Road tripping is a time-honored tradition for outdoor adventurers. There’s nothing like feeling the excitement of your upcoming trip while zoning out on the open road.
The best place to find that epic road trip on the West Coast is Redding, the unofficial gateway to the Northern California wilderness. With rivers, lakes, waterfalls and volcanos surrounding the area, there’s no shortage of destinations just a short jaunt away.
Here are 6 road trips for outdoor adventurers near Redding, California:
What if I told you that you can see six of some of the most beautiful waterfalls on the planet with one road trip? That’s right, Northern California’s world-famous waterfall loop is a top attraction for outdoor adventurers and can be accessed with one simple drive from Redding.
The first stop on the trip is Potem Falls, 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.
Burney Falls is the king of waterfalls in NorCal and a quick stop at the Eighth Wonder of the World will show you exactly why.
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.
Just down the road in McCloud, California sits one of the premiere outdoor destinations in Northern California. The three tiers of McCloud Falls offers visitors three beautiful and unique waterfalls within a short hike. It’s the perfect place to bring the family to swim and enjoy the great outdoors.
If you start at the bottom at Lower McCloud Falls, it’s about an easy 3-mile hike to see Middle and Upper McCloud Falls. The three waterfalls are unique in their own right, with the massive Middle McCloud Falls sitting as the centerpiece of the beautiful hike. You can hike to all three or drive to each one (they all have parking lots).
Hedge Creek Falls
It’s the end of the road trip and you’re tired. What better to finish you trip than a short, relaxing hike to a waterfall flowing over a cave.
Similar to hideout entrances seen in Batman movies and the Legend of Zorro, Hedge Creek Falls cascades in front of the passage to a 12-foot-high cave. The narrow waterfall hardly obscures the not-so-secret cave meaning that you won’t stumble upon any masked heroes on your trip to the feature. Still, the trip the Hedge Creek Falls is well worth the drive the Dunsmuir, CA. Along with the waterfall, visitors can take in incredible views of the Sacramento River and Mt. Shasta from the Hedge Creek Falls Trail.
Highway 299 to the Trinity River
Heading west out of Redding will take you to one of the more remote areas of California. If you take Highway 299 all the way to the Pacific Ocean, you’ll find yourself in NorCal’s wonderful Lost Coast. But if you choose to head just an hour or so out of Redding, you can find some amazing outdoor areas and historical gems.
Whiskeytown National Recreation Area
You’d be hard pressed to find a more pristine area in Northern California than the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. Whiskeytown Lake is the centerpiece of the park that includes four waterfalls, hundreds of miles of trails and a beautiful beach, all located just west of Redding.
There’s something for everyone at Whiskeytown. You can hike a peak, visit a waterfall, go for a swim, enjoy the lake from a boat, go fishing, lounge on the beach or even do some water skiing. Whiskeytown is a local favorite for Redding residents and is a must-see destination for anyone visiting the area.
A drive through Weaverville will bring you back to the gold-rush era of the 1800’s. The small town is located on the foot of the Trinity Alps Wilderness and is the closest thing to “Shangri-la” on the planet, according to author James Hilton who coined the term. Today, you’ll find gold-era saloons, quaint shops and beautiful wilderness views.
If you choose to stop, the Weaverville Joss House State Historic Park is a great place to spend some time. It might be the most unique park in the area, sitting as the oldest continuously used Chinese temple in California. Visitors will see Chinese art objects, pictures, mining tools, and wrought iron weapons used in the 1854 Tong War.
The end of this road trip is up to the driver, since you can drive for miles taking in the views of the crystal clear views of the Trinity River. The Trinity River is a designated as Wild and Scenic, meaning its beauty and stability are protected by the federal government. It’s also one of the best steelhead fishing rivers on the West Coast, along with a fun place to swim and raft.
The Lassen Volcanic Highway Loop
The most underrated National Park in America sits just east of Redding and with a singular road trip, you can see many of the park’s top destinations.
Lassen Volcanic National Park was called “Yosemite without the crowds” by Reader’s Digest and with one trip you can see why. The 100,000-acre park is filled with volcanos, lakes, waterfalls and fascinating hydrothermal features. Here are a few of the destinations you can see on the road trip through the park.
One of the most popular places for recreation in Lassen is at Manzanita Lake, which sits right at the north entrance of the park. In fact, it’s the closest destination in Lassen if you’re driving from Redding. At the lake, you’ll discover a lake that’s chock full of wildlife and probably the best way to spend a relaxing day in the park.
Near the Manzanita Lake parking lot, you’ll find a small boat dock that launches kayaks and paddleboards into the lake that doesn’t allow motorized boats. You’ll most likely see fly fishermen on float tubes trying to catch one of the many brown and rainbow trout in the lake. You’ll also see wildlife – A LOT of it – all with the backdrop of Lassen Peak and Chaos Crags.
During the drive through Lassen Volcanic National Park, you’ll be able to see the park’s centerpiece – Lassen Peak. As you drive into the park by Manzanita Lake, it’ll be in the background. As you swerve through windy Lassen Volcanic Highway, it’ll be there. All the way until you get to the parking lot for the Lassen Peak trailhead, which is one of the most highly touted hikes in NorCal.
While taking in the views of Lassen Peak, you’ll be able to see the examples of volcanic activity on the volcano, which erupted just over 100 years ago. Not only is it a fantastic sight to see in person, it’s also a great educational experience for the whole family.
Winding through the plush meadows below Lassen Peak is Kings Creek, a crystal-clear tributary flowing through the park. The meadows are famed for their bear sightings and a short hike down the hill can lead you to Kings Creek Falls – a spectacular 40-foot waterfall in the hear of Lassen.
If you’ve seen photos of Lassen online, it likely originated from Lake Helen near the southwest entrance of the park. The light-blue-colored lake sits just below Lassen Peak and can be seen in all its glory from the park’s highway. It’s the perfect stop along the road trip to get a photo op and take in the beauty, and if you’re feeling active, you can hike to nearby Bumpass Hell.
Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor’s Center
The last stop on the drive through Lassen is a visit to the state-of-the-art Kohm Yah-ma-nee Visitor’s Center at the southwest entrance. Sure, a jaunt around the parking lot will give you fantastic views of Brokeoff Mountain, but there’s also a lot inside for a fun educational excursion.
This visitor’s center has all the educational tools to understand the fascinating science behind the park. There you can find a full exhibit on the park, learning its volcanic history. You can also grab some food and sit on the patio to rest before finishing your epic Lassen road trip.
The quick trip up the hill on Interstate 5 to Mount Shasta is one of the most popular trips for outdoor adventurers in NorCal. With sweeping views of Shasta Lake, the Sacramento River, Castle Crags and, eventually, the Crown of California, it’s hard to beat this quick road trip. Of course, there’s also plenty of side adventures your can embark on during the trek.
Shasta Lake is one of the most popular recreational lakes on the entire West Coast. With 365 miles of shoreline wrapped around Shasta Dam, there are plenty of opportunities to go for a hike or just take in the scenery.
If you’ve got some time on your road trip, a stop at Lake Shasta Caverns is highly recommended. The tour through the massive cave includes a boat ride, a scenic bus ride and plenty of educational opportunities along the way.
As you drive past Shasta Lake and into the small town of Castella, be sure to keep your eyes up to the right as one of NorCal’s most underrated state parks will be looking right at you.
Hidden in plain sight off I-5, Castle Crags is a series of sharp granite spires cascading gracefully just south of Mount Shasta. Whether your visit includes a quick photo shoot or maybe even a long hike, the area is full of great outdoor adventures (and stunning views of Mt. Shasta).
The best part of Castle Crags State Park might be its lack of foot traffic. Whatever the reason for it’s relative anonymity, the destination certainly deserves a visit. From the hike to Castle Dome to finding waterfalls like Root Creek Falls and Burstarse Falls, there are so many reasons to make a trip to the legendary Crags.
The old-fashioned town of Dunsmuir is a fantastic stop for any road trip. Not only can you grab a bite to eat at one of its delicious eateries, it also comes with great views of the Upper Sacramento River, which flows through downtown.
If you want to stay a while in Dunsmuir, a quick jaunt to Hedge Creek Falls right off I-5 is highly recommended. The hike is less than a quarter mile roundtrip and will bring you to a 35-foot waterfall cascading over a cave. That means you can hike right under the cascading water.
Once you reach the end of the drive, you’ll be met with one of the great views offered in California – Mount Shasta. The active volcano gloriously emerges right in front of your eyes as you head north up I-5. It’s one of the great views in Northern California.
Once you arrive in Mount Shasta, there’s plenty of exploring to do. You can hit the slopes at Mt. Shasta Ski Park. You can visit one of the area’s many waterfalls. You spend the day at Lake Siskiyou. Or you can simply take in the views of the massive volcano, which is none to produce some of the best lenticular clouds on the planet. However you spend your time in Mount Shasta, you’ll surely enjoy it.
Enjoy your legendary road trip in Northern California!
Northern California’s Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine