About this Itinerary
Tucked away in Northern California's Shasta County is the charming town of Redding, which over the years has worked diligently to become one of the premier trail destinations in the West. The pride of Redding's trail system is the Sacramento River Trail, a 16-mile network that runs along the banks of the Sacramento River, offering stunning views of the river and nearby mountains, and a close-up look at one of the most breathtaking bicycle/pedestrian bridges in the country.
Redding is the largest city in the Shasta Cascade region. Even in its expanse, the city is nestled by foothills and mountain ranges in all directions save the south, where farmlands line the corridor made by the Sacramento River as it winds its way toward the San Francisco Bay. While planning your trip to this region, make sure to research the nearly innumerable opportunities for outdoor recreation in the parks, national forests, and lakes of the area, including Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, Lassen Volcanic National Park and the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.
The most convenient major airport to Redding is the Sacramento International Airport, 154 miles south, though both Redding and the city of Chico have municipal airports. If you need to rent bicycles, head to the Turtle Bay Exploration Park where Shasta Glide ‘n Ride will set you up with a bike for the day or possibly convince you to take a Segway tour instead.
For easy access to the river trail and the historic and cultural attractions of downtown Redding, settle-in to Bridge House B&B, a four bedroom cottage inn with views of the river and within walking-distance to restaurants and shops. The Redding Chamber of Commerce offers a listing of additional accommodation options, ranging from hotels to RV parks. Put on your walking shoes as there is plenty to explore before even getting on the trail.
The Sacramento River Trail holds court as a favorite for many California rail-trail enthusiasts. From the Court Street trailhead (0.5-miles from the Bridge House B&B) you travel west along the Sacramento River. A wooded section quickly gives way to an open area with striking views of the Trinity Mountains. During the spring, the river maintains a glacial deep-blue hue from melted snow flowing down from the mountains. The river-powered mining operations during the late 1800s and interpretive signs along the trail explain the hydraulic mining operations. You'll also see remnants of the railroad operated by the Central Pacific Railroad that once carried ore as far north as Portland, Oregon. Redding, incorporated in 1800, was actually named after the railroad’s land agent at the time, Benjamin Redding. At the three-mile mark you come to the Sacramento River Trail Bridge, an impressive 418-foot stress ribbon bridge. Opened in 1990, it was the first bridge of its kind built in North America. The bridge is supported by 236 steel cables inside the bridge deck that are drilled into bedrock. The design allows the bridge to have a minimal impact on the natural rock lining the Sacramento River and avoids the need for piers. You can cross the bridge and head east on the other side of the river or continue another half mile to the Keswick Dam western trailhead and return. While the southernmost three-mile section of the trail has a gradual grade, the northern portion—which is not a rail-trail—is more undulating, with short climbs and dips. The trail meanders through an upscale neighborhood here and has a variety of local access points. The trail has a very smooth surface most of the way and gets plenty of use by walkers, runners and cyclists. Near the six-mile mark, you come to the old Diestelhorst Bridge. Completed in 1915 and now used exclusively by bicyclists and pedestrians, it was originally the first bridge across the Sacramento River built for automobiles. You can return to the original trailhead by crossing this bridge or you continue east along the river, where several visual treats await. One is the lovely McConnell Arboretum, an impressive garden complex surrounded by 200 acres of riparian forest and oak savannah. It features butterfly, children's, medicinal and Pacific Rim gardens, among others. Next to the arboretum is a masterpiece of functional art and the highlight of this trail: the Sundial Bridge. Designed by world-renowned architect Santiago Calatrava and completed in 2004, the bridge is surfaced with translucent structural glass that is illuminated from beneath and glows at night. The bicycle/pedestrian bridge is also a functional sundial, the largest in the world. On the other side of the bridge is the Turtle Bay Exploration Park and entrance to the Turtle Bay Museum, a natural history museum with exhibits featuring local and regional history, including local Native American culture. There is also a coffee bar with baked goods in the museum store if you are ready for some refreshments. You can find a trail connecting across the river near State Route 44 to the Mount Shasta Mall. There is also a connecting trail into the Stanford Hills subdivision for local residents to access the River Trail. Return the way you came. You can either cross the river at the Sundial Bridge or follow the entire route and cross the river farther west at the Sacramento River Trail Bridge and head back along the southern side of the river. At the west end, the Sacramento River Trail also connects to the Sacramento River Rail-trail, which continues from Keswick Dam up to Shasta Dam.
Today’s goal is to enjoy Redding, perhaps see a concert or play at the historic Cascade Theatre, located on Market Street, a block south of the Downtown Redding Mall/Market Street Promenade. Within minutes of the theatre are restaurants and bars; on the same block is the Vintage Wine Bar & Restaurant and around the corner is the historic Jack’s Grill, somewhat of an institution in Redding as it has been operating since 1938. Meat-lovers will appreciate the menu, but those wanting a more diverse menu may want to check-out Café Paradiso which happens to have a late night menu to satisfy the after-theatre munchies.
Also on Market Street is the historic Old City Hall Arts Center, built in 1907 to house the city’s offices. It still contains one of the original jail cells but today serves to promote the arts with a gallery, classrooms and performance venues. It also co-sponsors the annual Redding Beer and Wine Festival, where local artists join forces with local brewers and wineries to create a lively event each fall. Those who appreciate the arts will also want to allow time to visit the Redding Civic Center which displays a large collection of public art. City Hall and the Redding Library both have rotating exhibitions featuring local artists and the grounds contain a 2.5 acre sculpture park. To get to the Civic Center, continue south on Market Street and take Parkview Ave east.
As you might expect from one of California’s central valley cities, three farmers’ markets are held throughout the growing season and are the perfect places for wandering while immersing in the sights, smells and tastes of the local agricultural bounty.