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About a month ago I had the opportunity to visit the city of Redding in northern California for the first time. But, if you asked me two months ago anything about Redding, I would have probably replied, “Redding, who?”

Even when I chatted with locals while sightseeing around Redding, they mostly asked where was I headed to, as in, “how cute you decided to stop here to rest on your way to Portland or San Francisco.”

That’s the thing, most people who know about Redding just know it as a resting stop along California’s Highway #5. But, one thing I got to discover in the days I stayed there is that Redding deserves much more than a quick rest stop.

In fact, Redding holds a conglomerate of stunning landscapes, national parks, and outdoor activities in such a small area that can rival any other well-known outdoor-focused city when it comes to delivering a well-rounded travel experience.

Nature near Redding, California

During my visit to Redding, I collaborated with Visit Redding to get a glimpse of the best Redding had to offer. While my six days there were much longer than the average visit, I still felt like it wasn’t going to be enough based on my brief research online.

With Visit Redding, I would make sure I hit the highlights and best outdoor activities in and around the city, and these are some of them:

Mountain Biking Redding

One of the main activities I came to do in Redding was mountain biking. Redding has over 250 miles of marked trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.

These trails take you through some of the most stunning scenery along the Sacramento River as well as the hills and mountains surrounding the city.

In fact, in 2017, they created the Redding’s Mayor Mountain Biking Challenge to spread the word (among locals and tourists alike) about these amazing trail networks. The challenge is both easy and tough, depending on how you want to face it.

There are three categories –beginner, intermediate, advanced– where you can ride the selected trails based on their intensity level. But, the good thing about the challenge is that you can do it at your own pace. It’s more about you enjoying nature and the activity, rather than the challenge of “winning.”

But, once you complete all five trails in one or more categories, you are eligible to win a grand prize per category. (2017’s challenge has ended, but you can try it next year!)

Swasey Recreational Area

This year was the first time the challenge was done, but the Mayor hopes this becomes a yearly tradition. During my stay in Redding, I took the beginner challenge since I wasn’t sure how intense they would be.

Some trails were quite flat and easy while others were a bit more challenging and steep. The distance varied between 3.5 miles to 12 miles per trail.

Cloverdale, Redding, California

I spent two days biking the five beginner trails (a total of 30+ miles), and of them, I have to say my favorites were Cloverdale for its beautiful views and Swasey Recreational Area for its densely forested trails and small waterfall.

Norbert at the Sway Recreational Area, Redding, California

As part of my trip, I even had the pleasure of mountain biking an intermediate trail with Redding’s Mayor, Brent Weaver, who naturally is an avid mountain biker since this challenge was his creation.

With Brent Weaver, the Mayor of Redding, California
With Brent Weaver, the Mayor of Redding, California

Waterfalls and more Waterfalls

About an hour and a half to the east and north you can find a few parks that are open for camping, hiking, and other recreational activities. While these parks are ideal for these outdoor activities, you shouldn’t miss visiting their waterfalls.

McArthur Burney Falls, Redding, California

The first one is McArthur-Burney Falls State Memorial Park, which is named after the McArthur Family, which previously owned the land, and the Burney Falls themselves.

It is said that as soon Theodore Roosevelt saw the 129 feet tall waterfall, he called them the “eighth wonder of the world.” Maybe it is not officially the eighth wonder of the world, but it will certainly grab your attention as this demanding waterfall is way too beautiful.

I believe I spent over two hours there just looking at every detail of the falls, taking pictures, and hiking around it.

About 45 minutes north of Burney Falls is the McCloud Falls Park, where you can see the three sister McCloud Falls – commonly referred to as the Upper, Middle, and Lower Falls.

McCloud Falls, Redding California

Of the three, the most impressive one is the Middle Falls with its 44 feet curtain drop. The tallest is the Upper Falls, and the shortest is the Lower Falls.

While the Lower Falls, with only a 12 feet drop, might not look as impressive in heights as the other two falls, it does compensate with a nice picnic a swimming area next to the falls. If you feel adventurous, you can hike the 4+ miles trail (each way) that connects the three falls.

There are more waterfalls in the area, but these few are a solid introduction to the natural beauty around Redding.

Underground Is Also Interesting

Sometimes, looking down, or in this case, under the earth, can be surprising too. The Lake Shasta Caverns are just 30 minutes away from the city, so they are an easy half-day sight.

While these are among the least physically demanding caves I’ve visited, they still challenge you a bit with their dozens of long stairs that connect one chamber to the other.

But, even though you will not be on a spelunking (caving) adventure, you will get the chance to see stunning rock formations and learn about the history behind their creation, ancient history, and the discovery of the caves.

Lake Shasta Caverns, Redding California

Of all the chambers you’ll see there, the most impressive one is the last on the tour, The Cathedral. As the name implies, this great chamber rises with natural columns, stalactites, and stalagmites to a dark ceiling that seems like it has no end above.

Cross Country Ski Over Volcanoes

To me, it is still ironic the idea of cross-country skiing over 10 feet thick snow blanketing an active volcano. Well, that’s pretty much the experience you get if you go to Lassen Volcanic National Park, about an hour east of Redding.

Lassen Volcanic National Park, Redding, California

At the moment this park is not well known to most people, but those who know it well compare it to Yellowstone, without the crowds. Lassen has all the volcanic features Yellowstone has (including all four types of volcanos in existence on Earth), except for geysers.

As I cross-country skied the slopes, I came across two ladies doing the same. We stopped for a minute, chatted a bit, and when I told them I was visiting to write about the park, they immediately replied, “Oh no! Do not write about Lassen! This park is too beautiful as it is and we want to keep it without the crowds.”

Sorry ladies, as you said, this park is too beautiful, so I can’t keep it just to myself!

Besides the volcanic landscape, you can see steam vents, mud pots, and hot springs as you hike or drive around the park. Note that the springs are too hot and toxic to bathe in them, so don’t even try it!

If you go before summer, you’ll be able to snowshoe or cross-country ski your way around the park. Otherwise, you could hike the trails during summer.

In the video below you’ll see some iconic shots taken at the (snowy) park as well as other sights in Redding.

YouTube video

Back to Redding Itself

While the city itself might not be this iconic place to sightsee (compared to cities like San Francisco), except for its Sundial Bridge designed by world-renowned architect Santiago Calatrava, it does serve as the perfect base to explore the region, including the Cascade Mountain Range, the Sacramento River, the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, and more.

Sundial Bridge, Redding, California

For those of you who’d like to go biking, skiing, snowboarding, etc., but don’t have the proper equipment, know that you can rent them all in the city. In my case, I used Redding Sports, LTD, to rent the bike and skis. The city also had a decent

While I don’t tend to write about food (as I’m no foodie), I have to say that I had two exquisite meals there. One of them was at the Market Street Steakhouse, where I had one of the most delicious steaks in my life (twice!), and the other one was Moonstone Bistro, where I tried their pasta carbonara, and it was comparable to “real” Italian pasta.

Redding… it doesn’t look like a bypass city anymore, right? My recommendation is that if you’re road tripping in the area, dedicate at least a few days to Redding and its surroundings. You won’t regret it!

Redding: The Cool Outdoorsy City in California You've Never Heard Of
Adventure Awaits


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  1. Glad you love our city! I am fortunate and get to travel all over California for my job. No matter where I go, I can’t wait to get back home. Great story!

  2. Redding and the surrounding are are one of the most beautiful places in California to live. From Shasta Lake to Mount Shasta views and the Sacramento river that meanders its way through our lovely city, I’m proud to call Redding my home. Thanks for the positive and uplifting article.

  3. Kayaking/rafting/boating in the area is also wonderful. Don’t forget the fishing pole. Lake Britain connects to Burney Falls. Fall River is nearby too on the East side. The Sacramento River winds through Redding. Whiskeytown Lake and a little further Lake Trinity (and River) to the west. Shasta and Siskiyou Lakes to the north are all full and beautiful, with camp grounds and trails everywhere. Many, many more lakes and rivers nearby to explore.
    Redding is certainly a hub of outdoor adventures. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Great article. One of the few places in California with 5 established wilderness areas with 1000’s of miles of trails to gorgeous alpine lakes all within a 1-4 hour drive.

  5. This is a wonderful article! It is odd that Shasta Lake and Whiskey Town lake were left out of the story! Just as an FYI, Shasta Lake has 365 miles of shoreline and Whiskey Town Lake has many water falls and picinic areas! Kayaking there is an experience you will never forget! I was born and raised in Redding, and love the city!

  6. To see this area from a helicopter is breath taking as well!!!! You can go to wonderful places you can’t get to from a car.

  7. Just remember when you visit to pick up after yourselves to help keep the areas clean for everyone.

  8. Still love it here after forty years. It gets hot in the summer, but not humid. Redding is the best kept secret in California!

  9. Redding is not a city, it is a big town. No museums if diversity. No cultural celebrations. No reliable public transportation; If restaurants start serving breakfast through dinner at 6:00 a.m. to midnight and I happen to work from either one of those extremes and RABA doesn’t start transporting until right before 8:00 a.m. thru right before 8:00 p.m.,how am I supposed to get to and from work.
    The elementary schools are a joke few of them celebrate such cultural things of relevance as Cinco DE Mayo or Martin Luther king day, let alone recognizing Hispanic month or African American month. Furthermore there are literally no minority teachers, classified staff nor administrators walking the hallway of the schools.
    The entire North state from Red Bluff on up North to the border of oregon are all sundown towns there’s not a month and almost every week of the month that I’m not racially profiled and followed by a police officer in reading….
    Although Redding is surrounded by Native American tribes which are recognized they will never have a pow wow in Redding.
    There is one parade that happens in redding and that is cool April nights. A Car Show!! That’s where the good old citizens of Redding and other communities bring their hot rods that are 40, 50, 60 years old and older and they drive them down the main streets of Redding… Dana, churn Creek, Cypress and a Hilltop in a full loop. That’s a weekly even in cities such as L.A, Oakland, San Jose, San Francisco……
    All the major restaurants close by 10 pm.