One of the best parts about summer are the extra long days. Because the sun doesn’t set until late at night, we have several more hours of adventure time after dinner each day, which means we get to do more and see more!
We recently spent the weekend in Redding with plans to visit Lake Shasta Caverns and do some hiking and waterfalls cashing in the surrounding area…
- We kicked off the trip with a visit to the Sundial Bridge on Friday evening.
- On Saturday, we toured Lake Shasta Caverns, visited the Turtle Bay Exploration Center And Museum, drove out to Whiskeytown Lake and Dam, and explored Shasta State Historic Park.
- We wrapped up the trip on Sunday by hiking the McCloud River Falls Trail and the Hedge Creek Falls Trail.
Shasta State Historic Park wasn’t on our weekend agenda, but when we drove by the row of old building ruins sitting in the sun right along the side of the highway totally sucked me in. Old buildings get me every time, especially if they are in ruins or abandoned. The textures are just gorgeous… Plus, Shasta State Historic Park is also a ghost town! How cool is that?!
The Shasta Ghost Town
Sitting six miles west of Redding on Highway 299 is a row of old, crumbling, half-ruined, brick buildings that once housed hotels, barbershops, breweries, bookstores, meat markets, and stables, yet today are just a reminder of a once thriving commercial district.
For more than 40 years (1850-1890), Shasta City, the central hub of California’s northern mining district, was once a bustling boomtown and home to around 3,500 residents. But in the mid-1880s, the newly constructed Central Pacific Railroad bypassed Shasta, in favor of Redding and the town slowly became a ghost town.
Shasta State Historic Park
Shasta State Historic Park, often referred to as Old Shasta, is comprised of the brick building ruins, historic roadways and cottages, cemeteries, and the restored County Courthouse, which serves as a museum and visitor center. The Shasta Historical Society works with Shasta State Historic Park to operate the park and museum.
The Courthouse Museum
Restored to its 1861 appearance, the year the building became the Shasta County Courthouse,
the Courthouse Museum houses the park Visitor Center and interactive museum exhibits depicting the history of Shasta, Queen City of the Northern Mines.
When visiting this California State Historic Park, the Courthouse Museum is the best place to start your adventure. Here’s you’ll learn all about the history of Shasta and it’s founder Pierson Reading, as well as experience historical exhibits, including:
- A restored courtroom furnished with many original historic items from the gold rush days
- An art gallery, showcasing an impressive collection of early Californian artwork donated by Mae Helene Bacon Boggs
- A restored jail with four steel cells, a noose, wanted posters, ball and chains, and leg shackles
- Displays of assorted antique rifles and firearms
- A gallows replica built to recreate the last double hanging in the town of Shasta in 1874
When we walked into the jail, Natalie was startled by the unexpected storytelling ghost locked in one of the jail cells, which had us laughing so hard my sides hurt!
After visiting the Courthouse Museum, we checked out the Pioneer Barn, the cemetery, and the old brick ruins, which were gorgeous in the late afternoon sun.
The Pioneer Barn
The Pioneer Barn sits in the middle of an open meadow lined with orchards and gardens and features farming and mining implements of the 1800s. The old hay barn also houses an original stagecoach and more agricultural supplies. The nearby cemetery trail leads to a Catholic Cemetery where many of Shasta’s prominent citizens are buried.
The Litsch General Store
Owned and operated by the Litsch Family from 1850 to 1950, the Litsch General Store experienced many changes over the 100 years it was in operation. Today the California State Parks operate the Litsch Store as a General Merchandise Museum. It been restored to its 1880s appearance and contains many original items that were actually for sale at that time.
Brick Building Ruins
While we all enjoyed touring the Courthouse Museum and especially the old jail and gallows, our favorite part of the Shasta State Historic Park was the strip of crumbling brick building ruins and the old main street sidewalk. We had a blast walking in an out of the Shasta ghost town remains, snapping photos, peeking through old doorways and windows, and imagining what the gold rush boomtown would have been like in the late 1800s.
Our visit was free, we learned more about the area’s history, and got to check out an old blacksmith’s shop and the oldest mason building in the United States (even if it isn’t part of the state park).
Know Before You Go
- Shasta State Historic Park is located six miles west of Redding on the way to Whiskeytown Recreation Area at 15312 CA HWY 299 West, Redding, California 96003 in Shasta County.
- Visiting the Shasta State Historic Park is free and open all the time. You can walk through the building ruins on your own, reading the informational displays as you go.
- The Courthouse Museum and park Visitor Center is open Thursday thru Sunday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
- Access and download the audio tour files and PDF transcripts.
- Shasta State Historic Park was designated a California Historical Landmark in 1932 and added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 14, 1971.
- There is a large, shady picnic area next to the old Pioneer Barn that is just begging for you to relax and enjoy your lunch.