It’s a shame that most people don’t know about the beautiful city of Redding in California. It’s such a fantastic place focused on outdoor activities that’s still under the tourism radar for most people. On the other hand, it is a blessing that Redding is still a “decently kept secret” as you get to enjoy everything it has without the crowds often seen in other major cities, parks, and sights in California.
While I recommend more than a weekend to enjoy the best of Redding, here’s how you could spend a weekend there to get a taste of the outdoors in this northern California haven.
If you arrive early in the morning, I recommend heading to the Lake Shasta Caverns National Natural Landmark. They are located 30 minutes north of Redding, and the only way you can reach these caverns is by taking a 15-minute boat ride across Lake Shasta, followed by a bus ride that’ll take you 800 feet up the mountain to reach their entrance. It’s all part of a tour, so no need to worry about planning it all.
The tour will take you through some of the most impressive chambers found inside the caverns and culminates in the chamber known as The Cathedral. As the name implies, it is a great underground space that is not only full of intricate limestone patterns and formations but also counts with a deep layer of history that spans to antiquity, according to the lore of Wintu Indian Tribes.
This cavern tour is an easy half day trip, so after lunch, head towards the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area which is just 15 minutes west of the city. Back when it was created, Whiskeytown was part of the California Gold Rush, and even today you can find gold in its clear water. Visitors can still pan for gold, but don’t expect to find much, if you’re lucky.
Today, though, this is one of the local’s favorite place to spend the summer months camping, picnicking, tanning, hiking, biking, fishing, and watching wildlife, among others.
The lake is popular among swimmers and divers due to the good visibility of its waters. In fact, the entire town of Whiskeytown was flooded to make way for Whiskeytown Lake in 1962, which is now part of the attractiveness of diving there.
Maybe you won’t have a lot of time to do all these activities, but at least take some time to see the lake and maybe do a short hike in the park. On the way back to Redding, if it’s early enough, do a quick stop at the Shasta Historic Park – a small set of ruins of the original town of Shasta, created during the times of the California Gold Rush.
Later in the afternoon, head to the Sundial Bridge to see a beautiful sunset setting. This suspended pedestrian bridge over the Sacramento River was designed by world renowned architect Santiago Calatrava, and it is among the most famous structures in the city, if not the most famous one.
For dinner, head to Market Street Steakhouse, where you could have some of the most delicious steaks in all California. The price is average, so expect to pay $40+ for a meal.
For accommodation, I stayed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott and had a good experience there. It is slightly outside the city, but since a car is needed to move around Redding and its surroundings, its location worked well for me. Otherwise, there are dozens of excellent accommodation options to choose from.
Today we are heading east and north of Redding to see some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the region. The first one is the McArthur Burney Falls, about 90 minutes east of Redding. In fact, this waterfall is considered to be one of the most beautiful waterfalls in all of the United States. Its 129-foot drop is such an incredible thing to witness that it is said that Theodore Roosevelt called them the “eighth wonder of the world” when he saw them for the first time. It might not be the tallest or biggest falls in the state, but it is certainly the most beautiful with its powerful twin water columns and a light veil of water flowing down the entire width of the falls. See the falls from its upper viewpoint and hike down to the pool at the base to see it from below.
Just 40 minutes north of McArthur Burney Falls are the McCloud Falls. The McCloud River is one of Northern California’s most scenic rivers, and it shows it with its three stunning McCloud Falls – the Upper, Middle, and Lower Falls. Being so close to Mount Shasta, you can see traces of the volcano’s ancient activity through the geological clues found along the waterway, like cooled lava flows and basalt columns.
Of the three, the Middle Falls are the largest and most impressive with its 44-foot drop. The Upper Falls are the tallest and the Lower Falls the shortest, but the Lower Falls offer a 12-foot deep plunge into a large pool, as well as a comfortable picnic area. All three falls connect via four miles of trails that give you an up-close and intimate exposure to the waterfalls and other river features.
After a long day enjoying nature, head back to the city to have dinner at Moonstone Bistro. Try their pasta carbonara, which is delicious!
Today is all about volcanic activity! About an hour east of Redding you’ll find the spectacular Lassen Volcanic National Park. In simple words, I could describe it like Yellowstone, except that it doesn’t have geysers. But, it does have all the other volcanic features, and beauty Yellowstone has, including all four kinds of volcanoes in existence on Earth. But, contrary to Yellowstone, not a lot of people know about this park, so it has just a fraction of the visitors Yellowstone has.
You can drive, hike and camp in the park to witness its steam vents, mud pots, and hot springs (too hot to bathe in them, though). The highest road in the Cascade Mountain Range is also found here, near Lassen Peak, reaching 8,512 feet above sea level. The wonderful thing about this park is that during the summer months, when Redding is experiencing triple digit temperatures, Lassen still feels just like spring. Of course, with such a high altitude, this means that during winter, this park receives significant snow. Depending on when in summer you visit, you’ll be able to hike in the park, or if it’s early in the summer (or late spring), you might still be able to cross-country ski to its volcanic features. So ironic that you can ski to volcanic spots!
Spend all day at the park to enjoy its scenery. Trust me; you’ll love it. Later that afternoon, head back to Redding and have dinner at Cheesecakes Unlimited. Don’t be confused by the name. They do have cheesecakes, but they serve everything from salads, burgers, and steaks too!
Enjoy your last few hours in this small haven surrounded by some of the most stunning nature and landscapes found in California.