What do you think of when someone mentions the word “vacation?” Maybe your idea of a vacation involves tents or a camper and daily campfires. Some people think about sandy beaches, fruity drinks, and partying with a guy named “Sven.” And then there are the adventurous types that will load the whole family into the car and head to an amusement park on the other end of the country (Queue theme music from National Lampoon’s Vacation). But for an off-road enthusiast, the word “vacation” frequently makes us think of going riding. So when Kawasaki sent out the invitation to join them for a ride on their Teryx SXS vehicles at Northern California’s Chappie-Shasta OHV area, I couldn’t get my bags packed fast enough!
Any day of off-roading is a good day, but when you get to travel to someplace new, it becomes a vacation. Spending all day at a motocross track is a lot of fun, as is a day at the dunes. However, the vacation part and the real adventure begins when you leave the parking lot with a spare jacket, food and water, and emergency supplies, and you know you won’t be seeing the truck again until the day is done. That is exactly the type of off-roading that you will find at Chappie-Shasta, a 52,000 acre OHV park just a short drive from Redding, CA.
The Chappie-Shasta OHV area has over 200 miles of roads and trails, ranging from gravel roads wide enough for Jeeps and trucks to tight single track for motorcycles. We set up our base camp in the staging area below Shasta Dam and would be using various types of trails to get our Teryx and Teryx4 vehicles up to about 5000 feet into the Sierra Nevada Mountains where we would stop for lunch and hopefully get a peek at Mount Shasta to our north. From there we would wind our way back down through the mountains for an awesome view over Lake Shasta before arriving back at the campground.
After a couple of days of rain, the clouds moved out just in time and left us with a perfect day for our ride. We were treated by trails with no dust, sunshine, and a breezy 70 degrees. Well… at least at base camp at 600ft, it was 70 degrees! Later in the day, we would find out why our hosts strongly advised us to bring a jacket along for the ride! Being prepared is really important for this type of riding, and we took care to make sure that we had everything we might need with us for a day in the wilderness.
Our ride started out down some winding dirt roads and relatively wide trails that are pretty typical of what we are accustomed to seeing in the Midwest. But after a few miles, it became apparent that the definition of a “mountain” is very subject to where someone lives! Back home in Michigan, our mountains are more along the lines of decent-sized rocky hills. In California, when they call something a mountain, they’re not messing around! A few miles out of base camp, our leisurely flatlander ride turned upward, and our ascent to the sky began! The previous day’s rain took care of any dust, but managed to make the clay and rocks a bit slippery. It wasn’t long before the differential lock and the 4x4 switch were being used, but my trusty Teryx had plenty of power and traction to claw its way up any hill we encountered and the suspension managed to keep the bumps from traveling up my spine.
Not too long into our trip, another thing became apparent. Driving in the mountains takes some skill and concentration. When you’re more or less a flatlander, it’s pretty easy to get cocky and over-ride your environment in the mountains! At home, if we blow a corner, it’s not a huge deal. You might hit a rock or a stump or even roll your vehicle, but you can pretty much pick yourself up, dust yourself off, do a little minor repair, and you’re on your way. That’s not the case in the mountains! If you don’t make your climb or you miss a corner here, things can get ugly in a hurry and you may not stop rolling for quite some time! Fortunately, everyone in our group managed to keep the rubber side down.
As noon approached, our guides let us know that we’d be getting into a steady 2,000 foot climb up to the point where we’d stop for lunch and enjoy the scenery for a while. The terrain gets much rockier as you climb higher, and this climb was the biggest challenge of the day. Between the rocks and the incline, my Teryx had its work cut out for it and at one point, I wished I had started the climb in low range! Once I realized that, though, I was about half of the way up a major climb, and stopping to shift wasn’t an option! Fortunately for me, the 750cc twin had enough grunt to get me to the top and the traction and stability to keep me on the ridge! Once we were all safely at the top, it was time for lunch, and it quickly became apparent the reason for bringing along a jacket! A sunny 70 degree day becomes 40-something and windy when you’re on top of a 5000ft peak!
After kicking back for lunch, we started our descent back down to our base camp. The terrain and scenery on the way back was equally as fun, challenging, and beautiful as it was on the way up, and we even drove through a little bit of snow leftover from winter! The way down is as steep as the way up in many places, and Kawasaki’s Engine Brake Control came in handy on more than one occasion. As Lake Shasta started to come into view, we knew the day was slowly coming to its end, but not without a stop for an incredible vista overlooking the lake and Shasta Dam with a great panorama of Mt. Shasta disappearing into the clouds to our north. After taking in the scenery and a few memory cards worth of awesome photos, we wrapped up our day with a short ride back down to our staging area at the base of the dam.
If you’re looking for a place where you can ride all day and never take the same trail twice, Chappie-Shasta is definitely a great place to visit for your off-road vacation. We had a blast on our Kawasaki Teryx ride through Chappie-Shasta and we guarantee you would have a great time too, no matter what kind of off-road vehicle you ride.