Otis at Keswick - ©Randal Fleischmann/Dreamstime.com
For a dog-friendly, close-to-town hike offering some unusual scenery, check out the trails around Keswick Dam
, which creates an after-bay (Keswick Reservoir) for Shasta Lake
. The water, released from the lower reaches of the lake, is very cold and turquoise-blue in color. Anglers and kayakers love it, but it’s not safe for a casual dip. The Sacramento River Rail Trail
, which hugs the reservoir, is paved for 11 miles and is an ideal path to hike with your dog while taking in some scenery.
The historic route dates to 1869, when engineers from the Central Pacific Railroad surveyed a route to unite the California and Oregon Pacific lines. They discovered that the Sacramento river had carved a relatively gentle route to its headwaters, where the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges converge.
An estimated 2,000 Chinese workers carved the rail bed out of canyon walls with picks and shovels. Skilled masons were brought from Europe to build rock culverts and walls. By 1888, express trains ran between Portland and Oakland in 38 hours over what came to be known as the Shasta Route, touted as the “Road of 1,000 Wonders.”
The last passenger train passed through in 1942, and the line was abandoned in 1980. The vision of a recreational trail (managed by the Bureau of Land Management) came to fruition in 2010. A 1923 railroad tunnel and numerous relics from the copper mining era are trail highlights.
Trailheads (free parking at all) are located at Iron Mountain Road, Keswick Boat Ramp and near the OHV staging area west of Shasta Dam.