It’s officially winter in Northern California, which means we’ll be trading our shorts and sun-tan lotion for scarves and beanies. While some outdoor adventurers might be sad for the change in season, it can actually be a fun change here in NorCal. While you may not be able to visit your local summer swimming hole, there’s still plenty of adventure out there during the cold winter months.
If you’re looking for a winter activity in NorCal, Redding is the perfect gateway to adventure. Surrounding the city has all sorts of winter outdoor experiences, including hiking, biking, snowshoeing and waterfall hunting.
Here are 10 adventures in Redding to fill out your winter bucket list:
Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of the most beautiful wilderness destinations in Northern California. Lacking the typical crowds that you might see at more popular parks, Lassen is known to bring visitors a remote experience jam-packed with mountains, lakes, streams and waterfalls.
Although the park is most popular in the spring, summer and fall, finding a new experience during the winter is recommended for any outdoor adventurer. Seeing your favorite lake frozen or your favorite mountain covered in snow can bring a new perspective to the Lassen experience.
In the winter, Lassen typically receives a lot of snow, making it difficult to maneuver to the popular sites in the park. But with a pair of snowshoes, the typically empty park in the winter is an outdoor adventure like any other.
Getting enough of the NorCal destination that President Theodore Roosevelt named the “Eighth Wonder of the World” just isn’t possible.
Located just north of Redding between Lassen Peak and Mt. Shasta in California’s lava country, is famous for its 129-foot waterfall, which cascades from Burney Creek down into Lake Britton. The falls are a sacred place for the Pit River Indian Tribe, who have held ceremonial rituals here for thousands of years.
The year-round falls are formed by melting snow from Burney Mountain, which travels through underground streams before hitting solid rock and flowing back to the surface. Each day, more than 100 million gallons of water plunge over the falls. When precipitation hits the region, your liable to see up to 225 million gallons of water flow over the waterfall each day, creating a windstorm at the nearby trail
While you might find larger crowds during the summer months, Burney Falls can be a much more quiet and solitary experience in the winter months. It’s the perfect winter day trip out of Redding.
The national sport of winter across America is probably sledding, and there are plenty of spots to do it near Redding. Obviously, you can put your sled on any hill and go for a ride, but here are two nearby sledding hills that are popular for local families:
Anybody that grew up in the area most likely has a memory of sledding at Snowman’s Hill in Mount Shasta. The designated sledding hill, located on Highway 89 right across the road from the Ski Park Highway, is usually packed with enthusiastic sledders on a snowy weekend day. The average run is about 300 feet and there are ample parking and bathrooms for visitors.
Located just past the north entrance of Lassen Volcanic National Park is Eskimo Hill, a big sledding area that gets a ton of snow in the winter. It’s a large hill, making it perfect for the young kids to ride a short run or the adventurous youths to get some speed all the way from the top. The hill is equipped with great bathroom facilities and a big parking lot.
Fishing the Trinity River
The Trinity River, sitting just west of Redding on Highway 299, is best known for one thing – an epic steelhead run.
Like salmon, steelhead possess the extraordinary ability to sense their native rivers from more than a thousand miles away in the open ocean. When it is time to spawn, they need no directions. Humans have tried and failed to understand this without success, and even the best GPS units cannot compare with a steelhead’s innate ability to find home. Every steelhead knows where home is.
When this run occurs, the fishing on the Trinity River becomes world-renown. See for yourself:
Steelhead are known to be a fast and feisty fish, with nicknames like “Silver Bullet” “The Fish of 1,000 Casts.” The best fishing season is in the fall, with the numbers building through September and October, eventually peaking in November.
The Trinity River runs from the Trinity Alps through a remote stretch of NorCal into the Klamath River, which is lauded for its salmon and steelhead runs. When the Trinity and Lewiston Dams were completed in the 1960s, steelhead populations were decimated on the Trinity as the fish could no longer return to their natural spawning grounds. With programs like the Trinity River Restoration Program, the fish were brought back into the area by the thousands, making the river a destination for fishermen worldwide.
The most popular areas to catch one of these beautiful steelhead on the Trinity River sit just about 30-45 minutes west of Redding on Highway 299. Most fish are seen upriver just below the Trinity River, which sits next to the Lewiston National Fish Hatchery.
Sacramento River Trail
The Sacramento River Trail, one of the most underrated features of our North State for lovers of stunning scenery, learning about the area and staying active. Used by a wide variety of people from casual hikers to hard-core runners, bikers, birdwatchers and even anglers, the trail connects with several other trail systems and offers one of the quintessential North State experiences.
The tree lined trail, which follows the Sacramento River all the way up from the Sundial Bridge to Shasta Dam, is a completely different experience in the fall than in other seasons. The colors turn bright and fallen leaves surrounding the trail give an animated boost to any adventure you’re looking for on the trail.
If you’re looking for a quick adventure during good winter weather, the Sacramento River Trail is the perfect experience.
Mt. Shasta Ski Park
Probably the most popular winter activity near Redding is to go for a ride down the slopes of Mt. Shasta Ski Park. Just over an hour drive from Redding, the locally owned ski resort is a great place for the whole family during the wintertime. Whether you want to ski a black diamond, go tubing down the mountain or just relax with a hot chocolate in the lodge, this really is the best place for a winter adventure in the area.
The ski resorts boasts three main ski lifts with 425 acres of skiable terrain across 1,435 vertical feet. There’s also a bunny slope for the newbies and tubing for the kiddos. For the adventurous skiers or snowboarders, there are three terrain parks (depending on conditions) for the beginner, intermediate and advanced riders. Heck, you can also stay in a slopeside cabin and ride all the backcountry your heart desires!
Hiking to Whiskeytown Falls
Sitting in just outside Redding in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, the hike to Whiskeytown Falls follows the James K. Carr Trail for a 3.4-mile loop to see the 220 foot-tall beauty. After a 1.7-mile hike up the hill, you’re greeted with the beautiful waterfall that sat hidden until 2004, and you’re going to want to sit down and enjoy its beauty for a while.
A unique feature this waterfall offers is the stairway that runs up the left side of it, which gives visitors an up-close view of the rushing water as it cascades down the fall’s rocky face. The stairs can get wet and slippery, so use caution, and be sure to hold onto the handrail when ascending the fall. Also, considering the trail weaves through old logging roads, on the hike, you get an interesting historical perspective on the economic activities that played a role in shaping Shasta County. Another appealing feature of the hike, running water parallels the trail the entire way making the experience all the more palatable on a sweltering summer day.
See our hike to Whiskeytown Falls (with a bonues trip to nearby Crystal Creek Falls):
Fishing the Sacramento River
There are many spots to fish the Lower Sacramento River all the way down the valley, but it seems like the hottest fishing area on the river lies right in the heart of Redding. Flowing under the Sundial Bridge, through the town of Redding and out to Red Bluff, you will find a ton of great Rainbow Trout on the Sacramento River.
It’s quite an experience. If you would like to learn more about fishing the Sacramento River, I would recommend picking the brains of local guides, like the Kennedy Brothers or Chris King. Or you could stop into the Fly Shop in Redding for some tips.
Here’s our fishing trip with Chris King from the Fly Shop on the Sacramento River in Redding:
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:
Located near Montgomery Creek, CA off of Hwy 299, Potem Falls is a 70 foot waterfall on the Pit River arm of Shasta Lake. For good reasons, it has become a popular weekend swim spot in recent years. 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.
See our trip to Potem Falls:
Northern California’s Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine