Sacramento River Rail Trail


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Sacramento River Rail Trail Facts

States: California
Counties: Shasta
Length: 11.1 miles
Trail end points: Coram Rd, south of Shasta Dam (near City of Shasta Lake) and Sacramento River Trail at Keswick Dam Rd (Shasta)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6407370

Sacramento River Rail Trail Description

The northern endpoint of the Sacramento River Rail Trail offers views of the country’s eighth-largest dam and California’s largest reservoir—Shasta Lake—and the often snowcapped Mount Shasta. Before you jump on the trail, explore the Shasta Dam Visitor Center, which is run by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Learn about the area’s history, grab a brochure on Redding trails, or enjoy a picnic amid the mountain scenery. You might even see wildlife, such as deer and osprey. Built during the Great Depression and throughout World War II, the 602-foot dam was considered an engineering marvel, and today it helps water one of the world’s leading agricultural producers: California’s Central Valley.

To start your trail adventure, head to the Shasta Dam Trailhead, where parking and restrooms are available. For the first 8 miles heading south, the trail leisurely follows the Sacramento River, which feeds off Shasta Lake. Shady nooks lined with ponderosa pines punctuate the peaceful route, and a 500-foot former rail tunnel adds to the relaxing trek along the tranquil river. In the early 1900s, the railroad provided services to the copper mining town of Coram.

For a more meditative experience, you can either end your trip at the Keswick Boat Ramp (mile 7) or head south after crossing Spring Creek to reach the Keswick Trailhead (mile 8), one of the trail’s two southern endpoints.

Alternatively, to raise your heartbeat, head east after crossing Spring Creek and continue 2.8 miles, where you’ll travel a portion of the trail dubbed “the roller coaster” by locals for its cardio workout. Winding hills flank Keswick Reservoir, a stretch of the Sacramento River that leads to Keswick Dam, the other southern endpoint. Make sure you have plenty of water for these steep, staggered hills. Any rest breaks are rewarded with beautiful views of the blue-green water, rich-hued soil, lush vegetation, and mountains in the distance. A 2-mile path called the Fisherman’s Trail shoots off from this part of the Sacramento River Rail Trail, leading to the reservoir with an access point from Keswick Dam Road. As its name suggests, the trail is used to access fishing at the reservoir as it skates along the banks leading up to the dam. Check the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s resources on fishing regulations in Shasta County. In the springtime, you can enjoy delightful wildflowers as you head to your fishing spot.

End your journey at a trailhead off Keswick Dam Road, where you can picnic at the top of a hill overlooking the dam. To continue your adventure, carefully cross the winding road to start the 12-mile Sacramento River Trail, which leads you to the city of Redding and its picturesque Sundial Bridge.

Parking and Trail Access

Trailheads and parking lots for the Sacramento River Rail Trail are located off Keswick Dam Road at Keswick Dam, off Iron Mountain Road next to Rock Creek Road, and at Shasta Dam. Visit the TrailLink map for all options and detailed directions.

Sacramento River Rail Trail Reviews

Wonderful Trail!

I combined this trail with the Sacramento River Trail, starting at Turtle Bay. I didn't know what to expect and was thrilled after getting to the top of Heart Rate Hill and seeing more hills, dips and curves! I felt like I was mountain biking only on a paved trail. The scenery was gorgeous and we were the only people on the trail until we go back toward Heart Rate Hill.

I highly recommend this trail if you get to be in the Redding area!

Beautiful ride- part of bridge being repaired

This is a gorgeous quiet ride- not that many bikers and almost all paved. There is a gap though, right in the middle of the ride, where the fires burnt the bridge and the rails/ road have been destroyed - so unless you are an expert mountain biker and can ride around it (steeply down a canyon and back up to the other side) you will need to turn around. No biggie- as it is still and lovely ride and loops both sides of the river.

Great trail.

Rode the entire route yesterday. The only downside was the first two miles from Keswick Dam. It's not a typical gradual rail grade. Great scenery, great surface, and no traffic noise. At one point I just stopped to enjoy the silence.

I recommend pushing up the switchback road between the north end of the trail to Shasta Dam. They offer great views and tours of the dam. You can actually ride across the top of the dam, unlike the dams in Washington State.

Wow! How did I not know about this?

Departed from Keswick Dam parking area this morning. The first 1/2 mile is seriously steep, immediately, but after a mile or two of some good ups and downs, it is pretty close to flat along the water all the way to the campground below Shasta Dam.

The trail is paved and in excellent condition, just fine for my road bike; could have used the hill climbing gears on my mountain bike in a couple of spots near the beginning. Beautiful ride. Take water. Vault toilets at both ends, in remarkably clean condition for that type of facility. I will go back, maybe kyak, too, next time.


Redding to Shasta

We started this ride from the Sundial Bridge in Redding which added another 8 miles each way. At the Shasta campgrounds destination, we decided to ride up to Shasta Dam. A moderately steep 2 to 3 miles uphill, but the view from the dam and the ride back was worth it.

Road surface was excellent all the way through, and crowd traffic was reasonable. Very nice views of the river and lake. Bring lots of water and imagine that it can be hot in the summer.

If you're inclined to start from the Sundial Bridge, the bike trail on the south side of the river has less foot traffic which makes riding more pleasurable. Total of about 44 miles.

Update to the sacramento River Rail Trail.

As of early 2011, the Sacramento River Rail Trail is completely paved. So now you can ride on pavement from Redding at the Sun Dial Bridge to Shasta dam.

TRAILBEAR HEADS TO THE DAM - The Sacramento River Rail Trail

TRAILBEAR HEADS TO THE DAM - The Sacramento River Rail Trail



Redding has enough good trails - paved, dirt, mountain bike - to be something of a destination. TrailBear spent two days there riding the paved river trails.

You can ride from Turtle Bay, down in Redding, up to Shasta Dam. Better yet, most of the ride is on good blacktop. You do this by taking the Sacramento River Trail up to the Keswick Dam. There you will find a trailhead for the Sacramento River Rail Trail. The SRRT will take you up river to the Shasta/Chappie ORV area below the dam. This is a scenic reservoir ride.

The SRRT comes in two parts. The lower portion (2.8 miles) is called the Lower Rail Trail. It is a twisty, turney, up and down connector trail and certainly not a real rail trail. No train could make those curves. Hard enough on a bike with any sort of speed. Probably a real challenge in a wheelchair or on in-line skates.

The true rail trail (a mild uphill grade) begins at the Rock Creek Road Trailhead and heads up to the Shatsa/Chappie ORV Area below Shasta Dam. It is 8.3 miles long and paved up to the former Matheson Ore Transfer Station. The lower trail joins it about .25 miles out of Rock Creek trailhead.

It uses the old Southern Pacific right of way. From Matheson to the end, you are on gravel. Once past Matheson the gravel is hard packed. The upper trail end is at the locked trail gate at the Shasta Dam. A sign notes that they intend to pave the section from Matheson to Shasta Dam in October 2010. Stay tuned. When done, the Sacramento River Trail and the River Rail Trail will make an outstanding ride. Want some dirt - check out the other trails on the east side of the reservoir. Lots of riding in these hills.







This is the start of the Sacramento River Rail Trail. This section is called the Lower Rail Trail (2.8 mi). It will intersect the real rail trail up at Spring Creek. What an innocent name! A more accurate name might be Heart Rate Trail. It is probably the most interesting section to ride – but you work for it.

Start at the new trailhead at the base of what they call Heart Rate Hill. Apt name, that. If you time your ascent and measure your pulse at the upper sign, you can determine fitness. By that point, you probably knew: Could be better. If you cycle the Lower Rail Trail every other day for a month or two, you will be much fitter. It twists. It turns. It climbs. It descends. It repeats all the previous as it climbs up each ridge, descends the other side, crosses the creek and climbs again.

The last water in 11+ miles is across the street at the trailhead. Drink up. Fill up. The Lower Rail Trail just might use the water ration for a ten mile leg. When you are sloshing about, head up Heart Rate Hill. There is a nice overlook above on a spur trail.

In the first 0.68 miles from the parking lot you gain 240’. At that point, if you look left, there is a marker on the other side: SLOW: Steep Descent. Really? Really!

TB would have loved a nice screaming descent, but had to ride the brakes to keep things under 15 mph: Hairpin turns. They are not banked for 30 mph or even close to it. Try that and you will be off the trail and in the brush. He clocked 25.5 on one drop where he could see the uphill leg and the curve was not a hairpin. TrailBear loves his full set of hydraulic brakes. They actually stop him - in time, not in the brush.

What is needed is a crew of mountain bike riders to bank the turns or build so you can ride the wall on the downhill curves. Slingshot around some of those hairpins and you will be half way up the next ascent before you notice. In the first 2.5 miles, TB measured 242’ descent and 379’ of ascent. Not a bench to be seen once you leave the overlook at the trailhead.

@@@ RAIL TRAIL JUNCTION, GE: 40.628131 -122.466335

That last long climb along Spring Creek put you on the junction with the real Sacramento River Rail Trail. The rest of the trail will be gradual rail trail inclines. Take a look at the Iron Mountain Mine remediation works – the Spring Creek Debris Dam and the plant. The mine is a superfund site.

Rain water on iron pyrites = sulfuric acid. That dam up there is part of the effort to control the acid wastes. The plant just below the trail removes heavy metals from the waste water. Notice that Spring Creek does not look very healthy.


Now you can head up the Shasta River (Keswick Reservoir now) on the right of way built in 1883 by the Central Pacific Railroad. By 1888 you could take an express from Oakland and be in Portland in 36 hours.

@@@ KESWICK BOAT RAMP, GE: 40.632349 -122.452793

Another trailhead option is at the Keswick Boat Ramp on the other side of Spring Creek. You will find an info kiosk, parking and vault toilet. From here the next stop is the end of the pavement at Matheson, about four miles up the reservoir.

@@@ MATHESON, GE: 40.664135 -122.460971

At Matheson the ore from the Iron Mountain Mine was transferred to rail cars. Now it is a staging area for the ORV area and accessible off the Iron Mountain Rd. The trail surface here is somewhat loose and the rock large. At the trail gate beyond Matheson the surface turns to a hard backed 3/8- gravel – good riding. This lasts up to Motion Creek, then turns to larger gravel, but still not a bad ride. (Note: TrailBear is on a FS mountain bike. No roadies were seen beyond the end of the blacktop at Matheson.)

@@@ MOTION CREEK, GE: 40.685720 -122.450870

Are they using enough culvert at the embankment across Motion Creek? Check the photo. Word from a local bikie was that they had a used bridge lined up from a south county road project – but when they picked it up, it fell apart. Whoops. Motion Creek, unlike all the other stream crossings, had water in it. Come the winter rains, there is probably serious water in it.

@@@ THE TUNNEL, GE: 40.693863 -122.450043

The only tunnel on the trail is about 0.7 miles above Motion Creek Crossing. It was built in the 1880s and lined with concrete in 1923. It curves, but it is short enough that there is enough light to see by. No headlights are needed. There is a bypass trail along the toe of the ridge, but who would want that? Tunnels are fun.

@@@ TRAIL END AT SHASTA DAM TRAILHEAD, GE: 40.709190 -122.442390

The end of the rail trail is at the locked trail gate at the bottom of the Shasta/Chappie ORV area below Shasta Dam. Here you will find ample parking, a vault toilet and information kiosk. The kiosks on the trail are a nice pattern with bench seating below that overhead cover.

If you head up the road into Shasta Campground, you will find water, trash and additional vault toilets. This is the only water on the upper trail. You can refill for the trip back down.
The ORV staging area also features a large covered shelter with concrete benches (and one picnic table). This could be handy when one of the frequent local thunderstorms catches you out. Commonly, ORV areas have good facilities.

If you want to stage out of this end, you need to cross Shasta Dam. The hours (10/2010) are 6 AM to 10 PM. Have your driver’s license handy for the guards. They will probably take a look to see if you are stuffed with C4 or ANFO to make Jihad on the dam. If you are worthy, the crash barriers will be lowered for you. We camped here one night – the only folks there aside from the host. Come summer or a weekend, bring ear plugs.

Ride on!

Riding his brakes around the bends

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