The spiritual retreat in search of Telos
written by James Sinks photography by Discover Siskiyou
To some, like meteorologists, the disc-shaped lenticular clouds that frequently form on Northern California’s Mount Shasta are a perfectly natural phenomenon, caused when rising warm air is sandwiched by cooler air above.
Yet to others, those actually aren’t clouds at all, but rather flying saucers touching down on the mountain—or maybe they are clouds that are hiding UFOs inside. And that’s just the beginning of otherworldly and magical happenings that are said to happen on or near the 14,179-foot Cascade Range volcano, the second-highest peak in the state.
The dual-cone Mount Shasta has long been a centerpiece of spiritual legend, since it was a sacred place for the many indigenous tribes including the Shasta and Modoc who once shared the Siskiyou region, straddling the Oregon and California border.
Today, the mountain and unassuming slopeside community of Mount Shasta, population 3,077, are metaphysical beacons. Each year, thousands come from around the globe to commune at spiritual retreats, to meditate at energy vortexes, to browse in crystal shops and boutiques, and to hunt for extraterrestrials and families of Sasquatch.
Ask psychics, shaman and mystics, and they’ll tell you that Mount Shasta ranks among the world’s most transcendent destinations, joining other hotspots like Sedona in Arizona, Stonehenge in England, and Angkor Wat in Cambodia, according to the people who know such things, such as blog authors. Spiritual tourism is so economically important here that the local chamber travel guide devotes a section to enlightenment businesses.
Visitors can see shrines like the Shasta Abbey Buddhist Monastery (by reservation), relax in yoga and meditation sessions from the Shasta Yoga Institute, and recharge at Sacred Mountain Spa, where the menu includes solo or side-by-side massages. At the city park, you’ll find the cold, clear—and some say, healing—springs that begin the Sacramento River.
The region also happens to be a multifaceted conventional adventure-seeker paradise, if you’re into that sort of thing. The mountain and surrounding Shasta-Trinity National Forest teem with Instagram-worthy hikes and vistas, a 40-mile-and-growing rail trail conversion, four-wheeler routes, kayak-friendly lakes, a winter ski resort, waterfalls along the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, and relics of the gold rush era that made Siskiyou County popular in the 1800s.
Beer and wine await at Pipeline Craft Taps & Kitchen gastro-pub, and explore a global smorgasbord at Indian, Thai, Norwegian, Italian and Mexican restaurants. Just down the freeway, steak and pasta arrive nightly in a restored rail dining car at the Railroad Park Resort, near the town of Dunsmuir and with a view of the rocky Castle Crags. (You can sleep in old rail cars, too). Dinner reservations are recommended.
In the mornings at Seven Suns Coffee & Cafe, your cup of magic (and breakfast burritos) are served in a quaint stone storefront.
For those who prefer adrenaline rushes to metaphysical ones, climb upward 1,850 feet on the 6.1-mile, out-and-back, difficult-rated trek to the top of Black Butte cinder cone, which looms over the city and Interstate 5. Or for $250, you can en-roll in a four-hour intro class from AirXpansion Paragliding, which includes solo flights by the end of your lesson.
No matter what lures you here, it might be irresistible to try to locate an entrance to the legendary crystalline city that some believe is buried beneath the mountain. The place, called Telos, is reportedly home to an ancient civilization known as Lemuria, which dates back to the time of Atlantis. UFOs come to the mountain to bring supplies, say local believers who hold a festival every summer.
Nobody seems to have found the way in, however. Or rather, they’re not telling.
MOUNT SHASTA, CALIFORNIA
Hari Om Shri Ram
Pipeline Craft Taps & Kitchen
Railroad Park Resort
Seven Suns Coffee & Café
Inn at Mount Shasta
Mount Shasta Resort
Black Butte Trail
McCloud River waterfalls
Sacred Mountain Spa
Shasta Abbey Buddhist Monastery
Shasta Vortex Adventures
Shasta Yoga Institute