Redding calls itself California’s Trail Capital, and for good reason: about 100 miles of trails, both paved and natural-surface, have been developed in and around the city through private and public partnerships. Fall is a particularly nice time to take in the views from the Upper Sacramento Ditch Trail, which traces the route of a historic waterworks that once supplied miners’ sluice boxes. Three bridges along the northern part of the path span gorges that gush with waterfalls in springtime and offer arresting views of Shasta Lake and Keswick Reservoir at any time of year.
Never heard of Keswick Reservoir? This river-like body of water stretching nine miles downstream from Shasta Dam is the iconic lake’s frigid, turquoise-blue afterbay. The recently paved and very scenic Sacramento River Rail Trail follows a historic railroad alignment for almost 11 miles along its western shore, offering views aplenty, multiple points of entry and ample opportunity to branch off onto dirt paths leading into the rugged hills.
The rail trail starts at Shasta Dam (if you haven’t walked across this massive 600-foot-high structure, put it on your bucket list) and ends at Keswick Dam, where it connects with the Sacramento River National Recreation Trail, jewel in the crown of Redding’s extensive trail system. The east side of Keswick is also trail rich, with more than 25 miles of paths – including the Upper and Lower Sacramento Ditch Trails and the FB Trail (no, doesn’t stand for “Facebook”), which passes by several old mining sites and is popular with the mountain-bike crowd.
About eight miles downriver from Keswick Dam are Redding’s top visitor attractions, Turtle Bay Exploration Park and the iconic Sundial Bridge, a swooping pedestrian span where Kayla, DogTrekker’s “research Lab,” loves to pause for photo opps (as will you and your own four-legged friend). Stroll to the center of the bridge and look out and down: In fall, you’ll see lots of fisherman going after Chinook salmon spawning in the river’s clear water. Trails on both sides of the river provide water access, while a dog-friendly trail through McConnell Arboretum & Botanical Gardens offers opportunity to learn about and identify many plants native to the region. Bring a picnic or pick up something to go at the museum café.