The glacier-encased slopes of 14,180-foot Mt. Shasta practically reach out and slap you in the face from this laid-back NorCal burg. That alone wouldn’t qualify it for this list, but the town also sits a few hours’ drive from the Trinity Alps, Marble Mountains, Castle Crags, and the Shasta Valley high desert. And even better, its out-there location frees Mt. Shasta (the town) from the hordes descending on other California mountain towns. “The only complaint I do hear is it can be kind of dead on a Friday night, because everyone’s out camping,” says local guidebook author Bubba Suess. The culture? Outdoors folk lacing up hiking boots beside crystal-clutching New Agers and Jefferson separatists.
Why You’re HereIsn’t it obvious? Mt. Shasta. But don’t do it the obvious way (i.e. Avalanche Gulch). Instead, tack on a little extra distance and ascend the West Face. Camping on Shasta doesn’t get better than Hidden Valley (9,200 feet), a platform between two ridges with straight-line views to the summit. The route isn’t technical, but all climbers will need crampons, ice axes, helmets, and a rope. Trailhead Horse Camp Permit Required; free
On the Town
PERK Sip the best coffee in town and chomp delicious breakfast burritos at Seven Suns Coffee and Café. 1011 S. Mt. Shasta Blvd.
PUB It’s technically in neighboring Dunsmuir, but our local sources threatened to sabotage this story if we didn’t include YAKS on 5, home to burgers topped with things like marmalade, jalapeño poppers, and bourbon-glazed bacon. Also on offer: more than 100 craft beers. 4917 Dunsmuir Ave., Dunsmuir
SNACK Stash a to-go lunch from Maruti in your pack and feast on authentic samosas come lunchtime. 531 Chestnut St.
SEE Cool off in nearby Lake Siskiyou, “close enough for an afternoon dip with time for a nap before dinner,” says local David Skinner. 4239 W. A Barr Rd.