A Gourmet Guide to Hiking
● By Tim Holt
Hit the Trail
Story and photos by Tim Holt
OUTDOOR RECREATION should be fun, something you look forward to – not a “take your medicine” experience that leaves you exhausted after a 20-mile hike over hill and dale.
We’ve cherry picked a few enjoyable and scenic hikes in our region that don’t involve too much toil or sweat. All of them have a water theme.
One little-known but charming hike is along the Sacramento River near Castle Crags State Park. It features a well-maintained trail and spectacular views of the rugged Crags, and a bit of local history as well.
To get there, take the Castella exit off Interstate 5. Instead of heading west toward the park, you turn east off the freeway to the Frontage Road sign, turn left, and drive about a quarter mile, past Riverside Road, and park at the end of the shoulder on the right side of the road. Here you’ll see an opening through a fence and a brown sign that says “River Trail.”
Go through the gate and follow the trail through a tunnel under the railroad tracks. You’ll soon come to a suspension bridge that leads you to the east side of the Sacramento River.
As soon as you get across, you’ll see the trail to your left. To the right is a large picnic area, a good spot for a snack or lunch after your hike.
Head north on the trail, which is decked out in rich greenery, fir trees and moss-covered tree trunks all along the way.
The trail is part of Castle Crags State Park. There are quite a few well-maintained wooden bridges and steps along the way, and from time to time the awe-inspiring Crags seem to sprout right out of the forest to the west.
The trail goes on for about a mile and a half before coming to an abrupt halt. When you get back to the picnic area, you’ll find beside the river a placard marking the site of an old resort and hotel and the rock wall that once lined a mineral spring, the site of the world-renowned Castle Rock Mineral Springs Bottling Plant, which went out of business after the stock market crash of 1929. A successor to the company is established at the north end of Dunsmuir.
A little farther north, the town of Dunsmuir offers another short, easy trail along the Sacramento River from Tauhindauli Park to Dunsmuir’s City Park. To get to Tauhindauli Park, take the road just past the Dunsmuir Inn & Suites motel that leads down to the river. There’s plenty of parking at the park.
From there, it’s barely a mile along the river to the sprawling City Park. Follow the paved path at Tauhindauli northward until it becomes a winding dirt path. At the end of the short dirt path you’ll see the beginning of the trail to the City Park as it skirts above the river. A small wooden bridge marks the dividing line between the Tauhindauli Park and City Park trails.
This is a good hike for kids. It’s short and scenic and there’s a playground waiting for them in the City Park. While they’re playing, you can lounge in the riverside gazebo and watch the river flow by. It’s also fun to browse among the wide variety of plants, all of them labeled, in the park’s Botanical Gardens.
There are also a couple of nice hikes that offer great views of Shasta Lake. For the first one, take the Packers Bay Road turnoff off I-5, and head west to a small dirt parking lot on your right about a mile from the freeway. Just off the lot, you’ll see the sign marking the trailhead for the Waters Gulch Trail. The payoff on this hike is not only some great views of Shasta Lake and its inlets, but on your way to the lake, you’ll find a scenic stretch of trail that skirts along the small waterfalls of Waters Gulch Creek. The trail ends at the parking lot for a marina, and you’ll have to hike about a mile along Packers Bay Road to get back to your car.
Nearby is the 3.1-mile Bailey Cover Trail that you access by taking the Shasta Caverns exit off I-5. It’s a loop trail that will give you views of Shasta Lake 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.
So lace up those hiking boots and get some enjoyable exercise this spring. •