Lake Shasta is a relaxing summer destination where you can camp near the shore, rent a houseboat, or drive in for a day trip. Located in Northern California, this man-made reservoir is surrounded by hiking trails and thick forest, making it a peaceful wilderness escape from San Francisco and other Bay Area locations.
Opportunities for outdoor fun abound at Lake Shasta, whether you want to cool off in the water or trek through dense Pacific forest. The lake is a popular recreational boating area, where you can enjoy watersports such as water skiing, houseboating, swimming, and fishing. On land, popular activities include hiking, biking, horseback riding, and camping.
You can also tour Lake Shasta Caverns (a series of limestone chambers that are only accessible by boat), stop by the visitor center, or visit the City of Shasta Lake Parks—a small residential community with several parks and playgrounds. If you want to see Shasta Dam, free 1-hour tours are given daily.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Lake Shasta is an ideal destination for nature lovers and families with kids.
- Remember to bring sun protection, swim gear, comfortable walking shoes, and insect repellent.
- Tours of Shasta Dam are limited to 40 people and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
- Depending on your destination, a wilderness permit may be required for camping or backpacking.
How to Get There
Shasta Lake is located in Northern California’s Shasta County. It lies within the Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area, operated by the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. The reservoir is roughly 10 miles north of Redding and 10 miles south of Lakehead via I-5, and roughly one hour by road from Mount Shasta. San Francisco is roughly 3.5 hours by road from Shasta Lake.
When to Get There
Summer is the most popular time to visit Lake Shasta, when the weather is typically sunny and warm. You can visit the reservoir year-round, although snow is common during winter, especially in higher elevations near Mt. Shasta.
The Shasta Dam
Lake Shasta is best known for the Shasta Dam, located on the Sacramento River north of Redding. Built between 1938 and 1945, the curved gravity dam is similar to the Hoover Dam and, at 602 feet (183 meters) high and 3,460 feet (1,055 meters) long, is just as impressive to see. Its base thickness measures 543 feet (165.5 meters).