Enveloped in forested mountain slopes on the banks of the Sacramento River lies the beautiful city of Redding. This is the cultural capital of the Shasta Cascade region and an inspiring holiday destination. The top ten things to do in Redding, California would suit most adventurers.
Known as California’s trail capital and named the Unofficial Capital of Kayaking by Time Magazine, it’s no wonder outdoor enthusiasts from around the world flock to its mountainous terrains.
Here, there are more than 100 miles of hiking trails within ten miles of the city. The river, the lake, and the surrounding forest add to the adventurous spirit of the area.
Depending on the time of year, outdoor exploits in Redding include hiking, cycling, skiing, ice skating, fishing, and kayaking. This is an area filled with forests, rivers, and crashing waterfalls. It also contains geothermic spectacles like steaming volcanic pools and lakes of deep turquoise.
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Enjoy Family Time at Turtle Bay Exploration Park
The 300-acre Turtle Bay Exploration Park, located on the banks of the Sacramento River, offers all-day fun for the whole family. The park has several attractions with something for everyone. It is also central to many of the other Redding attractions. These include the botanical gardens, the Sundial Bridge, and the Sacramento River Trail.
The park’s main attraction is the Turtle Bay Museum. Built to blend in with the surrounding natural habitat, the museum is filled with interactive displays. The exhibits share with the viewer the many ways in which the city connects with its surrounding environment.
The center features a Visible River Aquarium, a cave system, a wildlife center, and an arboretum and botanical center. Exhibits include forestry, science, and native American culture. The main hall also contains artworks from across the globe.
The Paul Bunyan Forest Camp models forest camps from a hundred years ago. The camp contains two children’s playgrounds, animal exhibits, and a parrot playhouse. It features more than sixty animal species including bobcats, badgers, porcupines, parakeets, and foxes at the park.
Follow the Sacramento River National Recreation Trail
The Sacramento River is the longest river in the state of California. Originating near Mount Shasta, the river runs all the way to San Francisco Bay. Running along the river for 17-miles through downtown Redding, the Sacramento Recreation Trail passes through the city and into the open countryside.
Cyclists, roller-skaters, and runners use this path for exercise, enjoying quiet time in the fresh air. The path links many of the main public attractions in the city, crossing the Sundial Bridge to finish on the other side of the river.
Restrooms, water fountains, and benches line the way so take it easy and stop to enjoy views of the river and the surrounding wildlife.
The Sacramento River Trail links with the Sacramento River Rail Trail which runs all the way down to Lake Shasta, the halfway point. The trails combine to form the Sacramento National Recreation Trail.
Watch the SunSet from the Iconic Sundial Bridge
Completed in 2004, the 710-foot Sundial bridge is a hallmark of the city of Redding. The pedestrian bridge was built to provide cyclists and pedestrians easy access across the Sacramento River.
The most photographed structure in Redding, the bridge took 11 years and cost a cool $24 million to construct. It is paved with 2,245 glass panels giving users a perfect view of the waters below. World-renowned architect, artist, and engineer, Santiago Calatrava, designed the bridge.
The cantilever tower rises from the bank of the river supporting the bridge while creating one of the largest sundials in the world. The bridge is popular among dog walkers, joggers, and cyclists as it offers visitors fantastic views of Redding and its surrounds.
It is also a favorite spot for watching the sunset. Fairy lights illuminate the bridge when the sun drops below the horizon so the bridge makes for a wonderful evening stroll.
If you’re more adventurous you can get a different perspective of the spectacular sights in and around Redding. Take a high-speed jet boat up the Sacramento River. They leave from the bridge. A four-hour trip will take you 19 miles along the river at adrenalin pumping speeds.
In September and October, the bridge is the scene of yet another spectacle. After the first spring rains, the salmon start their upstream migration to spawning grounds in the mountains. The bridge offers a great view of events taking place in the river below.
Boating Fun on the Clear Waters of Shasta Lake
Spend some time at the enormous Shasta Lake. Its 360 miles of shoreline ensure that there is plenty of space to picnic, hike, or partake in your favorite water sport. It has many offshoots and the coves and access points add interest to the area.
Shasta Lake is very popular amongst boaters and the surface of the water is peppered with craft from canoes and kayaks to house and speed boats. The area is particularly festive in the warm summer months.
Shasta Lake was created when the Shasta Dam Wall was built in 1945. It is one of the biggest reservoirs in the state. The dam wall is 602 feet tall. The dam wall offers splendid views of the lake and the mountain. Take a guided tour of the lake and use the opportunity to descend to the base of the lake using the 428-foot elevator.
The sparkling lake stands against the stunning backdrop of the snow-laden Mount Shasta. The lake is a 20-minute drive from Redding so there really is no reason to miss its natural beauty.
Explore Lake Shasta Caverns
While you’re at Lake Shasta, be sure to book a boat trip across the lake and a guided tour of the Lake Shasta Caverns. There is no other way to see them. Carved into the foothills of Mount Shasta, the limestone caves were formed more than 250 million years ago.
A professional guide leads the tour. They offer fascinating insights into the cave geography and the formation of the stalagmites and stalactites.
While you’re at the caves, look out for local wildlife. Inhabitants of the area include black bears, bobcats, bald eagles, and black-tailed deer.
Take a Waterfall Hike at the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area
Fifteen minutes to the west of Redding you’ll find the 40,000-acre Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. The park surrounds Whiskeytown Lake. The sparkling blue lake boasts 30 miles of shoreline painted against the backdrop of the lush Klamath Mountains. Here locals and tourists alike come to fish, swim and launch their boats.
The park is also popular for hiking, biking, and horse riding. The park boasts four waterfalls with several waterfall hikes. These include the Whiskeytown Falls hike that takes you on a 3.4-mile trip to the falls and back. You’ll gain 600 feet in height to the tallest waterfall in the park so it is a challenge.
If you’re not up to a strenuous hike, you can access Crystal Creek Falls via the paved ADA accessible trail instead.
Other Nearby Waterfalls
If you’re one of those people who just can’t get enough of waterfalls, you’re in the right place. Redding has dozens of waterfalls. If you’re willing to take an hour’s drive out of Redding to McArthur Burney Falls Memorial State Park, you will find the spectacular Burney Falls. It drops 380 million gallons of water down 131-feet of rock face every day. The water emerges from an underground spring, so it’s consistent even when the rains don’t come.
The McCloud River boasts a set of three falls. You can drive to the falls or alternatively you can take a 3.8-mile hike along the river. Named the Upper, Middle and Lower falls, each has its own charm. At the base of the middle fall, you’ll find a beautiful pool of tranquil water, surrounded by forested crags.
It is also worth visiting the hot springs in Santa Barbara, if you don’t mind the extra drive,it’s absolutely amazing there, you will want to come back for more!
McConnell Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
Cross the Sundial Bridge to reach the beautiful McConnell Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. It’s part of the Turtle Exploration Park. The 200-acre arboretum has a walking trail that shows nature in her full glory. The 25-acre botanical gardens contain a medicinal garden, a children’s garden and landscaped Mediterranean gardens. The gardens also include a pond and two water features.
The gardens offer easy access to the Sacramento River Trail so they are popular amongst cyclists.
If you’re in Redding between mid-November and the first week of January make sure to pencil in a visit to the Garden of Lights. It’s a magical experience featuring 10-acres of beautiful lights in the fresh night air.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
A trip to the Lassen National Park is an adventure on its own. Less than an hour’s drive from Redding, the park boasts 150 miles of hiking trails over more than one hundred thousand acres of park.
Some of the trails are covered with snow throughout the year and some are limited to summer hikes. The park has full-facility camping grounds alongside the beautiful Manzanita Lake. So, stay over and enjoy dinner under the stars. In the warmer months, you can fish for brown, rainbow and brook trout.
The park is named for the world’s largest plug dome volcano, Lassen Peak, Yet, it is one of the few places in the world that boasts all four types of volcanoes.
Park features include boardwalks that meander through active fields of fumaroles. Here you can stroll around steaming pools of boiling water and alongside bubbling mud pots. The hero of the park is, of course, the volcano. It towers 8,512 into the sky and is snow capped for much of the year.
Despite its hydrothermal activity, the park also boasts a quiet and peaceful side. It’s filled with clear blue lakes and flower-filled meadows in the summertime. The park is also known as one of the best places in California to peer into the night sky. The absence of light pollution ensures a clear view of the stars.
In the winter months, the park attracts cross country skiers and sledders. The flat surface of Manzanita Lake is particularly popular for snowshoeing because of its flat surface.
Camp Out at the Shasta Trinity National Forest
Take a short drive to the north of the city to find the two-million-acre Shasta Trinity National Forest. Established in 1954, this is the largest national forest in the state. It contains hundreds of miles of hiking trails that cross five designated areas of wilderness.
Crossed by tinkling streams and wild rivers (6,278 miles of them) the park offers an escape into gorgeous natural environments. It spans landscapes ranging from 1,000 to 14,162 feet above sea level. No need to leave at the end of the day, book a camping spot and stay for a day or two.
The Castle Crags State Park, set against the stunning backdrop of the mountains has 70 camping sites that cater to tents and RVs.
There is plenty to do in the park. In winter cross country and downhill skiing draw many enthusiasts. Hiking, horseback riding, and fishing are all very popular in the warmer months.
Take a View of the Past at the Shasta State Historic Park
The Shasta State Historic Park contains an interesting collection of ruins and artifacts of the historic city of Shasta. The park offers a bird’s eye view into what was once a thriving mining town, known as the Queen of the Northern Mines. The town was abandoned nearly two hundred years ago and has recently undergone some restoration.
Start your exploration at the Courthouse Museum. It has been restored to its former glory and contains displays and remnants of the gold rush. The remains of the town include the jail and gallows. Walk the old roads, past abandoned brick homes, and through the cemetery of old and get a real feel for what life was like during the California Gold Rush.
Stopover at the Pioneer Barn and check out the stagecoach. Pop in at the Litsch General Store which served the area from 1850 to 1950. It has been fully restored and contains many of the items that would have been on sale in days of yore.
Take a packed lunch with you and enjoy an outdoor meal at the provided picnic tables.
Top Ten Things to Do in Redding, California
If you love the great outdoors, Redding is the ultimate holiday destination. Summer or winter, the mountains, streams, and hiking trails offer the adventure of a lifetime. So, why not pack your camping gear and experience the best that Redding has to offer.
A brief bio:
This article was a contribution from Lorena Maia; a blogger and traveler. Currently living in Australia, Lorena loves traveling with her family, especially exploring nature. She shares her stories on her TravelCroc site.
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Hi, we are Krasen and Ying Ying. Krasen is from Bulgaria, and Ying Ying is from China. We are passionate about geography and history, and we believe that the best way to experience it is by exploring the Earth in reality, not in a school, and not virtually.
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