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Lake Shasta Caverns Feature Memorable Formations

Flowstone creates a variety of stunning formations in Lake Shasta Caverns.
Flowstone creates a variety of stunning formations in Lake Shasta Caverns.
David Muenker

Tours of Lake Shasta Caverns showcase the area’s aboveground beauty as well as underground grandeur. To get from the visitor center to the cave entrance, tour groups travel by both boat and bus.

Grand Views of Shasta Lake

The tour begins with a catamaran ride across the McCloud River Arm of Shasta Lake. Then tour groups board a small bus for the steep climb to the cavern entrance 800 feet above the water. The route captures views of clear, blue waters surrounded by forest clad slopes. Snow-capped Shasta Bally rises in the distance.

After experiencing this grand, expansive scenery, visitors follow a guide through the cave entrance into a long tunnel. Then the startling underground beauty of the limestone caverns unfolds.

Captivating Cave Formations

Tiny calcite crystals embedded in stalactites and stalagmites sparkle like diamonds. While the guide points out intriguing formations with his flashlight, he explains how they were created. For example, flowstone is formed when water leaves deposits of calcite as it flows down a wall. Popular names for the resulting shapes describe what they resemble. Some drape like curtains, while others look like strips of bacon -- hence their names draperies and cave bacon.

Steep staircases lead from one magical room to another. Popcorn, cave lace and delicate soda straws capture visitors’ attention. The caverns also feature rare helictites, which form angles and curves as they grow. While some of these fragile specimens look like cooked spaghetti, others resemble butterflies alighted on the wall.

Richardson Was Here

Amid the exquisite formations, November 3, 1878 is written on a wall with carbide from a miner’s lamp. On that date, James A. Richardson, a federal fisheries employee, documented his claim of discovering the cave. But it wasn't until the 1960s that non-spelunkers were able to explore the caverns.

The tour climaxes in the Cathedral Room. An array of the various formations beautifies the voluminous space from floor to ceiling. Even after marveling at the sights in the other rooms, visitors find themselves spellbound by the stunning, whimsical shapes.

From this underground wonder, the tour group steps out into the contrasting beauty of the bright outdoors and once again enjoys views Shasta Lake on the bus and boat rides back to the visitor center.

Year-round attraction

For more information about this year-round attraction (closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas), visit Lake Shasta Caverns. The Visitor Center is RV accessible.

How to Get to Lake Shasta Caverns from Denver, Colorado

Lake Shasta Caverns is located on Shasta Caverns Road about 17 miles north of Redding, California. To get there from Denver, take Interstate 25 north to Cheyenne, Wyo., Interstate 80 west to Sacramento, Calif., Interstate 5 north to Exit 695. Turn right onto Shasta Caverns Road and continue east for 1.5 miles to Lake Shasta Caverns.

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