcanic National Park offers 150 miles of trails along with places to swim, boat, fish, and ride horses. The area is also a big spot for star-gazing. The picture below shows why:

On your way out of this area, make a quick stop at Subway Cave. This quick hike through a volcanic cave is 100% pitch black, so be sure to bring a flashlight. It’s an experience you’ll be glad you took a few minutes to try.

The Waterfalls Region

Whether you’re just continuing your journey up the Volcanic Legacy Byway or joining it for the first time from Interstate 5 between Mt. Shasta and Dunsmuir, you’ll be thrilled with what lies ahead of you on this section of the journey. As the name would suggest, the area is packed full of stunning waterfalls, a total of 4 in all, and two of them absolutely can’t be missed. The first you’ll come to is McArthur-Burney Falls. You can hike the trails all the way to the base of the 129 ft. waterfalls, and as you can see from the picture, it’s pretty awesome…

McCloud River Falls are the next waterfalls on the trip north on the Volcanic Legacy Byway. These falls feature trails with picnic areas along the McCloud River, so if you packed your lunch, it’s a pretty serene places to enjoy it. Once again, we’ll just let the falls do the talking…

The Mount Shasta Region

Mt. Shasta is something to see… This 14,000 ft. volcano has 4 vents and 4 more on Black Butte, its plug dome to the north, and thanks to the Everett Memorial Highway, you can drive up 8,000 feet on the mountain for stunning views from Bunny Flat. Back down the slope you’ll find quaint lodging and food options in Mt. Shasta. For a delicious meal, we recommend Mike and Tony's.

After leaving Mt. Shasta, you’ll come to the little town of Weed, another great place to make a pit stop for food, supplies, or to bed down for the night. After leaving Weed you’ll come to the Living Memorial Sculpture Garden, a special park paying homage to America’s veterans. It’s also a great place to view Mount Shasta from a completely different angle.

The Klamath Basin, Tulelake, and Lava Beds Region

Heading north out of Weeds, the Volcanic Legacy Byway gives way to the Klamath Basin, Tulelake, and the Lava Beds Region. If you keep your eyes open, there’s a good chance you’ll see some bald eagles or other awesome wildlife.

Once you cross into Oregon, you’ll come to the town of Klamath Falls. This town becomes the perfect base camp to explore the multitude of wonders around the region. Stop and grab a drink at the Klamath Basin Brewing Co. and explore the town while planning your last day trip of the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway: Crater Lake National Park.

For more on Crater Lake National Park...

Cover Photo: Flickr


Places explored in this article:

This was originally written for Roadtrippers, a great resource for anyone interested in travel.
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