Stipulated: the perfect travel time for a three-day weekend getaway is four hours. More, and you waste your vacation. Less, and you’re still near home. Hence: The 4hr. Rule.
Lassen doesn't get anywhere near the visitors of its better-known national park brethren to the south.
But we go to parks to get away from people, not to follow them. And for that, Lassen is a four-season wonderland. Winter camping pretty much starts now, along with cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and more.
Lassen National Volcanic Park doesn't get anywhere near the visitors of its better-known national park brethren to the south (Yosemite, Joshua Tree and Death Valley). But we go to parks to get away from people, not to follow them. For that, Lassen is a four-season wonderland. Winter camping? Yeah, that pretty much starts now — along with cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and more. Just keep everybody on the trails in the hydrothermal areas. As the park’s website helpfully points out, one guest who went off-piste and was badly burned said he felt "like he put his leg in a flame." Tell your kids that story and we bet they'll listen.
Redding is a worthy destination on its own: It's surrounded by hundreds of miles of biking and hiking trails and some top kayak runs (the American Trails Association, in fact, is based here). Top choice: 17 miles of paved trail from downtown Redding to Shasta Dam at Shasta Lake, all along the western bank of the Sacramento River.
Redding is one of Northern California's least likely design meccas. But you’ll find architecture enthusiasts aplenty — they're the ones with the good-looking eyeglasses — caressing the lines of the Sundial Bridge. It's the only piece in the state by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, better known as the designer of New York City's new PATH terminal at the World Trade Center site. The bridge is, in fact, a functioning sundial — but not in winter, and only, at best, for four hours a day. Limited function, peerless form.
Stalwarts will sleep in an ice cave or tent it — with this kind of view for your trouble. Otherwise, you'll want to check in to a B&B or private rental, since the hotels here are of the Fairfield Inn variety. For the former, we like the Art Deco Desmond House; for rentals, look for a place on the Sacramento River.