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  • Writer's pictureChasingBuffaloesandBeyond

Redding, California - Definitely Worth Exploring

Updated: Oct 6, 2021

Beautiful Northern California is on full display when visiting Redding and the surrounding area. With waterfalls, mountain peaks, caverns, scenic lakes, miles of hiking trails and even a ghost town, Redding offers a huge amount of activities to pick from. Located between Portland Oregon, and San Francisco, California - to most people, Redding is just a stop between these two cities as you are passing thru, but there is a lot to this wonderful area that definitely deserves a couple days worth of time.

 Blue waters and blue skies at Lake Shasta
California's largest reservoir - Lake Shasta


DAY 1:

Patio Boat Rental on Lake Shasta

Sundial Bridge

DAY 2:

Castle Crags State Park

Hedge Creek Falls

Mount Shasta

Castle Lake/Heart Lake Trail


DAY 3:

Shasta Caverns National Natural Landmark

Shasta Dam

Shasta State Historic Park



Bay Bridge Marina on Lake Shasta full of house boats and patio boats
Houseboat & Patio boats for rent at Bay Bridge Marina

Day 1: To start off your time, drive a quick fifteen minutes north from Redding and you will reach wonderful Lake Shasta. Lake Shasta is the largest man-made reservoir in California and has over 360 miles of shoreline that can be explored. Completed in 1945, the Shasta Dam was built over the Sacramento River creating this giant lake (5 towns were actually lost and submerged deep under the reservoir) . Today, everything from houseboating, hiking, fishing, hunting and caving can be found in the Lake Shasta National Recreation Area. In fact, Lake Shasta is one of the most popular houseboating areas in the United States and in the summer, it is not uncommon to see over 450 houseboats out on the lake.

Dad and son standing on the edge of a patio boat along the shoreline of Lake Shasta
Having fun exploring Lake Shasta on our patio boat!
Mom and son standing on patio boat while being tied up along the edge of Lake Shasta
So many coves to dock and explore on Lake Shasta

For our day visiting Lake Shasta, we decided to rent a Patio Boat from Bridge Bay Resort. We then spent four hours exploring this scenic lake. Comprised of three main areas - named for the rivers that flow into the Reservoir - the Sacramento River Arm, the McCloud River Arm and the Pit River Arm make the giant Lake Shasta Reservoir and provide endless coves and inlets that can be explored as you boat around the lake. We had an absolute blast driving around the patio boat and exploring this super fun area! We enjoyed swimming, walking trails along the shoreline, finding giant bear footprints and just cruising around the lake - making our time at Lake Shasta a memorable one!

Family of three standing atop of a rocky hill along the shoreline of Lake Shasta, with a view of a patio boat in the water in the background.
Hiking along the banks of Lake Shasta and enjoying the awesome views!
Wake from boat on the blue waters of Lake Shasta.
Such a fun way to spend the day! We loved exploring Lake Shasta with the patio boat!



After returning the patio boat, we headed back to Redding where we decided to stop at the Sundial Bridge. This modern attraction in Redding was designed by the famous Architect Santiago Calatrava and was completed in 2004 with the minimal price tag of $23.5 million dollars! The bridge spans over the Sacramento River and is actually a working sundial and when the shadow can be seen, it actually moves about a foot each minute. Stopping to see this bridge is a must-do when visiting the Redding area!

View of modern Sundial Bridge over Sacramento River in Redding.
The modern Sundial Bridge over the Sacramento River


Looking at Mount Shasta thru a gap in the trees at Castle Crags State Park
View of Mount Shasta from the Vista Point Trail

Day 2: Head a bit north of Redding for the day by driving 45 minutes to Castle Crag State Park. This wonderful State Park offers campgrounds, hiking trails, fishing and great views of the 6000 foot high granite spires that the park is named for - the Castle Crags. For a quick hike, we headed to the Vista Point Trail (0.25 miles) that offers great views out towards the Castle Crags & Mount Shasta. For another hike in the park, hike the Gray Rock Lakes Trail (1.0 mile).

View of the rocky peaks at Castle Crags State Park
Beautiful early morning view of the Castle Crags from the Vista Point Trail


The next stop of the day was at Hedge Creek Falls. As you drive north towards Mount Shasta, this great little park offers a fun stop to get out and view a scenic little waterfall that you can actually walk behind! The trail is only about 0.6 miles roundtrip with about 160 feet in elevation gain, so this is a great stop for anyone! Our son really liked this stop as he thought it was really cool to stand behind the waterfall and feel the spray hitting him!

Plunging waterfall surrounded by the rock cliffsides at Hedge Falls.
View of Hedge Creek Falls
Father and son standing in front of Hedge Creek Falls.
We had fun walking behind this waterfall! Our son loved this spot!



For the rest of the day, we explored beautiful Mount Shasta. Mount Shasta is the largest volcanic peak in the lower 48 and reaches an elevation of 14,162 feet. Towering above us as we entered Mount Shasta City, this mountain is actually quite accessible as there is a 14 mile scenic drive along the Everitt Memorial Highway with beautiful views along the way. As you drive this road thru the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, there are multiple areas offering great overlooks and photo taking opportunities. With a limited amount of time as we wanted to fit in a hike at Heart Lake later in the day, we chose not to hike on Mount Shasta, but rather drove the scenic drive to take in the stunning views of the area. If you are looking to hike, there are plenty of opportunities throughout the area for all different skill sets.

Snow capped peaks of Mount Shasta from the Everitt Memorial Highway
Driving along the scenic Everitt Memorial Highway
Mom and son in front of a grassy meadow with snowy Mt.Shasta in the background at Bunny Flats Trailhead in Shasta Trinity National Forest
Wow - such beautiful views of Mount Shasta

Arriving at the Bunny Flats area, the views of Mount Shasta were beautiful! This area is a popular spot for those just wanting a quick and easy view of the mountain as well as for those you are heading out on longer hikes - the Horse Camp Trail (3.2 miles and leads to other trail opportunities) and the Green Butte Ridge Trail (5.2 miles) both leave from this trailhead. Camping is also available in the area. For us, we just spent some time wandering around the immediate area and enjoying the spectacular views .

View of the Bunny Flats Trailhead on a sunny blue sky day with Mt. Shasta looming in the background.
Blue skies and snow covered mountain peaks - gorgeous!

Continuing up the mountain, the road ends at the Old Ski Bowl Trailhead area. Up until the 1970's this was a ski destination, until an avalanche wiped out the chairlift and facilities. Today, while this area is no longer used for skiing, the area offers visitors picnic tables and fantastic views. We enjoyed spending time here while having lunch and just enjoying the scenery!

Little boy sitting on some large rocks at the base of Old Ski Bowl Trailhead on Mt. Shasta.
Fantastic scenery from the Old Ski Bowl Trailhead



After lunch, we headed back down the mountain to continue into another area within the Shasta-Trinity National Forest - the Castle Lake/Heart Lake Trail. Located in Dunsmuir, this 2.2 mile roundtrip hike is quite popular and was a definite highlight of our time in the greater Redding area. To start this trail, you first pass along the pristine clear waters of Castle Lake - spend some time here just enjoying the beautiful views before continuing on with the hike up to Heart Lake. Continuing on, the hike slowly begins to climb up 600 feet in elevation, getting your heart pumping. The effort is definitely worth it though as the views are beautiful! Upon reaching the summit of the trail, the views looking out over Heart Lake towards Black Butte, Mount Shasta and Mount McLoughlin is absolutely spectacular!

Clear waters of Castle Lake surrounded by the forests of Trinity Shasta National Forest
Clear waters of Castle Lake
Perfectly framed peaks of Mt. Shasta with a reflection of the mountain in Heart Lake.
Picture perfect view of Mt. Shasta over Heart Lake
View overlooking the Shasta Trinity National Forest from the Castle Lake/Heart Lake Trail.
Stunning views of Castle Lake, Black Butte, Mount Shasta and Mount McLoughlin


For our last stop of the day, we stopped in the town of Dunsmuir to take a look around and see both the historic trains of the Union Pacific Railroad and the Amtrak tracks that still currently run thru the town. Our son absolutely loves trains, so this was a fun stop that he really enjoyed. We even discovered the Railroad Park Resort where old train cars have been converted to hotel rooms! Next time we come thru this area, we will definitely spent a night here!

Mom and son standing in front of an old Southern Pacific Lines train in Dunsmuir, California
A quick stop in the railroad town of Dunsmuir, California


Pathway thru the Shasta Caverns National Natural Landmark
Exploring the Shasta Caverns

Day 3: For our last day in the Redding area, we headed back to Lake Shasta to visit the Shasta Caverns. The Shasta Caverns were first discovered in 1878 and were designated as a National Natural Landmark in 2012. The 2 hour tour to see the caves includes a 10 minute catamaran boat ride across the Lake Shasta, a bus ride to the cave location, and then a 45-60 minute guided tour thru the caves. Walking thru these caves was truly spectacular - we really enjoyed getting to see this unique area and highly recommend this activity for the whole family.

Family of three standing with the unique caves formations inside the Shasta Caverns National Natural Landmark.
Such a great family activity - even our 2 year old son loved exploring the caves!


After returning from the Caverns, we drove over to the Shasta Dam to take in the views and enjoy the visitor center. The Shasta Dam over the Sacramento River is 602 feet high and was the 2nd tallest dam in the United States when it was first completed in 1945. Today, it is now the 8th tallest dam in the United States. Take a walk along the top of the dam for some great views of the Sacramento River and surrounding area and on a clear day you can even see Mount Shasta. While walking across the top of the dam, make sure and look straight down and take in the immensity of this engineering marvel. Inside the visitor center, catch the the twenty minute video that offers a great overview of the history and construction of the dam, then spend some time viewing the informational exhibits and sign up for one of the daily dam tours to get a closer inside look inside the dam. Even if you don't have time for a tour, the visitor center is well done and very informative and the views from the top of the dam make for a worth-while visit. Without the tour, we spent about an hour visiting here.

Overlooking the Shasta Dam along the Sacramento River with views out to the surrounding hillsides.
Looking out over the Shasta Dam and Sacramento River


Little boy standing along side the Shasta State Historic Park sign.
Ready to explore a 'ghost town'

Our next stop was visiting the Shasta State Historic Park. Located about 15 minutes out of Redding, along Hwy 299 is Shasta State Historic Park. Back in the 1800s this was once one of the busiest gold rush towns in California, but when the Central Pacific Railroad made the decision to stop in Redding instead of Shasta, this town slowly became obsolete. Today you can wander along the crumbling ruins of buildings and read informational plaques about the history of this once bustling gold rush town. The main site is the old courthouse that now houses a museum containing some interesting exhibits including a restored courtroom, an art gallery, jail cells, and a slightly creepy gallows out back! Beware when viewing the jail cells as it gave us quite a scare when the story-telling ghost started 'talking' to us!

Historic old brick building that is now the Courthouse Museum at Shasta State Historic Park.
The Old Courthouse building in Shasta
Brick ruins with informational plaques in Shasta State Historic Park.
Exploring the ruins of Shasta

The Litsch General Store is also a fun building to wander thru as it's been restored to it 1880's appearance and is fun to wander thru and see some of the original items that would have been sold at this store. To end our time here we stopped at the Bakery which is still in operation today and offers a nice place to sit and enjoy a snack.

View inside the 1880's era general store in Shasta State Historic Park.
It was like stepping back into the 1880's inside the old General Store

Interested in planning your own trip to Redding, California? Below is our summarized itinerary for you to follow or adjust to your own preferences. ENJOY!

Day 1: Patio Boat Rental from Bridge Bay at Shasta Lake - book a 4 hour rental. Head back to Redding and view the Sundial Bridge

Day 2: Castle Crag State Park (Gray Rock Lakes Trail - 1.0 mile & Vista Point), Hedge Creek Falls, explore areas within the Shasta-Trinity National Forest (15 mile scenic drive up Mt. Shasta - stop at Bunny Flats and Old Ski Bowl Trailhead, then drive to Castle Lake/Heart Lake Trailhead - 2.2 miles roundtrip). Stop in Dunsmuir to see the old historic trains.

Day 3: Lake Shasta Caverns (book 9am), Shasta Dam, Shasta State Historic Park.

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