Trip Report: Mt. Shasta to Callahan drive

by Shasta Cascade on June 22, 2009

Our family took a Father’s Day driving trip  into the mountains west of Mt. Shasta to explore because we didn’t know much about the area.

We didn’t have any plans other than a full tank of gas, a Rand-McNally map of the area, and a couple hours of free time.  The best trips are when you find something neat that you didn’t expect, and this drive was no exception.

Park Springs Rd, Weed, CA

Park Springs Rd, Weed, CA

From Mt. Shasta, we took I-5 north a couple miles to Weed and took the central exit to Old Hwy 99.  Our intent was to head toward the famous Stewart Springs on Stewart Springs Road, but due to some confusion at an unmarked intersection we accidentally turned off on Park Springs Road (otherwise known as Forest Service Road 42N17).

We passed by a number of ranches, some complete with tennis courts, before starting to climb into the desolate pine covered hills.   Within fifteen minutes, we had climbed up to the 6,000 foot elevation and were in some of the most remote countryside that I have ever seen.   The road was in excellent condition, but was barely wide enough to fit two cars passing by each other.  We could see a river or steam a couple thousand feet below us on the south side.  Ahead, we could see for miles between a couple mountain ridges.

View from China Mountain

View from China Mountain

We came across a couple switchbacks that allowed a spectacular view back to the valley and I-5 off in the distance.

We continued to climb and quickly found ourselves in an alpine setting.

We encountered an access point for the Pacific Crest Trail, as well as a couple high altitude campgrounds.

After another 30 minutes, we started to descend, and the road started to run alongside the North Fork of the Trinity River, which was incredible to look at.

We finally came to Highway 3, which runs south to Trinity Lake 20 miles to the south, and runs north to Callahan and eventually Yreka.    We took a right on 3 and headed north.  We came to an intersection with Hwy 3 heading to the left, and to the right was a road heading east back to Gazelle.  We continued left on Hwy 3, and within a couple miles, we came to the peak of Smith Mountain pass.

There was an old historical marker that explained this route used to be the old Oregon-California stage coach line before the time of railroads.  This high mountain route was used because it was safer from Indian attacks in the lower elevations.  Also at this location was an access point for the Pacific Crest Trail, as well as a campground.

We continued north along the windy road when we were surprised by a deer on the side of the road when we turned a corner.  The deer didn’t budge, and continued to happily eat as we drove by.

Our ultimate destination was Callahan, CA (population 50). We didn’t intend on visiting Callahan; that just happened to be the place where we turned back because of time.

Callahan was straight out of the Twilight Zone; there was a small downtown with most of the buildings boarded up and falling down. The only establishments open were the Emporium general store and a bar. Even more surprising is why anything was there in the first place: Callahan is located in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Obviously, Callahan’s best days were behind it.

Overall, it was a great drive, especially considering the 70 mile loop only took three hours.

Have you ever been in this area?  Share your experiences!

For more pictures, see this trip on Trailguru. Make sure you click the little “Photos” box above the map to see where each photo was taken.

Here’s a Trailguru GPS track of the tour:

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