7 Hidden Outdoor Gems Near Redding, California

Brought to you by Visit Redding

There are so many beautiful outdoor destinations that have put Redding, California on the national map. From Lassen Volcanic National Park to Burney Falls to Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, the areas surrounding Redding have become some of the most talked about outdoor destinations on the planet.

But there are also plenty of “hidden gems” that many people might not know about. You won’t read about them in the national publications, but you can find so many outdoor destinations in the area that only the true locals know about, and they’re just as fantastic as the more popular places.

Here are 8 hidden outdoor gems surrounding Redding, California:

Subway Cave

Flickr/Wayne Hsieh

When most people visit the Lassen area, they head directly to Lassen Volcanic National Park to see the many mountains, lakes and hydrothermal areas that make the park famous. But just outside the national park, sitting in the Lassen National Forest, sits a lava tube formed thousands of years ago that outdoor adventurers can hike through today.

Subway Cave now has stairs at the mouths of the cave enabling adventurers to make the hike through the entire lava tube. The entire trail through the cave is about 1/3 of a mile and includes different “rooms” to look at the smooth walls of the lava tube. The cave is dark and the floor is jagged, so be sure to bring a light in order to navigate the hike. The cave is nice and cool on summer days, and you can even make it a frozen experience during the winter.

Watch the below video to see what you can expect on your visit to Lassen’s Subway Cave:

And here’s exactly where the cave is located:

Learn more about Subway Cave in the Lassen National Forest

Hatchet Creek Falls

Just under an hour northeast of Redding on Montgomery Creek sits a beautiful, unique waterfall that may just be the best swimming hole in Northern California.

Hatchet Creek Falls familiarity amongst locals is most certainly due to the giant fallen tree that lays right in the middle of the falls, creating a makeshift stairway for swimmers to climb and jump into the water. At Hatchet Creek, kids can swim around in a shallower area formed by a dam. The waterfall and creek are easily accessible after a short trail walk. It’s the perfect place to spend a summer day.

Another popular feature with this swimming hole is the cliffs on either side of the falls where adrenaline junkies can perform cliff jumps. Take a look for yourself:

Here is where the beautiful waterfall is located:

Learn more about Hatchet Creek Falls

Stand By Me Bridge

There is a destination sitting just outside Redding that has become world-famous after being immortalized in a thrilling scene in the 1968 movie Stand By Me.

The bulk of this movie is filmed throughout Oregon and NorCal, including places around McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park and McCloud, California. When four young boys go searching for a dead body, they are confronted with obstacles of being on their own in the world and wilderness. It brought us the famous line “you guys wanna go see a dead body?”

But one of the most popular scenes of the film is when they run from a train over a bridge, only to barely avoid getting hit at the end of the trestle. The scene was filmed over Lake Britton near Burney, California, and the scene is a thrilling show of the beauty of NorCal:

Here is a behind the scenes look at how they filmed the scene in NorCal:

Today, the bridge is blocked off to hikers, with future plans to develop it into part of the Great Shasta Rail Trail. But onlookers can still approach it from the side and even see it from the waters of Lake Britton. It’s a great testament to the beauty of the area surrounding Redding.

Shasta Bally

Photo by Rachel Perry

When summiting peaks in NorCal, most people talk about the big volcanos like Mount Shasta and Lassen Peak. But there’s a peak near Whiskeytown Lake that can give you incredible views of the wilderness just west of Redding that’s easier to summit than Mount Shasta, and a little more difficult than Lassen Peak.

On the westside of Whiskeytown Lake, you’ve probably noticed a rounded peak sometimes covered in snow. That’s Shasta Bally, a 6,200 feet peak that’s a popular destinations for local hikers and mountain bikers. It’s a mild hike compared with real mountaineering and will give you a completely new beautiful view of Whiskeytown National Recreation Area.

View of Whiskeytown Lake from Shasta Bally

A great place to start is Sheep Camp, part of the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area run by the National Park Service. What these fancy titles really mean is that you will have to buy a parking permit at the Visitors Center on the way in. From there drive 4.2 miles into the park and hang a left at the Brandy Creek Camp Road, also marked for Shasta Bally. From there it’s another 2.6 miles to Sheep Camp, which, by the way, is not a terrific place to leave valuables in your car. From Sheep Camp just follow the dirt road up the mountain. It’s really almost impossible to get lost.

From the top you can see for many miles in all directions, and it’s a great spot for lunch and to spend some time. You’ll be able to see Whiskeytown Lake to the east, as well as the stunning mountain ranges to the north and west. It’s a truly “hidden” experience that everyone in NorCal should do at least once.

Learn more about the hike to the top of Shasta Bally

Potem Falls

Photo: All Trails

Right in the middl of waterfall country, there are so many beautiful falls to explore year round. You may choose to see Burney Falls, Hike the three tiers of McCloud Falls or swim at Hatchet Creek Falls. But there’s another large waterfall that’s a lot less crowded and can provide a blissful experience for anyone that visits.

Potem Falls is a 70-foot waterfall on the Pit River arm of Shasta Lake and for good reasons, it has become a popular weekend swim spot for locals. The easy quarter-mile hike to the Potem Falls watering hole makes it an attractive option for families. If you desire some peace and quiet, take a mid-week trip to the falls when it’s often deserted. Potem Falls also makes for a romantic date spot.

Approaching the narrow, but scenic Potem waterfall, you’ll encounter a large pool perfect for swimming and lounging around. In Latin, “potem” means “to drink”, and after seeing the translucent water of Potem Creek, you might be compelled to do so. However, we don’t recommend it.

Here’s where the waterfall is located:

Learn more about the blissful experience at Potem Falls

Little Backbone Creek Natural Waterslide

For anyone visiting Shasta Lake, you’re bound to experience limitless outdoor destinations like Shasta Caverns or Shasta Dam. But there’s a little known experience that can give visitors the the natural ride of a lifetimes.

The Little Backbone Creek natural waterslide, located near Digger Bay, isn’t necessarily easy to get to, but has become popular with locals for the perfect day on the lake. The waterslide includes a small waterfall with a smooth bottom so people can slide down like fun ride at a waterpark. There’s a rope installed on the side enabling people to climb up the slide over and over again.

The scenic 20-minute hike up to the waterslide up Little backbone Creek is reason enough to make a trip if you’re in the area. Bringing a waterproof camera along with you is never a bad idea. Not to mention you can spend an entire summer day enjoying plunges into the refreshing creek below the slide.

Here is the area on the lake where you’ll find the natural waterslide:

Learn more about Little Backbone Creek Natural Waterslide

Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park

Probably NorCal’s best kept secret is the Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park, most likely due to its remote location in northeastern Shasta County and the fact that it can only be reached by boat. But the area with about 13 miles of shoreline has three campsites and nearly 20 miles of accessible trails in the area. If you’re willing to put in the work to get there, it’s worth the trek.

Named after the Achomawi (a band of the Pit River Indians) that inhabited the area for centuries, the park’s 5,930 acres is covered in jagged lava flow rocks and remains one of the nation’s largest systems of underwater springs in the U.S. The park was once a muskrat farm in the 1930’s, and the little critters can still be seen in the area, along with remnants of Native American fishing traps on the water.

Learn more about the Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park

Active NorCal

Northern California's Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine

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