Hiking Trails In Northern California

I love hiking, and through the years I’ve collected a few favorite trails that I keep coming back to. Some are shorter, and some require several days. Chamise Peak Trail is one of my favorite short hikes. It’s perfect for when you need a nature fix, but only have a couple hours to spare. It’s also a perfect outing for kids, or visiting relatives. The view from the top is one of the most amazing I’ve ever experienced.  I would go as far as saying that it is close to Grand Canyon amazing. I hiked up to Chamise Peak last Tuesday. It was supposed to be 104 degrees midday, so I started out early.




I love it when you get to the trail head, and it’s empty. The trailhead was empty as we, my dog Gretchen and I, pulled in at the parking lot at 8am. We didn’t see any people on the way up to the peak, or on the way down. I did see some bear scat on the side of the trail, but it was at least a couple days old.




The view of Shasta Dam, and Mount Shasta from the top takes your breath away. This is what John Muir said the first time he saw Mont Shasta (the white volcano in the background of the photo.)


When I first caught sight of it over the braided folds of the Sacramento Valley, I was fifty miles away and afoot, alone and weary. Yet all my blood turned to wine, and I have not been weary since.

– John Muir, Letters, 1874-1888


I wrote a review of the trail in January of last year, the first time I hiked it. It is still accurate, and I thought I would share it with you, in case the photos makes you want to put your hiking boots on. The trails are better than they were last year, well maintained. I would add that this time of the year, bring more water. I personally had four bottles during this last hike.




The hike is easy, but the elevation gain on the way up makes it a little more challenging on hot days. This was the first time I hiked it without my daughter. I pushed myself a little on the way up, feeling the heat of the day creeping up on me. I made three rather quick stops for water, and made it to the top in 33minutes. I took my time on the way down, and enjoyed the view. I hope you enjoyed the photos. Here is my review from last year, with a more thorough description of the trail, what to expect, and how to get there.




Yesterday my daughter and I, hiked up to Chamise Peak. It was easy to find the trail head, by punching in the address: 17171 Flanagan Rd, Shasta Lake, CA 96019, in the GPS. It takes you straight to the trail head, at Flanagan Rd (right outside Redding, CA.) I have Verizon, and had cellphone reception the whole time (only two bars at the trailhead, but four bars most of the time.)

You start out following Flanagan trail, for a little more than one mile. It’s impossible to miss the turn to Chamise Peak trail. The trail is very well marked, and maintained. There was never any questions of where to go. There are other ways to reach the top (from Sacramento Ditch Trail,) but this is the most popular, and easiest way. This packed dirt trail circles its way straight up to the top, without being to steep, or strenuous.

It was my first time hiking this trail. My 3,5 year old daughter, could rather easily managed the 2.4 miles climb up the peak. (Chamise Peak trail is only 1.2 miles, but since you have to start at Flanagan Rd trailhead, the total length that you hike, one way, is 2.4 miles.)

It’s a turn around trail, so the distance from the parking lot, and back, is 4.8 miles. I would rate the hike as easy+ (it’s rated moderate in some hiking apps,) it is uphills all the way to the top, and then downhill on the way back. Definitely family friendly. The only downside I can think about is, that there’s no restrooms, or trash cans at the trailhead. (Be sure to take all your trash with you. Pack in, pack out. Leave no trace.)

The sun was shining, it was around 70 degrees Fahrenheit when we started out (around 10am,) and almost 80 when we finished (around 1.30pm.) Nice t-shirt weather, without being too hot (February.) There was a light breeze in the air. The forest was quiet, and smelled like fresh pine. Beautiful manzanita trees decorated both sides of the trail, in the beginning of the hike. I know manzanitas are like weed here, but for a Swede like me, they will always be exotic.

Bring enough water! My daughter and I drank two water bottles each, I wouldn’t recommend bringing less (we had more with us.) Our dog drank from a creek in the beginning of the trail, I’m certain that creek will be completely dry later in the season.

I’ve equipped us with sturdy winter hiking boots, thinking it might be snow higher up. There wasn’t any snow. Better safe than sorry..lol. The ground was dry, no steep climbs, or trees over the trail.

The 360 degree view at the top is hard to beat. The peak stands at 1,628 feet high. I knew the view was going to be spectacular, but it totally took my breath away. All my daughter said was ”WOW! ”

On a clear day you will see: Shasta Dam, Shasta Lake, Mt Shasta, the City of Shasta Lake, Keswick Reservoir, Trinity Alps, and even Mt Lassen. We were lucky, and was able to see it all. I wanted to do this hike now, while the mountains still are covered in white. I especially wanted to get a good shot of Mt Shasta, covered in snow. I got it!

We had some leftover pizza (that we made for the Super Bowl,) that we enjoyed at the picnic table, on the top of Chamise Peak Trail. The fresh mountain air, and exercise made us very hungry. I recommend bringing something to eat! We stayed at the top for about 40 min. After drinking a lot of water, munching on the pizza, a couple energy bars, and some apples, we headed back down. We took our time, and strolled slowly down the mountain side. I held my daughter’s hand most of the time, because it was too tempting for her to run down the trail. The sides are rather steep, and the trail is narrow on some places. I felt that it was safer keeping her closer to me. The hike down to the parking lot was very enjoyable.

We had a marvelous day. The views from the top are magnificent. I imagine this as the perfect spot to bring out of town guests. The hike is not too exhausting, and can be made in a few hours. Locals use the trail for every day exercise. This could be your perfect Sunday trip for the family, a great place for a date, or a picnic with friends, and it’s definitely dog friendly.

This trail, and the view from the top, showcase the beauty of Northern California at its best. We’re definitely going to do this hike again!




It’s all about experiences, the healing power of nature, and the great outdoors in northern California.  – Ms Zen


I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve done this hike. As I mentioned in the beginning, it’s one of my absolute favorite hikes. Spending time in nature every day, in some way, is something that my soul craves. If I don’t get out, I start climbing on the walls, almost literally. I lift weights, and do other kinds of exercise as well, but hiking, and horseback riding, on secluded trails feeds my soul. It definitely helps me reach my zen, and keep the balance in my life. What feeds your soul? How do you find the balance between work and play? Responsibilities and pleasure? Do they melt together? Or are they separate from each other?

Subscribe below, and feel free to copy the strategies that fits your zen. 


Ms Zen

Zen Pleasures Of Spring In Northern California

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This time of the year one of my greatest zen pleasures is to watch things come alive, both in my garden, and in the National Parks that can be reached within a few hours. The first three photos are from some of my favorite places in northern California, that I visited this past week. (My German Shepherd Gretchen says hi.) The last three photos are from my garden this morning.


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I like the routine that a garden encourage me to keep on an everyday basis. I love stepping outside in the morning, smelling the fresh air before the heat of the day. It’s a true pleasure to discover what happened in the garden over night.


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Motivation is what gets you started.

Habit is what keeps you going.

– Jim Rohn



Yesterday the very first flower on my pomegranate tree blessed us with her presence.



This morning my young tomato plants thanked me for their new bigger pots, and rich compost that they received a couple days ago.


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My garden space is a little limited, it encourages me to constantly explore viable options for a productive garden. I currently have both fruit trees, and vegetables in large containers. Some were given to me, and they are of different shapes and colors, but the majority of them are smart pots. I like smart pots. It makes the watering process easy. There’s never any water staying too long, causing damage to the roots.

Earlier this week I bought 20 bare root peach trees, that I planted in smart pots. I definitely don’t have room to plant 20 fruit trees anywhere. At least not now, but using containers allows me to have almost all the trees my heart desires. I see it as an investment for the future. I bought them of craigslist at a very good price. They will flourish under my care, and produce fruit for our family, and other families within a few years.

I really enjoy producing the majority of the fruit and vegetables that my family eats (which is a lot.) Its a work in progress. I like knowing that our food is all organic, without any toxic waste lingering. Having a garden helps us eat healthy in an affordable way. Food is expensive in California, very expensive. Or should I say, nutritious, healthy food is expensive. I believe that we are what we eat, mentally, and physically. Cutting down costs by lowering the quality is not an option. Luckily our climate is perfect for growing our own food! We had a colder spring than usual, and my garden is just getting started. It’s an exciting process. Ooo, I forgot to mention that having a garden is an important part of the program that allows me to only work three days/week.


Subscribe below, and feel free to copy the strategies that fits your zen. 



Ms Zen

What does it take to experience oneness?

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One hot day in July, almost four years ago I made a mistake. The mistake turned out to be a life changing experience. I went on a hike in the Nevada desert, by myself. I was somewhat familiar with the area, but not 100%. I started out early in the morning with a backpack full of water bottles, and good hiking food. It was comfortably warm in the morning. I’m not a newbie to heat, I live in northern California. Our summers get hot too. I knew what was coming. I did however miscalculate the distance to the peak I wanted to climb. It took longer than I thought it would. Naturally I couldn’t turn around halfway there. My stubbornness would never allow that. I wanted to get to the top rather desperately, because I knew that in the valley on the other side of the hill the likelihood of seeing wild horses was very real. I never get tired of watching wild horses play, it’s one of my favorite joys.


With flowing tail and flying mane,

Wide nostrils never stretched by pain,

Mouth bloodless to bit or rein,

And feet that iron never shod,

And flanks unscar’d by spur or rod,

A thousand horses – the wild – the free –

Like waves that follow o’er the sea,

Came thickly thundering on.

– Lord Byron


The hike was rocky. The sagebrush disappeared behind me. I was grateful for my wide brimmed cowgirl hat, and my comfortable hiking boots. I had plenty of water and was feeling on top of my world. I reached the peak a couple hours later than I should of. There were no horses in the valley below. It was slightly disappointing. I started to slowly zigzag my way back down the mountain. I could see my truck far in the distance. The rocky high desert landscape was wide open underneath my feet. The day got hotter, and hotter. The desert can be grueling hot in July, but the nights are cool. When I reached the sagebrush, closer to my truck, I decided to stop in the shade, behind one of the bigger rocks, until the worst heat gave room for the cooler evening air.

I had a snack, and some water. I still had food left, and plenty of water for the last 4-5 miles back to my truck. All of a sudden I felt sleepy. I used my backpack as a pillow and closed my eyes for a few minutes.. when I came back to my senses, before I opened my eyes, I sensed another living being close to me. Very close. My inner voice told me to keep my calm, and take a deep breath. When I open my eyes, a horse is standing over me, literally. I tried to be as still as I possibly could, to not cause the horse to panic. From the corner of my eye I saw one stocky leg next to my right shoulder, and another stocky leg next to my left shoulder. A horse was standing over me, literally. It wasn’t a big horse. It was a calm, older, mustang mare, a confident daughter of the wild. She had a slightly musky scent. She sensed that I was awake, and lowered her head towards me. I was still a little groggy from the heat, and my nap, and tried to understand what was happening. The mare blowed some warm air on my face, and carefully stepped aside. She walked away very slowly, towards a band of horses grazing nearby. Some youngster’s were playing a game of tag (yes, horses do that too.) I was still in a dreamlike state, and didn’t feel fear. I watched the scraggy bay mare disappear further away. I realized that I didn’t even get my camera out of my backpack. I waited a couple minutes before I headed back to my truck. The air was cooler. The familiar smell of sagebrush took over. I had a peaceful, easy hike back.

Back at my truck I spent a few minutes contemplating this extraordinary experience. I felt so much like a part of the horses I admired my whole life. A part of the nature around me. I’d already started to make changes in my life, to live more in harmony with nature. Still I had some rough edges battling inside of me. I knew that the journey, the change, originated from the very inside of my soul. It started the day I realized that I didn’t need all the stuff that I was taught that we need. This exclusive experience didn’t have anything to do with if I have the fastest car, or if my clothes represent the latest trends. Experiences like this can not be bought with money. Those material things never made me feel alive, but that day, I lived. I decided to make it my mission to strive for more mindfulness in my life, more experiences, more love, more kindness, more oneness, making more memories, and more zen.

I wanted to include this story as a part of the background to this blog. Horses is a big part of my world, and have been since I was 2 years old. They are masters of mindfulness, and I enjoy being their student. Other things that helps me experience oneness (connection to the world around me,) and harmony is; photography, hiking in beautiful nature, and gardening. I’m looking forward to share my zen with you.

I am planning on sharing one inspirational photo from northern California, weaved into one inspirational blog post every week. No flooding your inboxes here. Sharing blog posts, and giving feedback is appreciated, and encouraged!


Subscribe below, and follow the strategies that fits the zen you envision for yourself. 

So what does it take to experience oneness? Tell me your thoughts in a comment! Is it something that is high on your priority list? 



Ms Zen



Disclosure: I would never approach mustangs in the wild by my own free will. I enjoy watching them from a distance. The photo of a mustang mare and her foal in the beginning of today’s post, is taken in the same area in northern Nevada, where I met the mare in the story.