Woman at Castle Crags State Park
Bikers on the Sundial Bridge in Redding, California
Woman at Lassen Volcanic National Park.
The Park Food Truck Hub in Redding, California
Woman at Castle Crags State Park
Bikers on the Sundial Bridge in Redding, California
Woman at Lassen Volcanic National Park.
The Park Food Truck Hub in Redding, California
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6 Hidden Outdoor Gems Near Redding, California

By Zach O'Brien | 06/10/2022

There are so many beautiful outdoor destinations that have put Redding, California on the national map. From Lassen Volcanic National Park to Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, the areas surrounding Redding have become some of the most talked about outdoor destinations on the planet. 

But there are also plenty of “hidden gems” that many people might not know about. You won’t read about them in the national publications, but you can find so many outdoor destinations in the area that only the true locals know about, and they’re just as fantastic as the more popular places.

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.

There is a destination sitting just outside Redding that has become world-famous after being immortalized in a thrilling scene in the 1968 movie Stand By Me. 

The bulk of this movie is filmed throughout Oregon and Northern California, including places around Burney and McCloud, California. When four young boys go searching for a dead body, they are confronted with obstacles of being on their own in the world and wilderness. It brought us the famous line “you guys wanna go see a dead body?” 

But one of the most popular scenes of the film is when they run from a train over a bridge, only to barely avoid getting hit at the end of the trestle. The scene was filmed over Lake Britton near Burney, California, and the scene is a thrilling show of the beauty of the region.

Today, the bridge is blocked off to hikers, with future plans to develop it into part of the Great Shasta Rail Trail. But onlookers can still approach it from the side and even see it from the waters of Lake Britton. It’s a great testament to the beauty of the area surrounding Redding.

Right in the middle of waterfall country, there are so many beautiful falls to explore year round. You may choose to hike the three tiers of McCloud Falls or visit the waterfalls of Whiskeytown, but there’s another large waterfall that’s a lot less crowded and can provide a blissful experience for anyone that visits. 

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 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.

For anyone visiting Shasta Lake, you’re bound to experience limitless outdoor destinations like Shasta Caverns or Shasta Dam. But there’s a little known experience that can give visitors the natural ride of a lifetime. 

The Little Backbone Creek natural waterslide, located near Digger Bay, isn’t necessarily easy to get to, but has become popular with locals for the perfect day on the lake. The waterslide includes a small waterfall with a smooth bottom so people can slide down like a fun ride at a waterpark. There’s a rope installed on the side enabling people to climb up the slide over and over again. 

The scenic 20-minute hike up to the waterslide up Little backbone Creek is reason enough to make a trip. Bringing a waterproof camera along with you is never a bad idea. Not to mention you can spend an entire summer day enjoying plunges into the refreshing creek below the slide.

Directions from the lake: Little Backbone Creek is across from Digger Bay. Head into the inlet, go all the way to the back until you hit the creek and anchor. Hike up the creek, which is in a canyon. You’ll pass a series of crystal clear ponds and boulders. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the waterslide. Use caution as rocks are slippery and conditions differ from season to season and year to year.

Probably NorCal’s best kept secret is the Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park, most likely due to its remote location and the fact that it can only be reached by boat. But the area with about 13 miles of shoreline has three campsites and nearly 20 miles of accessible trails. If you’re willing to put in the work to get there, it’s worth the trek. 

Named after the Achomawi (a band of the Pit River Indians) that inhabited the area for centuries, the park’s 5,930 acres is covered in jagged lava flow rocks and remains one of the nation’s largest systems of underwater springs in the U.S. The park was once a muskrat farm in the 1930’s, and the little critters can still be seen in the area, along with remnants of Native American fishing traps on the water.

Maybe the most fascinating hydrothermal feature in Lassen is Boiling Springs Lake, which has steaming vents at the bottom causing it to sit around 125 degrees year round. Let’s just say, it’s not a place you’ll want to go swimming. 

Mudpots and steam vents line parts of the shore and drainage creeks in this oddly colored, sometimes steaming lake located on the south side of the National Park. And with most people opting for the popular areas of Lassen like Manzanita Lake, Bumpass Hell, and Lassen Peak, the hike to Boiling Springs Lake may be one of the more remote in the park.

The Boiling Springs Lake Trail can be found by the parking area west of Warner Valley Campground near the south entrance of the park. The easy hike is about 3 miles round trip where you’ll pass the Drakesbad Guest Ranch and even hike on parts of the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s the perfect hike for anyone looking for an easy, educational stroll in the NorCal wilderness.

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