With colorful leaves reflected in the clear waters of the Sacramento River and the golden leaves of aspen trees lining hiking trails, autumn is a beautiful time to visit the Shasta Cascade in Northern California. With fall foliage beginning to appear in late September and the temperatures in Redding dropping until November, Upstate California experiences one of the longest and most diverse fall color seasons in the country. To enjoy rich scarlet, deep orange, and golden yellow hues before the snow starts to fall, check out these beautiful places for fall foliage in Redding, California.
Note: Some of my experiences were hosted by Visit Redding. All opinions are my own.
1. From The Sundial Bridge
One of the most iconic spots in Redding, the Sundial Bridge spans the Sacramento River in the Turtle Bay Exploration Park. This unique pedestrian walkway rises 217 feet into the sky, creating one of the world’s biggest working sundials. To reach the translucent glass walkway, wind your way through tree-lined paths bursting with beautiful fall colors. As you step onto the bridge and peer at the calm water below, you’ll see those same bright hues reflected along the river’s edge.
Fun fact: the Sundial Bridge in Redding was designed by Santiago Calatrava, the Spanish architect behind the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in Dallas.
2. Along The Trails
Part of the National Recreation Trails system, the Sacramento River Trail is a tree-lined, 5.5-mile loop encircling the Sacramento River. Mostly flat and completely paved, the trail offers an unparalleled opportunity to stroll along the river and take in Redding’s fall foliage. As you walk or cycle, keep an eye out for wildlife like deer grazing along the banks of the river, squirrels scampering through the dry leaves, and eagles soaring overhead.
Redding offers more than 200 miles of dog-friendly hiking, biking, and equestrian trails within a 15-mile radius of downtown. In addition to the Sacramento River Trail, the Pacific Crest, Clikapudi, and Bumpass Hell trails also deliver stunning views of amazing fall colors. 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: If you want each pedal to have a little boost, rent a Pedego electric bike from Jefferson State Adventure Hub. You’ll find these rental bikes conveniently located less than a block from the river trail access point at Caldwell Park.
3. From The Water
After you’ve hiked or biked along the water, hop in a boat for a truly unique view of the fall foliage in Redding. After all, Time named Redding the unofficial capital of kayaking!
Whether you paddle down the Sacramento River in a kayak or canoe across the still waters of a crystal-clear lake, you’ll enjoy serene spots to admire the warm colors of the changing season.
If you enjoy fishing, then you’ll be hooked on Redding. The Lower Sac, the section of the Sacramento River that flows from below Shasta Dam (and through Redding) has been rated one of the best places to fish in the country. The fall months are the best for catching rainbow trout and steelhead. Chinook salmon also arrive during fall to lay their eggs in the tailouts. For a half or full day on the Lower Sacramento River with an experienced guide, check out The Fly Shop. Their packages include a local fishing expert, all the equipment you need, and lunch.
About 15 minutes west of Redding, Whiskeytown National Recreation Area offers another site to kayak, canoe, or fish for rainbow trout and spotted bass.
Pro Tip: Whether you visit in winter, spring, summer, or fall, these are the best things to see and do in Redding, California.
4. Surrounding A Shasta County Waterfall
The waterfalls of Shasta County are spectacular in the spring when they are powered by melting snow flowing from nearby mountain peaks. However, when you visit Northern California in the fall, they are surrounded by brilliant colors that deliver a much different — but still breathtakingly beautiful — view. From plunge to multi-tiered, there are more than 15 waterfalls to visit just outside of Redding, California.
If you can only visit one waterfall in Northern California, then head north to McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park about an hour northeast of the city. Here, the park’s namesake waterfall cascades 129 feet from Burney Creek into Lake Britton. The sight is so impressive that Teddy Roosevelt proclaimed the waterfall the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” and it has been officially recognized as a national natural landmark since 1984.
Another waterfall with year-round flows is Sweetbriar Falls. Located just off of I-5 as you drive north from Redding to Mt. Shasta, this 20-foot cascade is fast and easy to access. After traveling east from the interstate, park on the west side of the railroad tracks and walk across the bridge to view the falls just on the other side.
If you’re looking for a challenging autumn trek, then the Whiskeytown Falls may be for you. Accessed via the James K. Carr Trail, this cascade involves a strenuous hike. However, with its 600-foot elevation gain — including several steep sections — the 3.4-mile loop delivers you to the tallest waterfall in the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. For an easier waterfall hike, try Lower McCloud Falls, which can be accessed via a short, easy, and paved trail that starts at the parking lot. You could also take the 0.3-mile, paved, and ADA-accessible trail to view Crystal Creek Falls.
Pro Tip: In addition to the sites on this list — predominantly located in Shasta County and Siskiyou County — Mono County and Plumas County are also great spots for leaf peeping in Northern California.
5. At Lassen Volcanic National Park
Located about an hour east of Redding, Lassen Volcanic National Park is another great place to enjoy the fall foliage in Northern California. In a state with Yosemite National Park and Joshua Tree National Park regularly drawing crowds throughout the year, Lassen Volcanic National Park is often overlooked. This typically reduces the number of leaf peepers competing for a view of wildlife framed by bright fall colors or a spot on hiking trails.
If you want to sit back and relax as you take in the natural beauty, wind your way through the park on California Highway 89. Also known as the Lassen Volcanic National Highway, this singular road will take you past Manzanita Lake and deliver spectacular views of Chaos Crags, Lassen Peak (the largest plug dome volcano in the world), and Brokeoff Mountain. While there are certainly a lot of evergreens in the park, the aspen, cottonwood, and birch produce vivid yellow, gold, and red leaves in the fall. The spots with the most fall color include Manzanita Lake Hat Meadow and the southwest section of the park.
Although Lassen Volcanic National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days per year, road access, park services, and ranger-led activities are reduced as the temperatures drop. Most park campgrounds close for the winter season beginning in mid-September, and when you visit in October or November, there is always a chance that some higher elevation sections of the Lassen Volcanic National Highway will be closed due to snow. Check the status of the roads in the park before you visit.
Pro Tip: These are the most incredible things to see and do in Redding during winter.
6. Around The Town Of Redding
On the other side of the country, New England, with its native maple, ash, and elm trees displaying crimson, amber, and pumpkin-colored leaves in the fall, is one of the most sought-after spots in the country for viewing spectacular fall colors. Many Redding residents have incorporated New England plants and trees, with their beautiful autumn colors, into the landscaping around their homes and businesses. As you enjoy the mild fall weather in Redding, you’ll be treated to the brilliant red and gold colors on display from the ginkgo, Japanese maple, sweetgum, and tupelo trees.
Fall Foliage Trip Planning Tips
- Whether you’re searching for the best and brightest fall colors or trying to identify the tree species connected to the leaves that crunch beneath your feet, a fall foliage app can help!
- Fall weather in Northern California can be unpredictable, so be sure to dress in layers.
Although Redding, California, is only about 560 feet above sea level, the altitude in Lassen Volcanic National Park ranges from 5,600 feet to 10,500 feet, so be proactive about managing altitude sickness.
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