On the banks of the clear waters of the Sacramento River, surrounded by densely forested mountains, Redding is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream destination. Located roughly halfway between Sacramento and the Oregon border, this Northern California town of 92,000 is known as the Trail Capital of California, with 100 miles of trails within 10 miles of the city center.
Whether you choose to bike, hike, run, fish, kayak, or sail, the town’s abundant sunshine all but guarantees a fabulous time in any season of the year.
Note: Some of my experiences were hosted by Visit Redding. All opinions are my own.
Things To Do In Redding
Walk Across The Sundial Bridge
Rising from the earth like the tail wing of a massive jet parked at an airport terminal gate is a 217-foot-tall white pylon creating the gnomon of one of the world’s largest working sundials.
Oh, yeah — and it’s also a pedestrian bridge!
Completed in 2004, the steel, glass, and granite Sundial Bridge spanning the Sacramento River is a world-famous landmark in the Northern California town. And while it does record the time according to the sun, it only does so a few hours a day due to its massive size.
At 710 feet long, the walk across the Sundial Bridge is an easy stroll — that is, unless you’re afraid of heights (like me) and freaked out by the translucent glass walkway that allows you to peer down at the water below.
Fun Fact: The Sundial Bridge in Redding was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. If the artsy bridge seems vaguely familiar, you may recognize one of his other functional works of art, like the Milwaukee Art Museum or the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in Dallas.
Discover Turtle Bay Exploration Park
In addition to the Sundial Bridge that connects the north and south campuses of the park, Turtle Bay Exploration Park is home to the Turtle Bay Museum. With its wood, steel, and glass construction, the museum is designed to blend in with the natural beauty that abounds in the 300-acre park. Stop in to learn about the history of the region, its natural resources, and its man-made marvels.
Further explore Turtle Bay by strolling the boardwalk that winds beneath cottonwoods and oaks between the museum and Paul Bunyan’s Forest Camp. Then head north across the Sundial Bridge to the McConnell Arboretum & Botanical Gardens. With 225 acres of lush trees, thick bushes, and colorful flowers, this attraction covers the most ground at the park.
Pro Tip: If you visit Redding around the holidays, see the botanical garden decorated with more than a million lights during Garden of Lights. This town truly is lovely during the colder months; here’s more on things to do in Redding during winter.
Hike Or Bike The Sacramento River Trail
The Sacramento River Trail is a 5.5-mile loop that encircles the Sacramento River and is part of the National Recreation Trails system. Mostly flat and completely paved, the trail offers a relaxing opportunity to stroll along the river, watch for wildlife, and take in Redding’s scenery. And by following the Sacramento River Trail to the Sacramento River Rail Trail, you can hike or bike from the Sundial Bridge to Shasta Dam.
Pro Tip: Explore the Sacramento River Trail with ease by renting a Pedego Electric Bike from Jefferson State Adventure Hub, conveniently located less than a block from the river trail access point at Caldwell Park.
Enjoy The Art
Inside Redding’s City Hall, the city showcases the work of local artists, updating the exhibit on a quarterly basis. Outside, enjoy a leisurely stroll through the art-filled grounds, where you’ll find impressive works of stone, metal, and other materials.
And woven throughout Redding’s historic downtown, you’ll find an assortment of colorful murals that portray the town’s history, landmarks, and culture.
Take In A Show At The Cascade Theatre
Built as a cinema house in 1934, this impressive art deco building with a soaring neon marquee remains a landmark in downtown Redding. No longer used to project recently released films, the Cascade Theatre now hosts high-quality live entertainment, including Tony Award-winning musicals, Grammy Award–winning musicians, and other events.
Go For The Gold At The Shasta State Historic Park
When miners rushed to the Golden State in the middle of the 19th century, a bustling community about 6 miles west of present-day Redding was the crown jewel of the northern mining district. But as it did in so many Western towns, the railroad tracks spiked to the ground in Redding redirected activity to the east of Shasta. Visiting Shasta State Historic Park today allows visitors to explore this partially restored ghost town and get a glimpse of what life was like in Northern California nearly 200 years ago.
Start your visit at the county courthouse. Recently restored to its 1861 glory, it doubles as the visitor center and is filled with historical exhibits. Then wander along the reconstructed boardwalk to explore a mix of ruins and restored buildings. You’ll notice that the Gold Rush town was constructed primarily out of brick. This was to combat the ever-present threat of fire. Iron shutters installed across the doors and over the windows further protected the buildings.
If you plan to spend the day at Shasta State Historic Park, be sure to pack plenty of water. There are limited services available, and during the summer temperatures regularly rise above 100 degrees.
Spend Time On Whiskeytown Lake
About 15 minutes west of Redding, the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area centers on a crystal-clear lake used for boating, waterskiing, scuba diving, and fishing. Paddle out into the still waters in a kayak or canoe or fish for rainbow trout and spotted bass.
Fun Fact: Time dubbed Redding the Unofficial Capital of Kayaking. That sure beats nearby Sacramento’s title of the Unofficial Capital of Costume Play!
To explore Whiskeytown beyond the water, go for a hike through its rugged canyon or follow the James K. Carr Trail to the Whiskeytown Falls. This 3.4-mile loop is a strenuous trek with a 600-foot elevation gain and several steep sections, but it does take you to the tallest fall in the park. If you go chasing this waterfall, be sure to wear sturdy hiking boots with good ankle support and carry plenty of drinking water.
At the other end of the challenge spectrum, take the 0.3-mile paved, ADA-accessible trail to view Crystal Creek Falls.
Take A Dam Tour
About 20 minutes north of Redding, the Shasta Dam mightily contains the Sacramento River, creating Shasta Lake. The largest reservoir in the state, Shasta Lake is a vital water source for California’s fertile agricultural regions downstream.
Start your visit with a 20-minute video about the construction of the dam. Then enjoy the unobstructed view of the three Shastas — the mountain, the lake, and the dam — available at the visitor center. If time permits, wrap up your visit with a walk out to (and across) the dam.
Fun Fact: When it was completed in 1945, the Shasta Dam spillway was the largest manmade waterfall in the world at 487 feet long.
Explore Mount Shasta
If you’re visiting Redding in the winter and want to enjoy the mountains in the snow, the Mount Shasta Ski Park is about an hour north of Redding. With trails that range in difficulty from novice green circles to expert black diamonds, you’re sure to find the perfect path for everyone in your party.
After the snow melts for the season, the ski lifts continue to operate, pulling visitors up the mountain to an elevation of 6,000 feet while delivering bird’s-eye views of the verdant scenery below.
Enjoy a burger and pint with a view by stopping at the Black Diamond Grill at the top of the mountain.
Spend the Day at Lassen Volcanic National Park
About an hour east of Redding, Lassen Volcanic National Park is another great place to enjoy the beautiful outdoors of Northern California. Named for Lassen Peak, the largest plug dome volcano in the world and the southernmost volcano in the Cascade Mountain Range, the park includes several other volcanoes, crystal clear lakes, and steaming fumaroles. Spend the day hiking, biking, fishing, or boating at the park, then enjoy the beauty of the dark night sky far from the light pollution of the Golden State’s bigger cities.
Best Restaurants In Redding
From The Hearth
With two locations in Redding and open daily, it’s easy to fit a scrumptious meal at From The Hearth into your itinerary. Visit this local eatery for omelets, Benedicts, and breakfast bowls in the morning or waffles served all day. For lunch or dinner, enjoy hot and cold sandwiches, gourmet burgers, rice bowls, and fresh salads. And whether you visit for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, don’t leave without ordering pie!
Black Bear Diner
Established in nearby Mount Shasta in 1995, Black Bear Diner is a regional chain of homestyle eateries headquartered in Redding serving classic American dishes like juicy hamburgers, hearty salads, and filling sandwiches. They’re also known for old-fashioned comfort food like chicken-fried steak, meatloaf, and pot roast. And if that’s not enough to win you over, their breakfast menu is available all day.
Woody’s Brewing Company
A local favorite for more than 35 years, Woody’s is a great place for delicious food and finely crafted beer. Pair a pint of apricot ale with Thai lettuce wraps or a Citra pale ale with a plate of flaky white fish and crispy chips. Or order a six-beer sample flight to sip with a classic beer hall favorite like a big Bavarian pretzel with beer cheese sauce.
Adjacent to the Sheraton Redding Hotel, Mosaic serves up everything from soup and sandwiches to upscale entrees in a casual and cozy setting. Split a stone oven pizza with a friend (gluten-free options available) or dig into the pancetta-wrapped salmon without sharing a bite!
Best Places To Stay In Redding
Sheraton Redding Hotel At The Sundial Bridge
On the grounds of the Turtle Bay Exploration Park and just steps from the Sundial Bridge and Sacramento River, the Sheraton Redding Hotel pairs elegant comfort with beautiful surroundings.
Gaia Hotel & Spa
With oversized rooms and luxurious suites that offer views of trees, water, and elegant swans, the Gaia Hotel & Spa is a relaxing retreat along the Sacramento River. Although it’s located about 10 miles south, it’s still close to all of the best things to see and do in Redding.
Bridgehouse Bed & Breakfast And The Puente House
Located in historic downtown Redding, the Bridgehouse Bed & Breakfast and the Puente House stand side by side and close to attractions, eateries, and nightlife. These bed and breakfast accommodations have well-appointed king- and queen-size guest rooms with private baths and include a mouthwatering breakfast featuring locally sourced and organic ingredients.
For a unique stay in Redding, check out Evergreen. Located just a few blocks from the historic downtown, this two-suite boutique hotel is located above a similarly named coffee shop with amazing java and the best waffles in Northern California.