A Gourmet Guide to Shasta County Trails
Escape the Ordinary
By Tim Holt
Photo courtesy of Jay Thesken
The great mountaineer and naturalist John Muir said you have to do some strenuous hiking, hit the upper elevations, if you want to enjoy awe-inspiring scenery.
There’s some truth to that, but in our area, it’s also possible to enjoy some short, easy hikes at lower elevations that offer big dividends in scenic beauty. And if they inspire you to follow in the footsteps of Mr. Muir and go higher and farther, so much the better.
Let’s start with a two-mile leg stretcher that starts at Caldwell Park, just across the river from downtown Redding. Park your car at the park just across from the river, and walk the short distance to the paved trail along the river. Turn left and head toward one of the big scenic dividends of our region: the Sundial Bridge. Along the way, if it’s a warm day, you’ll see turtles sunning themselves on a log in what’s left of the original Turtle Bay. On the way to the bridge you’ll also find an ingenious sundial. When you stand in the middle of it, your shadow points to the correct time.
Another short Redding hike starts at the McConnell Foundation’s Lema Ranch headquarters near the intersection of Shasta View Drive and Hemingway Drive. There you’ll find about two miles of paved trails that skirt along ponds where birdwatching is popular and ring-necked ducks and wigeons abound.
Another magnet for birdwatchers is the 1.5-mile Clover Creek Trail in east Redding just off Shasta View Drive. This one also features ponds along the unpaved trail. During the migrating seasons (March through April for northbound birds, November through February for those going south) you can see lots of ring-necked ducks and colorful goldeneye ducks, as well as blue herons and white egrets. Many of the herons and egrets stay in the ponds all year round.
You can hike or bike along the river or drive to Shasta Dam, where you’ll find the Upper Ditch Trail on the east side of the river between Shasta and Keswick dams. The trail is lined with bay and oak trees and spice bushes, and you might even see a robin or two feasting on the red berries of the toyon bush.
A little farther afield, heading out Placer Street, there’s the Swasey Trail System off Swasey Drive, where you’ll find the Meiner’s Loop Trail, a three-mile hike lined with pine and oak trees with a number of stream crossings. The trail leads to a high ridge, complete with picnic table, where you can enjoy a snack and a wonderful panorama that includes Lassen Peak and the town of Redding down below.
There’s a whole system of trails around Lake Shasta under the domain of the U.S. Forest Service. The big plus this hiking season is that the lake actually has water in it. You can get started on these trails by taking the Packers Bay Road turnoff from I-5 and hiking the 2.8-mile Waters Gulch Trail. The payoff is not only some great views of the lake and its inlets, but on your way to the lake a scenic stretch of trail that skirts along the churning waters and small waterfalls of Waters Gulch Creek.
The Waters Gulch trailhead is right off a small dirt parking lot about a mile from the freeway. The trail ends at the parking lot for the Packers Bay Boat Launch, and you’ll have to hike almost a mile along Packers Bay Road to get back to your car.
Nearby is the 3.1-mile Bailey Cove Trail that you access by taking the Shasta Caverns exit off I-5. It’s a loop trail that will give you views of Lake Shasta from a variety of perspectives, as well as the sprawling Holiday Harbor marina on the north side of the trail. There is a $6 fee for the use of the parking lot at the trailhead.
The Lake Shasta hikes might get you warmed up for a more ambitious hike in Lassen Park: The five-mile roundtrip to and from Paradise Meadow, which you access off Highway 89 from the north end of the park. Look for the parking lot immediately on the left after you cross Hat Creek. The trail follows Hat Creek to its headwaters at the meadow, where you’ll find a variety of wildflowers that include the red Indian paintbrush and orange-and-black tiger lilies. If you don’t want to slog through snow on this hike, it’s best to wait until July before heading to Lassen.
Starting in May, the Forest Service will be offering guided full moon hikes at Bailey Cove. Call 275-1587 for details.