May is prime hiking time in the Shasta Cascade region around Redding, where Mount Shasta (14,161 feet) and Mount Lassen (10,463 feet) rise like giant snow cones from the rugged landscape. Redding calls itself the Trail Capital of California and for good reason, as more than 100 miles of trails can be found within a short radius. For something new, try a four-mile trek on Mule Ridge and Swasey Trails, which starts in a very picturesque Bureau of Land Management preserve and climbs 700 feet over the Shasta Divide into Whiskeytown National Recreation Area.
Whiskeytown is one of few tracts managed by the National Park Service land where dogs are allowed on dirt trails, and its entire 70-mile hiking network is yours and Fido’s to explore.
Keep an eye out for equestrians and mountain bikers as you follow the Mule Mountain Pass Trail through wildflower-strewn meadows, open chaparral and shady oak woodlands, with snow-capped Mount Lassen standing watch in the distance. The trail, constructed in 2004, was the first new path to be built in Whiskeytown NRA in 40 years and has no grades steeper than 10 percent. The area through which it passes was used by the Wintu Indians for hundreds of years, and traces of their encampments are still discernible. Look, too, for remnants of stone walls constructed by prospectors during the Gold Rush era.
The trail terminates at the Salt Lake Loop Trail, which in turn leads to Mule Town Road and civilization.