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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, an extensive 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.
The Sacramento River Trail holds court as a favorite for many California rail-trail enthusiasts. From the Court Street (Benton Drive) trailhead, 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 line operated by the Central Pacific Railroad that once carried ore as far north as Portland, Oregon.
At the 3-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 0.5 mile to the Keswick Dam western trailhead and return.
While the southernmost 3-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 6-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 can 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. A paved perimeter trail encircles the scenic property, home to birds, turtles and other wildlife.
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 Aquarium and Exploration Park, which has a trail connecting across the river near State Route 44 to the Mount Shasta Mall. At the trail's western end, the Sacramento River Trail also connects to the Sacramento River Rail Trail, which continues from Keswick Dam up to Shasta Dam. Both the Stanford Hills Trail and Middle Creek Trail offer additional brief side trips off the main trail.
To reach the Court Street (Benton Drive) trailhead from Interstate 5 in Redding, take the exit for State Routes 299 and 44. Head left (west) on SR 299 toward Eureka. The highway leads into downtown Redding. Signs mark the route of SR 299, as it winds through town, first heading west on Shasta Street, then right (north) on Pine Street, then left (west) on Eureka Way. Stay on SR 299. At Eureka Way, follow Eureka Way/SR 299 to Court Street. Turn right (north) on Court Street and go 0.5 mile to the parking lot on Middle Creek Road. The lot is on the left (west) side of Court Street just before it crosses a bridge over the Sacramento River.
You can also access the trail near Keswick Dam, at Turtle Bay Exploration Park or near Mount Shasta Mall at the intersection of Hilltop Drive and Dana Drive.
The wife and I rode the trail on a perfect September late afternoon back in 2013. On our way to bike rides in Oregon and Washington, we stopped in Redding for the night after driving all day from southern California.
With a few hours to spare before dinner, we decided to get some exercise and to bike the trail. It wasn't on our trip agenda, but what a smart decision it was!
Starting at the Sundial Bridge, we enjoyed a leisurely, serene ride up along one side of the river and then back down along the opposite side. With the exception of a couple of hills going up river that the wife hated, the trail was fairly easy for a couple of middle age fifty somethings to negotiate. I especially enjoyed the river views and going through the forest of trees on the down river side!
We'll always have fond memories of that beautiful late summer unexpected afternoon ride, and we burned enough calories after sitting in the SUV all day to justify a good dinner afterwards!
We hit trail closures from Sundial Park on both sides making it impossible to do a loop or to go very far. On the North side of the river, The Sacramento River Trail Bridge was closed so you can’t cross over to the other side there and have to turn around a backtrack. On the south side, the trail is closed at the Middle Creek Trail intersection. We ended up riding the Middle Creek Trail which travels through burned, scorched woods.
My wife and I did this loop on two different occassions while visiting Redding. We had no trouble finding the trail head or sticking on the trail. The scenery as you head toward the damn is absolutely gorgeous--large boulders, spring flowers, and the beautiful blue and green colors of the fountain head of the Sacramento river.
The trail on one side of the river is almost totally flat, while the trail on the other side is a roller coaster of short up and downhill climbs. There are several creeks you cross and plenty of benches to stop and enjoy the scenery. There are even some public restrooms.
I'm sure we will do this trail on every visit to Redding.
This is a well maintained trail, but very confusing for visitors. The route is through various parks, parking lots, senior centers and private neighborhoods. However, there is a total lack of directional signs. Even a simple sign with a directional arrow would be sufficient. The trail on the north side is hilly, but the trail on the south side is more of a converted rail bed. We rode the trail on a Friday and it was very busy.
Short but sweet! Immaculate paved bike trail with amazing views of the Sac River! We will be back!
Rode every mile on TrailLink's map of this trail. Great scenery and excellent trail surface. I recommend the Middle Creek spur as well. The east side of the river is not really a rail type trail. It's a roller coaster ride but lots of fun to do coming downstream.
TRAILBEAR IN THE RAIN - The Sacramento River Trail in Redding.
Destination: The Sacramento River Trail in Redding, Ca. It looks like an interesting ride, but under reported. There is a map but only a few photos on TrailLink.
What a difference a day makes. This talk of “deep low in the Gulf of Alaska” and “late spring storm” was not comforting to TrailBear. Rain was ahead. The Sacramento weather was talking of 1-3” of rain in the Shasta region and noted that the dam operators were already dumping water. TB left Lake Del Valle in Livermore and headed north in sunshine, but ahead you could see the altostratus of the front sliding ashore.
Early afternoon, Redding: The stratus is much lower, with clouds below coming over the mountains and you can see rain in the hills. We park at Turtle Bay by the Sundial Bridge. Out comes the bike and TrailBear heads up the trail.
He got a few miles out before the rain arrived and it was time to kick it about and flee, but everything he saw was good. It’s a triple five star trail From the Sundial Bridge to the double bridges the trail surface was 5*, the facilities were 5* and the scenery was 5*. Consider this a destination trail.
TB had planned two days in Redding to do the Sac River Trail and the Sac River Rail Trail. Not in the rain. You can ride from Turtle Bay all the way to Shasta Dam. We will see if the weather cooperates on the fall migration down to Socal. Here is a quick look at a bit of the lower trail. Some of the things you can enjoy:
Trailhead: Turtle Bay –
The parking is free at this complex. The museum and café are fee areas.
The Sundial Bridge –
Redding went to Spain to get the architect to design a trophy bridge. They got one. This bridge is unique and tells time. It’s accurate on the Summer Solstice, but who cares. Check out the photos on the web. After putting the bike away, it was coffee at the café at Turtle Bay (under cover), watching a ? junior high ? graduation gather. Blue robes and parents and umbrellas streamed across the bridge and gathered beneath the sundial.
The McConnell Arboretum – on the far side of the bridge.
The trail runs through a delightful avenue of oaks shading the trail here. Nice on a sunny day. Today TB did not linger.
The Cauldwell Park Wayside –
tthe first mayor of Redding is sitting on a bench there (in bronze). Have your photo taken with him. Picnic tables and an overlook for viewing the diversion dam. There is also a fish viewing facility there - underwater windows and such.
The double bridges –
TB got this far before the drizzle turned to rain. The old bridge has been repurposed to ped/bike use and a new car bridge built alongside for Benton Drive. Here the loop portion starts. Head up the north side of the river to the Ribbon Bridge or cross over here and take the south side trail to the Ribbon Bridge. From there you can take the connector to the Keswick Dam and get on the Sacramento River Rail Trail.
Wonders up the freeway –
Lake Shasta had water in it! Decades of going up and down I-5 and TB had never, ever seen the lake full. Today it was. No shoreline; the water is up to the trees. What a change from years of bathtub rings and views of high and dry marinas. Give the heavy rains encountered on the way to Weed, TB can see why. No wonder they are dumping water and the river is full. Lake full, more coming, no place to put it. Beats years of bathtub rings.
Getting his fur wet.
A beautiful ride along the Sacramento River with great interpretive signs and tons of wildlife viewing along the way. The museum is great too, with a beautiful arboretum. Spring time seems to be the best time of year, but the cool water from the Sacramento River acts like a natural air conditioner in the summer time.
"New mileage has been added to the trail system, 2.5 miles connect the Sacramento River Trail and the Sacramento River Rail-Trail. On the east side of the Sacramento/Kewick Lake the Quartz Hill Narrow Gauge Railway bed has been developed as a new trail called the Hornbeck trail (segment of the Sacramento River Rail-Trail (4 miles long). The trail starts at either Quartz Hill Road or at the end of Walker Mine Road. "
"This trail is entirely paved. Goes up one side of the river and crosses a bridge and down the other side. A few steep climbs on the north side, but flat on the south side. A fun, fun easy trail."
"This is a gravel, flat trail along the Sacramento River. Lots of wild animal scat on the trail, but we didn't see any. A fantastic ride for Grammy and Papa."
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