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

A First-Timer's Guide to Visiting Redding: What to Know, Where to Go

By Ry Glover | 06/28/2022

There’s a blessing and a curse when it comes to visiting Redding for the first time. The blessing? You’re visiting Redding for the first time! With only a small hint of hyperbole, this ranks up there with some of life’s greatest firsts: first kiss, first car, first time visiting Redding… yep, that’s a pretty interchangeable list if you ask us! Between the incredible outdoor scenery and the beyond-inviting town itself, a visit to Redding is a watershed life moment. 

Now, for the curse… well, put simply, there’s just too much to do! How can you fit it all into one trip, when the truth is that you could spend a lifetime in Redding and still not experience it all? The somewhat palatable answer is: use this guide! Here, we’re unveiling a few of the absolute must-dos for your first (of many!) visits to Redding.

In terms of proximity to world-class outdoor recreation, it doesn’t get any better (or more convenient) than Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. This sprawling, stunning natural area has it all: miles of fantastic multi-use trails, beautiful waterfalls, plentiful views, and of course Whiskeytown Lake itself, a mecca for water-based recreation in the Redding area. And the fact that it’s only 15-minutes from downtown Redding makes it an easy choice for first-time visitors.

Redding is blessed with more than its fair share of must-visit state parks. From the Gold Rush ghost town of Shasta City to the spiny summits of Castle Crags, there’s no shortage of state-operated stalwarts. For first-time visitors, getting amongst their recreational bounty is a must. Our recommendation? For an all-day outdoor-oriented adventure, Castle Crags State Park is the ticket. For an easy sojourn that can be done in a couple of hours, take a trip to Shasta State Historic Park. Only ten-minutes west of downtown Redding, this fascinating state historic park offers a ruin-dotted snapshot into the early Gold Rush days of Redding. In terms of proximity, intriguing history, and eerily captivating scenery, you can’t beat a trip to Shasta State Historic Park.

Perhaps one of Redding’s most telling attributes is the fact that there’s a veritable national park right in its own backyard, and that isn’t even the most popular attraction. In fact, one could even argue that first-time visitors can get away with not making the (easy hour-long) drive to Lassen Volcanic National Park, and they’d still be kept perfectly busy and happy exploring the multitude of other offerings in the area. But for geology enthusiasts, avid outdoors people, and national park bucket-listers, visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park is an unforgettable experience, home to jagged peaks, old-growth red fir forests, emerald green mountain lakes, and of course numerous volcanoes for which the park is named.

Surrounding Redding is a deliriously robust collection of world-class waterfalls. From the 220-foot cascade of Whiskeytown Falls to the 500-foot Root Creek Falls which spills down a granite dome in Castle Crags State Park, there are dozens of breathtaking waterfalls in the area. Of course, viewing these waterfalls from a distance is one thing. But getting up close and saturated? That’s an altogether different (and must-do) experience. Luckily, Redding is no slouch in the swimming holes department. From the natural waterslide at Little Backbone Creek to the gloriously welcoming 12-foot plunge pool at Lower McCloud Falls, there’s a reason why waterfalls and swimming holes remain one of Redding’s most alluring draws for visitors to the area. Definitely do yourself a favor and see them for yourself!

Better yet, bike across it, run across it, joyously skip across it! The Sundial Bridge is a must for any first-time (or repeat!) visit to Redding. Once you’ve completed your traverse of this iconic glass-decked suspension bridge, the Sacramento River National Recreation Trail is your oyster. This world-class 17-mile rail-trail, from the Sundial Bridge to Shasta Dam, is considered by many to be the crown jewel of the Redding trail system. It’s easy to see why—smooth asphalt, constant (and calming) views of the Sacramento River, tranquil nature settings and sounds, and of course one of Redding’s most iconic landmarks. The Sundial Bridge and Sacramento River Trail are both musts for any first-time trip to the area.

Anglers from far and wide flock to the waters of Redding for their beautiful and bountiful fishing opportunities. Named by Forbes Magazine as one of “North America’s Top 10 Trout Fishing Towns,” this place is positively swimming with fishing opportunities. The Sacramento River is perhaps the best-known spot in the area, with plentiful populations of rainbow trout (not to mention seasonal populations of steelhead and salmon) and a fantastic guided trip orchestrated by the locally-operated Fly Shop. But that’s just barely skimming the surface. Beyond the Sacramento is a myriad collection of creeks, rivers, and fully-stocked lakes from Battle Creek and Hat Creek, to the Trinity River and McCloud River. In short, it’s easy to get hooked on fishing in Redding.

Time magazine called Redding the Unofficial Capital of Kayaking for its "weird obsession" with all things paddling. With Redding’s 300+ days of annual sunshine and dozens of serene lakes and smooth rivers, it’s easy to see why. From stand-up paddleboarding and rafting, to kayaking and canoeing, there’s no shortage of ways to get on the water in Redding. And between the Sacramento River, Trinity River, Whiskeytown Lake, Shasta Lake, and more, there’s no shortage of waterways either! For adrenaline junkies, you can’t beat a rafting trip down the Trinity River. For a calmer, more intimate way to experience the water (not to mention incredibly convenient to downtown), you simply can’t beat floating or paddling the Sacramento River.

Did someone say “self-guided brew tour?” Because Redding has some seriously fantastic breweries and brewpubs on tap. From Alehouse Pub, the oldest brewpub in town, to Woody’s Brewing Company, a family-owned, family-brewed, finely-crafted favorite, the options are as plentiful as the beers are refreshing. For first-time visitors, one particularly memorable experience is stringing together a handful of them on a self-guided beer crawl. From east to west, start at Fall River Taphouse before checking out the nearby Ale House Pub. Pop into Kelly’s Pub and Wine Bar for a little more liquid courage before heading across the river toward downtown (with the help of a designated driver of course!). In downtown, bounce around with walking-distance ease between Woody’s, Vintage Public House, Cedar Crest Brewing, Final Draft Brewing, and The Dip. It’ll be a night to remember to cap off a trip to remember! 

At the end of the day, Redding sees a lot of first-time visitors, and almost none of them turn out to be one-time visitors. Because this place is truly special. We look forward to your first trip to the Redding area!

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