Water flowing uphill, people appearing to grow and shrink at a moment's notice, balls that roll away inexplicably rolling back?this is all just par for the course at Confusion Hill's main attraction, Gravity House. Back in 1949, founder George Hudson was searching for someplace like the Santa Cruz Mystery Spot, where the laws of nature did not always apply, and he found it here, deep in the redwoods. Outside the Gravity House, a metal rod sporadically shows magnetic properties; further into the forest you might catch sight of the hill's mascot, a chipmunk-antelope hybrid called a chipalope. Guests can also catch a train ride into the forest to admire the old growth trees and see historical logging equipment. At the gift shop, visitors procure redwood souvenirs crafted by hand rather than chipalope teeth, and can stock their picnic baskets for a meal in the open air.
NorCal Trail Rides’ wise guides lead horseback explorers of all skill levels on safe and comfortable excursions through the Northern California countryside. Before embarking on 60-minute trail rides, guides supply riders with the tack, helmets, and water necessary for the trip, and then pair them up with one of the stable's horses. The group then sets out for a relaxing jaunt by the Sacramento River, where they can feast their eyes on local wildlife while gulping down local fresh air. NorCal Trail Rides leads excursions every day of the year, but potential rein operators should call ahead for a reservation, as times can change depending on the season and forecasts for bad weather or alien invasion.
Surrounded by craggy peaks, three men in bright-red helmets stand in the midst of wilderness, surveying the mountains around them as their group of hikers break for a snack on the rocky ground. This interface with the majesty of nature is all in a day's work for this trio of adventurers—Paul Mangasarian and Jakob and Daniel Laggner. Still, their passion for open-air exploration grows with each expedition they lead. Paul, Jakob, and Daniel cofounded Treks and Tracks with the dream of orchestrating excursions into nature that combine ancient means of travel—such as sailing, horseback riding, and hitchhiking on a centaur—with modern sports ranging from surfing to rock climbing. Though they focus on introducing novice outdoorsfolk to unspoiled wilderness around the world, Treks and Tracks' cofounders also strive to leave the awe-inspiring surroundings they visit as pristine as they found them by rigorously upholding practices of environmental stewardship on each expedition.
Since opening to the public in 1926, Benbow Inn has entertained Hollywood elite, foreign dignitaries, and traveling motorists alike with a wealth of both outdoor and indoor pursuits, nestled amid the towering redwoods that share the banks of the Eel River. Early on, the Inn’s prime spot near the Avenue of the Giants made it a popular stopover for tourists traveling up the coast or searching for a more impressive Christmas tree. The sprawling complex’s tranquil gardens and majestic mountain setting provide an ideal respite from the road for weary travelers. Though the hotel’s long-held commitment to upkeep and service has earned it a place on the National Register of Historic Places and a four-diamond rating from AAA, its real treasures lie outside its Tudor walls. Visitors while away the time with such activities as swimming and boating on the river, perfecting pitches on the 9-hole Benbow Valley Golf Course, or hiking through the redwoods of the Kings Range while longing for prehensile tales from which to swing.
In addition to hotel rooms and cottages, Benbow Inn hosts campers on more than 100 pull-through and back-in sites at its RV Resort, which won the Best of The West Award in 2004. Here, travelers enjoy the peace and quiet of their spot in the woods, which balances the rusticity of the outdoors with such creature comforts as cement patios, picnic tables, and full hookups, including cable TV.
Course at a Glance: * 9-hole, par 35 course * Total length of 2,674 yards from the back tees * Course rating of 66.3 from the back tees * Course slope of 115 from the back tees * Three sets of tees per hole * Scorecard
Five miles north of the resort, a web of hiking trails meanders through the conifer forests and wildflower meadows of Mount Shasta, whose summit towers 14,162 feet above sea level. Hikers can take to the Black Butte Trail—a moderately steep climb—which originates on Everitt Memorial Highway amid an aromatic cluster of pine and cedar trees. About halfway up the rocky 2.5-mile trail, Black Butte unveils a sprawling, westerly view of Mount Eddy, and at this relatively level vista point, hikers often set down their wooden walking sticks and jugs of water to marvel at the Shasta valley glistening below. Within the small clapboard structure that houses the Sisson Museum, permanent exhibits showing off collections of Native American basketry and antique mountaineering artifacts illuminate Mount Shasta's eclectic culture. Families walk through the fish hatchery adjacent to the building, peering into the long, narrow ponds harboring rainbow and brown trout before moving on to the property's three kids' fishing ponds. There, amid rolling coolers and green mesh nets, parents bait hooks for jumping children eager to reel in shiny silver trout, and volunteers stroll the dirt perimeters taking photos of little ones' catches.In downtown Mount Shasta, The Goat Tavern indulges an eclectic crowd with hearty burgers and a beer list scrawled on a chalkboard. Tattooed motorcycle crews sit alongside couples in cardigans on the outdoor dining deck, which is perched above the area's main drag. Waitresses parade through, balancing dishes laden with spicy chicken sandwiches and piles of fragrant garlic fries.
Sprawling across 300 acres, Turtle Bay Exploration Park has all the space it needs to showcase Northern California's ecosystems as well as the history of its people. Located in Redding, which was named one of the top affordable summer driving destinations by CBS News, this celebration of nature, anthropology, and art starts in the McConnell Arboretum. Its gardens use 200 acres to form a living map of the five major Mediterranean climate zones: Chile, South Africa, Australia, the Mediterranean basin, and California. In addition to providing picturesque views, these gardens use water-wise methods to emphasize the importance of sustainability. * Paul Bunyan?s Forest Camp displays artifacts and photographs from early lumber camps while also teaching visitors about the local birds and reptiles that continue to thrive in the nearby forests. * The Turtle Bay Museum helps visitors explore the region's animal life or general scientific topics through rotating exhibits along with a 22,000 square foot aquarium. * The Sundial Bridge features sweeping, 217-foot pylon that supports the bridge's elegant design while minimizing its environmental impact on the river below. * Buster Simpson's The Monolith is an installation built inside the ruins of the Kutras Aggregate Plant, which provided the gravel used to create the concrete for Shasta Dam.