On the road between Redding and the California Coast, you’ll pass right through the middle of a ghost town. A century and a half ago, Shasta was the biggest city in the area. Now, all that remain of those days are some brick skeletons of storefronts, that used to serve mule trains and stage coaches. It’s all protected as part of Shasta State Historic Park, which is free to explore.
As I set out on my way to the coast, from an overnight stop in Redding, I had no idea that I would find a ghost town. Shasta, California still has 1,771 residents (as of 2010), so you can’t really call the entire town a ghost town. But, the historic buildings preserved as part of Shasta State Historic Park certainly qualify.
Brick storefronts, dating back to the 1850’s through 1880’s, line the edge of Route 299. You’re free to walk up to them…
… and into them. Some of the walls have crumbled away…
… although some interesting artifacts remain, including this old safe.
The Bull Baker & Company store still has some heavy iron doors on the front.
A trail leads up the hill, behind the buildings…
… where you’ll find more interesting structures, like this old furnace (?) in the hillside.
Some plots of land are now vacant. This is where the Charter Oaks Hotel once stood. Directly across the street, the Courthouse Museum building was built in 1855, and has been restored to its 1861 appearance. There is an admission fee to the museum.
Behind the museum, you’ll find the old Coyle-Foster Barn. It was built at nearby Trinity Center, along the road to Oregon, to house the horses of travelers who were staying at the Holland House Hotel. When Trinity Center was to be flooded by the new Trinity Dam, the barn was taken apart, piece by piece, and moved here.
You’ll find an old wagon inside the barn…
… and nearby, under a separate shelter, an old steam-powered core drill is on display. It was used by miners to pull a core sample out of the earth.
Also keep an eye out for this ancient version of a mile marker.
Back on the street, you may also notice this beautiful old brick building. The Western Star Lodge #2 is the oldest Masonic Lodge in California. It was built in 1854, a year after a great fire swept through Shasta, destroying many of the wood-framed buildings. The building is not open to the public.
Just a few miles up the road, there’s more history to see in the …
Whiskeytown National Recreation Area
California Highway 299 runs through the middle of the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, and along the edge of Whiskeytown Lake. The lake was created in 1963, with the completion of Whiskeytown Dam.
I imagine the lake is quite beautiful on a better day. In the rain, it’s not quite as attractive.
Despite the rain, I decided to go for a short walk in the Tower House Historic District. There are several things to see in this area, including this old mill stone…
… and the old Camden House. It started as a one-room house in 1852, and Charles Camden expanded it, as he had increasing success mining gold from Clear Creek, nearby. Around that same time, the Tower House Hotel stood nearby.
As the drizzle turned into a rain, I quickly lost interest in the local history lesson, and made a run back to the car. Then, a long, wet drive followed, all the way over to Willow Creek, and eventually, the coast.
The Bottom Line
Whether you have an interest in learning more about northern California’s history, or you just like to explore the ruins of old ghost towns, Shasta is certainly worth at least a brief stop. Check out Whiskeytown Lake, also, if the weather is favorable.
Shasta is located on California Highway 299, about 6 miles west of Redding. Route 299 runs straight through the middle of the historic Main Street — you can’t miss it.
Check out this time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive from Redding through Shasta and westward on 299: