McCloud’s Historic Charm at the Base of Mount Shasta
Driving through Northern California, Mount Shasta looms large on the horizon for over a hundred miles of I-5 between Lake Shasta and the Oregon border. The snow-capped peak beckoned to me every time I made the trek between the Bay Area and the University of Oregon for grad school, but I never had the chance to pull off the freeway to explore. This past summer, I finally had my chance to visit Mount Shasta and the small towns, rivers, and trails tucked deep within the surrounding forest.
Nestled at the base of the mountain’s southern slope–just 10 miles from the freeway–lies the charming, historic town of McCloud. Established in 1895, the town is a former company town built for the McCloud River Lumber Company and its employees. At its height, the company owned or controlled over 600,000 acres of timberland and became one of the largest sawmills in California, producing over half a million board feet of lumber per day. Everything in the town was built and owned by the company: the mercantile, the meat market, the café and soda fountain, the hotel, and all of the homes for its employees. McCloud remained a company town until it was privatized in 1963. The result is that much of the town’s historic architecture and charm has remained intact, including two historic, boutique hotels: McCloud Hotel Bed & Breakfast and the McCloud Mercantile Hotel.
I stayed at both hotels while hiking and exploring the waterfalls along the spectacularly beautiful McCloud River. The river is also a world-class fly fishing destination. I also hiked the trails in McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park and marveled at the majestic, 129-foot Burney Falls, in which water pours not only from the top of the basalt cliff, but also appears to spring from every nook and cranny along the face of the cliff. Winter in McCloud brings a variety of snow sports including skiing and snowboarding at Mt. Shasta Board & Ski Park, cross country skiing on miles of groomed trails, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling.
McCloud Hotel Bed & Breakfast
The beautifully-restored, Art and Crafts-style McCloud Hotel Bed & Breakfast was built in 1915 and features an inviting front porch, a cozy lobby, beautiful gardens, two restaurants, and 16 handsome guest rooms. Overlooking McCloud’s main street, the front porch is framed with wisteria and is a charming spot to unwind. Just inside, the lobby is the perfect setting for curling up with a book and a glass of wine. It features a wood-burning fireplace with built-in bookcases, box beam ceilings, an impressive staircase, and the hotel’s original registration desk–all trimmed in a warm-hued pine and lit with Craftsman-style lamps. The gardens surrounding the hotel are a tapestry of profuse blooms, foliage, and trickling fountains. At night, the seating areas are lit by the warm glow of string lights.
The hotel offers two restaurants: the romantic Sage Restaurant just off the lobby and the casual Axe & Rose Public House, located next door. With Arts and Crafts-style décor and an intimate setting, Sage Restaurant serves elevated comfort fare made from fresh, seasonal, and locally-sourced ingredients. An extensive wine list complements a menu that blends Californian and French influences. I had the pan-seared filet of beef served with fresh herbs from the hotel’s garden, mushrooms sautéed in wine, roasted asparagus, and mashed potatoes. The meal was beautifully prepared and the service was warm and delightful. Dinner is served Wednesday through Sunday. Reservations are encouraged.
Next door, Axe & Rose Public House is housed inside a former dance hall and cafeteria for the old lumber mill. The building’s original 1930s-era architectural details and craftsmanship have largely been preserved. Axe & Rose features a full bar and serves traditional pub fare. It’s open daily for lunch and dinner.
At the hotel, I stayed in the spacious Copper Suite. The suite exudes Art and Crafts style with five-panel doors, Stickley-inspired armchairs, mission lamps, and rich fabrics benefiting of the period. Doors open to a semi-private balcony with a peek of Mount Shasta. The four-poster, king-sized bed is supremely comfortable and features luxurious linens that are triple-sheeted and draped with a beautiful duvet. The spacious bath offers cozy robes and towels and features a Craftsman-inspired vanity with a black marble counter, dark oil-rubbed fixtures, a hammered copper sink, and a slate tiled shower. The show-stopper, though, is the over-sized copper soaking tub in the corner of the room. The shimmering tub begs to be filled with warm water, providing a luxurious soak for two.
A stay at the McCloud Hotel includes a two-course gourmet breakfast served each morning in the Sage dining room. Breakfast starts with homemade granola, fresh fruit, and juice served with your choice of a hot, made-to-order entree.
McCloud Mercantile Hotel
Just down the street, the McCloud Mercantile Hotel is housed inside the original 1895 McCloud River Mercantile and features stylish assortment of 12 unique guest rooms, each inspired by an aspect of the region’s rich history. The guest rooms are located on the second floor, above the mercantile’s shops and restaurants. All of the rooms feature heated bathroom floors, down comforters, fresh flowers, and high ceilings. Many also offer fireplaces and whirlpool tubs or claw foot tubs.
I stayed in the Shasta Wintu Suite, which is a beautiful, inspired suite honoring a local Native American tribe. The spacious suite features wood floors, a Native American rug, walls trimmed in dark-stained bead board, vaulted ceilings, antique armoires, leather chairs, and willow stick furniture. An enormous log platform bed draped with white faux fur sits beneath one of two gabled windows with views of Mount Shasta and Main Street. The king-sized bed, with its lofty down comforter and incredibly smooth sheets, may have been the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in.
A couple of steps up from the bed, a spacious bath features a sunken spa tub for two. An oversized wooden rocking chair stands in the corner beside the tub. The bath’s floors, shower, and portions of the walls are covered in a custom tile of smooth black pebbles. The wooden vanity holds a black obsidian vessel sink. The mirror above is framed with antlers. Historic photos of Native Americans decorate the walls. A bust of Nez Perce leader Chief Joseph stands near the door.
A stay at the hotel includes a breakfast dining credit at your choice two restaurants on the ground floor for the mercantile. Wildflower Bakes is an artisan bakery serving delicious baked goods and specialty coffees, while White Mountain Café is a vintage-inspired café and soda fountain serving breakfast diner classics.
On the opposite end of the mercantile from the café, McCloud Meat Market and Tavern resides in what was once the town’s meat market. The transformed space features a welcoming, rustic décor and is a great place to enjoy a cocktail and dinner. In addition to the restaurant options, the mercantile also features an old-fashioned candy store (I indulged in all of my childhood favorites) and a general store offering an eclectic mix of vintage products, regional wines, modern outdoor clothing brands, and upscale gifts.