Driving tour: Montague to Grenada

by Shasta Cascade on July 21, 2009

Old Restored Opera House

Old Restored Opera House

If you’re traveling between Mt. Shasta and Yreka in Siskiyou County, odds are that you’ll take Interstate 5 to go through the area. The freeway is great for getting from one place to another quickly, but you miss a lot of scenery and interesting things because you’re focused on the road at 70+ mph.

If you’re not in a hurry, old Highway 99 provides a slower, more scenic route to enjoy the landscape. The I-5 freeway was built around 40 years ago as an express bypass for Highway 99, which used to be the North-South route through Oregon and California. Highway 99 used to link all the small towns along it’s route. When I-5 was created, many small towns were no longer on the main strip and fell into desolation. Traveling Hwy 99 has the added benefit of seeing all the hidden sights you would not otherwise see.

One interesting part of Hwy 99 is between Montague and Grenada, a 30 minute loop just west of I-5. If you’re headed north, take exit 766 toward Montague/Grenada. Merge onto 99/97 Cutoff A12 and go about a half mile, then take a left onto Montague Grenada Rd.

Grenada is a very small town; there’s only a main intersection with a couple side roads. A number of old stores and restaurants dot the area. The buildings and business signs are faded, and some are vacant (probably since the time I-5 was built). If you explore some of the side streets, you see old school buses and broken-down cars in front of houses. This is clearly one area that any sort of recent economic prosperity has bypassed.

As you head out of town toward Montague, you’ll see cattle ranches in each direction. The road is two lanes, and well-maintained.

When you arrive in Montague on South 11th street, there are a number of strange things about the town. First, you’ll notice that a number of buildings on South 11th resemble an old Western town with building facades. You’ll also notice they have been obviously restored in the recent past. A closer look and you’ll notice that most are vacant. Clearly, somebody invested quite a bit of time and money trying to restore the old downtown. At you look around the area, you’ll see a number of old historical markers. Some of them indicate an old bar from the 1800’s. Across the street is a statue of somebody on horseback, along with a geographic marker indicating the halfway point between Portland, OR and San Francisco, CA.

As you drive around the area, you notice an old hardware store that’s closed and boarded up. All the signs are faded, but the business pretty much looks as it did on it’s last day of business decades ago.

Despite all the economic hardships this region has endured, there are some signs of life: there’s a new-looking coffee shop, along with some antique stores.

I wouldn’t recommend either Montague or Grenada as a destination, but I would recommend these places to visit as a side trip to see an interesting side of California and Siskiyou county that one doesn’t see very often.

Do you know anything about these two towns? Any interesting memories? Leave a comment!

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