Top Outdoors Vacations in Northern California - Page 2
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Lassen Volcanic National Park, California  (Timothy Hearsum/Digital Vision/Getty)

A logging town turned hippie haven turned upscale getaway, Mendocino (population 894) is on a different wavelength than most everyplace else. Words like “quirky,” “funky,” and “eccentric” don't quite do it justice. Same goes for “beautiful,” “striking,” or “jaw-dropping.” Beyond the vibe and the Northern California scenery, you'll find a pair of state parks (Mendocino Headlands, adjacent to town on the coast, and Mendocino Woodlands, a camping center in the redwoods), scores of B&Bs (try Alegria, with one foot in the town's funky hippie history and the other in its more posh present), and a string of wineries to the east in pastoral Anderson Valley.

Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Peak in northeastern California is part of the Cascade Range, but it’s no mere mountain. This volcano last blew its top in a big way a century ago, but it’s still active. It’s found in one of California’s lesser-visited national parks (about 400,000 people visit a year, versus Yosemite’s four million). Before hiking to the peak, check that trail work hasn’t blocked your chosen route (closures are expected through 2014). Below the peak, ramble through the otherworldly thermal area called Bumpass Hell via the three-mile trail that navigates past hot springs, pools, and steaming fumaroles. After summiting the volcano and peering into the inferno below, head to Chester or one of the other towns on the peaceful shores of Lake Almanor southeast of the park.

Squaw Valley & Alpine Meadows
Now that they have joined forces under one lift ticket, these North Lake Tahoe ski resorts are the downhill destination to beat. The crown jewel of Tahoe-area resorts is Squaw Valley, a.k.a. “Squawlywood.” Known for its steeps and cornices beloved by experts and wide range of terrain loved by everyone else, Squaw Valley is one of the top vacation destinations in Northern California. Plus, the mid-mountain pool and hot tub and the après-ski scene are also the stuff of hob-nobbing history. One ridge to the south, Alpine Meadows has the best backside of any Tahoe mountain. When the lifts stop turning, save a buck and stay in Truckee. If you're a serious powder hound, check out the new Mountain Collective pass, which nets you two lift tickets at Squaw/Alpine as well as two each for Aspen/Snowmass, Jackson Hole, and Alta; subsequent lift tickets are half-price.

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