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Dunsmuir, Calif.

On a steep slope south of Mount Shasta in Northern California lies a scenic little railroad village that could.

Railroad Park Caboose Motel, Dunsmuir, Calif., image
Photo caption
Sleep in a caboose or sup in a dining car at the Railroad Park Caboose Motel in Dunsmuir, Calif.


Tiny, rugged, and gorgeous, the mountain town of Dunsmuir, Calif., south of Mount Shasta and just off Interstate 5, is the perfect stop for weary drivers heading to and from Oregon. Stay overnight in a caboose or a fishing cabin or take a break from the road to peruse vintage shops, grab a bite, and unwind on one of the short hiking trails that lead to local waterfalls.

Dunsmuir was originally called Pusher, for the extra locomotives needed to urge trains up the steep canyon outside town. But in 1886, legend has it, a Canadian traveler named Alexander Dunsmuir fell in love with the surrounding landscape and promised to donate a water fountain in exchange for a civic rechristening. The small town was baptized and cool water flows freely today from four gushing fountains on Dunsmuir Avenue.

Nearby antique and thrift stores sell vintage jewelry, signs, and military gear. Also be sure to check out Ruddle Cottage Herbal Garden & Gallery, where Jayne Bruck-Fryer makes improbably beautiful earrings out of cardboard coffee sleeves that are cut up, painted, and decorated with beads.

Dunsmuir also offers a variety of eateries. At the Cornerstone Bakery & Cafe, the cinnamon rolls are fresh baked and omelets with portobello mushrooms and apple wood bacon are popular. Or try Cafe Maddalena, which serves Mediterranean dishes such as grilled swordfish with preserved lemon, tomato, and capers.

The stretch of the Sacramento River near Dunsmuir is known for some of the best rainbow trout fishing in America. Get your gear at Dunsmuir Hardware.

Spend a cozy night at Dunsmuir's Cave Springs resort, set in an old-growth fir, oak, and pine forest on the edge of the Sacramento River. Quaint rental cabins put guests footsteps away from some of the best stream fishing in the state. Built in 1923, all the cabins have porches and kitchenettes and some still boast their original claw-foot tubs. But none have TVs or telephones; for more modern accommodations, stay in the resort's motel, which offers every amenity from a pool to HBO.

Don't leave town without taking a nature walk. Get off Interstate 5 at the North Dunsmuir exit to find a path leading to Hedge Creek Falls and yet another Dunsmuir fountain that locals claim has the sweetest water on earth. And at the top of the trail, catch the stunning view of Mount Shasta.

Photography by Philip James Corwin/Corbis


This article was first published in May 2004. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.