Pooling in the bottom of a caldera, the waters of northeastern California's Medicine Lake are cold and clear. Local fishermen have long known the lake for its big trout. Now that its access roads are paved, visitors are discovering the lake, too. It's an easy detour if you're visiting Mount Shasta or Burney Falls.
Medicine Lake is still relatively remote about a 2-hour drive northeast of Interstate 5 and the town of Mount Shasta. This lonely setting lends a stark beauty to the lake, sitting as it does amid ancient shield volcanoes now blanketed with pines and firs. The remoteness also means you're likely to have the swimming beach on the southeast shore practically to yourself, and your pick of lakeside campsites. Since tbe lake is so high (6,700 feet) and so far north, winter snows tend to be deep; summer season doesn't usually start until July and ends mid-September. But by midsummer, the water temperature at the shallow swimming beach can reach 70 degrees.
It's a big lake, some 600 acres, and so clear you can usually see 30 feet down. Fed by snowmelt and a small spring which percolates through the porous lava rock, the lake is exceptionally clean and healthy for the stocked trout population. There's one boat ramp on the cast shore, but no rentals.
Choose a site at one of three Forest Service campgrounds (72 sites total, available on a first-come basis; $5 a night). …