It’s officially winter in Northern California, which means we’ll be trading in our shorts and sun-tan lotion for scarves and beanies. While there’s no better place to spend your sunny days than in NorCal, the area also brings a ton of activities to the table during the wintertime.
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 some amazing hikes with much less visitor traffic seen in the summer. For those willing to brave the weather, it’s an experience unlike any other.
Here are 6 magical winter hikes near Redding:
Manzanita Lake Loop
The most popular lake in Lassen Volcanic National Park sits right at the north entrance of the park (closest to Redding) and allows visitors to explore an area of the park even when snow closes the road.
Manzanita Lake is popular for campers, hikers, fishermen and photographers during the summer months. Its views of Lassen and Chaos Crags can’t be beat as the peaks gloriously reflect off the lake below.
In the winter, you can see this winter wonderland by snowshoeing around the Manzanita Lake Trail Loop, which is only about 2-miles around the lake. Since Lassen’s highway closes for most of the winter, this is the easiest way to experience the snow-covered Lassen.
The Short Hike Potem Falls
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.
In the winter, Potem Falls comes alive with extra water gushing 70-feet to the pool below, creating strong mist winds for any visitors on the nearby rocks. The hike down to this waterfall is only a 1/4 mile but the drive is a little off the beaten path. As you wind down to the pool below, you’ll receive plenty of overhead views of the falls.
Potem Falls may be known to locals as a popular swimming hole and photographers paradise, but it can be just as magical in the winter.
Icy Exploration of Subway Cave
Sitting in the Lassen National Forest (just outside Lassen Volcanic National Park) is a relic of the volcanic activity of the area. The Subway Cave is a 20,000-year-old lava tube which has an opening on each end, creating a perfect 1/3-mile hike underground.
Subway Cave is popular in the summer months, a natural reprieve from the NorCal heat. In the winter, the cave turns into a much more eery experience, with icicles dangling all over the walls. It’s much more difficult to get through the hike in the winter, but it’s a stunning experience for those willing to make the trek.
During the snowy winter months, the short road to the cave is typically closed. You’ll need to park on the side of the road and hike the short distance to the cave. Once you arrive, massive ice cycles will emanate from the ceiling, with some large enough to hit the floor. Be careful of the ice on the ground and be sure to bring a light. If you want a true winter underground experience, this is the way to go.
Winter Journey to Whiskeytown Falls
Also known as Hidden Falls, this 220 foot-tall beauty, for years, remained an all but hidden treasure except for those fortunate enough to find its remote location. Today, it remains one of the most popular hikes in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, especially in the winter.
This long, unique waterfall is found by hiking the 3.4-mile loop of the James K. Carr Trail. Once you arrive, you’ll see the first tier of the waterfall gushing down the mountain into the pool below. To see the entire 220-foot waterfall, you can take the steep steps on its side to about halfway up.
The mountains of Whiskeytown can see a decent amount of snow, helping Whiskeytown Falls come alive during the winter months. The hike is perfect in the winter, with large surrounding trees helping keep the trail somewhat dry when the rain comes. That being said, be careful of the slippery steps up the waterfall, with increased water flow spilling over the side.
Snowshoe to Sulphur Works
While Manzanita Lake is the premier winter hike on the north side of Lassen Volcanic National Park, Sulphur Works is the favorite of the south side. With the park’s highway closed at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center, a 2-mile roundtrip snowshoe hike to the boiling mudpots of Sulphur Works is the perfect way to spend a winter day outdoors.
If you’ve driven through the south entrance of Lassen, you’re sure to have passed Sulpur Works. It’s a boiling mudpot right off the side of the park’s highway that is popular for visitors looking to see hydrothermal activity without a long hike. In the winter, you’ll have to snowshoe to get views of the hydrothermal marvel and you’ll probably have the whole area to yourself.
The Eighth Wonder of the World
Burney Falls is the most popular waterfall in NorCal. If you visit on a summer day, you’ll most likely find visitors in droves enjoying the natural air conditioning provided by the 129-foot marvel.
In the winter, you can hike down the path to Burney Falls with much less visitor traffic and a whole lot more water.
During a wet winter, Burney Falls can pump out 250 million gallons of water a day. It’s quite a sight to see, with the gushing water turning brown from erosion and mist spraying heavily on the rocks below. Once you reach the lower portion of the trail, you’ll get covered in water from the sheer force of the waterfall. It’s a can’t miss journey in NorCal
Northern California’s Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine