Ride Redding along the iconic award winning rails to trails paved bike path the sacramento river trail 2

A Guide to Cycling Adventures on the Sacramento River Trail in Redding, California

At last...
   serenity fills my soul
      with peace and fulfillment
          a dream realized

The first time I rode in Redding, CA, spring of 2022 during my first sojourn of van life, I was instantly captivated and intrigued by the magical beauty of the Sacramento River Trail, an award winning Rails to Trails paved bike path. It was there - on the banks of the Sacramento River - that the previous six months of blood, sweat and tears of self converting a van into a tiny home/studio became a reality. My dream, my wanderlust, was realized into what had for so long only been a whisper in my mind...it was now my life and I had found peace and solace on a lone bike ride.

epic views along the sacramento river trail paved bike path in redding california (4)

I continually return to Redding and the trails that stole my heart several times a year as it keeps calling me back. Maybe one day, when I semi-settle down from van life and travels, I will call Redding my part time home. For now I will continue to visit whenever Redding crosses my path. Usually when I am either coming, or going, to visit my daughter and son-in law in their part-time residence in Reno, only 3.5 hours from Redding.

I always camp at the Chappie Shasta BLM (Bureau of Land Manaagement) campground nestled at the base of the Shasta dam. There aren't any dispersed camping options in Redding where I could ride my bike directly from my campsite to the trails, which is one of my criteria for most places I camp, but I was fortunate to find this gem of a campground situated right at the trailhead to the Sacramento River Trail. The Chappie Shasta campground is primarily an OHV (off highway vehicle) campground and mostly consists of dirt bike riders using the off road trails that abound in the area, or other cyclists exploring the paved Sacramento River Trail. There are 27 tent and rv sites at a very reasonable rate of $10 per night, with vault toilets, garbage and potable water, with a host on site. In order to access the campground you have to cross over the Shasta Dam (dam hours are 6AM to 10PM) - you must show a valid driver's license, vehicle registration, and your vehicle and trailer may be subject to inspection. I've also ridden my bike across the dam which I will discuss later in this post.

sunrise view from the chappie shasta camprground at the base of the shasta dam and the trailhead for the sacramento river trail paved bike path

My rides either begin in the early hours of the morning, just as the world is waking up, or late afternoon once work is completed for the day. As a solo female van lifer, I've grown accustomed to the freedom of setting my own schedule and embarking on adventures at my own pace. As the sun peeks over the horizon, casting a warm golden glow across the tranquil waters of the Sacramento River, I feel a familiar sense of excitement bubbling up inside me. It's another beautiful day in Redding, California, and I'm gearing up for one of my favorite activities: cycling along the scenic Sacramento River Trail and exploring other paved trails in this picturesque region.

the start of the Sacramento river paved bike trail at the base of the shasta dam in redding california

Arriving at the Sacramento River Trail, I feel a sense of serenity wash over me. The trail stretches for miles along the banks of the Sacramento River, offering stunning views of the water and the rugged terrain beyond. With my trusty Specialized road bike, I hit the trail, eager to immerse myself in the natural beauty that surrounds me. With each pedal stroke, I feel a sense of liberation as I leave behind the stresses of everyday life and lose myself in the rhythm of the ride and the majestic beauty that surrounds me.

As I cycle along the trail, I encounter a diverse array of fellow outdoor enthusiasts: joggers, dog walkers, families out for a leisurely stroll. There's a palpable sense of camaraderie among us, united by our shared love of the great outdoors. I exchange friendly greetings with passersby, sharing smiles and nods as we each pursue our own adventures. I honestly have to say that the pedestrians and cyclists that frequent the Sacramento River Trail are about the nicest I've ever met, everyone smiling and greeting each other enthusiastically - my first time experiencing this I wondered what kind of happy juice they must be drinking in Redding, haha!

beautiful scenic colorful flowers along the sacramento river paved bike trail from pink blooms to the brilliant orange of the California poppy, redding california (5) copy

One of the highlights of my ride along the Sacramento River Trail is passing by the iconic Sundial Bridge, a stunning architectural marvel that spans the river with its elegant, translucent design. Pausing for a moment to take in the breathtaking views, I marvel at the ingenuity of human creativity and the harmonious blend of nature and architecture.

the iconic sun dial bridge with my specialized bike in downtown redding on the sacramento river trail paved bike path

But my adventures don't end with the Sacramento River Trail. Redding is home to a wealth of paved trails just waiting to be explored, and I make it a point to venture onto all of them. From the peaceful tranquility of the Sacramento River Trail to the exhilarating twists and turns of the Keswick Dam Loop Trail, each trail offers its own unique charm and allure. This vibrant city is home to a network of paved trails, each offering its own unique blend of scenery and challenges. Let me take you on a journey through some of my favorite trails:

Shasta Dam: At the top of the Shasta dam, looking out over Shasta lake (California's largest reservoir) the road down to the Sacramento River Trail begins. It is roughly 1.7 miles along a twisty, downhill road, but the views from the top of the dam overlooking both the lake and river are incredible to behold. There is plenty of parking up at the top near the Shasta Dam visitor center, so that you can ride your bike across the dam, directly down to the Sacramento River trailhead. 

views from riding across the top of the shasta dam on my way to the trailhead of the sacramento river trail, a rails to trails paved bike path (2)
Sacramento River Trail: Starting from the Chappie Shasta Campground at the base of the Shasta dam, this iconic trail follows the meandering path of the Sacramento River, offering breathtaking views of the water and surrounding landscape. With its smooth pavement and gentle inclines, it's the perfect route for cyclists of all skill levels. It meanders approximately 8 miles along the Sacramento River where it then intersects with the Keswick Dam Loop Trail. The 8 miles is almost all flat, with incredible views of the Sacramento river the entire ride.
epic views along the sacramento river trail paved bike path in redding california 12

Once you get to the Keswick Dam, after 3 miles of hilly terrain on the Keswick Dam Trail, the Sacramento River Trail picks back up again upon crossing over a road and starts a 12 mile loop.  At this point the river becomes a rocky haven, with swirling waves cresting against boulders as waters from the headways are released throughout the day. Follow the path along picturesque views of the river, with an abundance of colorful flowers, vibrant foliage and even a mural to greet riders. 

a beautiful mural with my specialized bike found on the sacramento river paved bike trail, redding californiaepic views along the sacramento river trail paved bike path in redding california (3)Take the trail to the South Diestlehorst Bridge Trailhead and cross over to the other side. Once on the other side you can go left and make the loop back to the Shasta dam, or my personal preference is to go right, where the Sacramento River trail follows the edge of the river through beautiful parks with Canadian Geese casually scattered about and friendly faces greeting one another.crossing over the South Diestlehorst Bridge trailhead to reach the other side of the sacramento river epic views along the sacramento river trail paved bike path in redding california
canadian geese family with baby spotted on my ride on the sacramento river trail paved bike path, redding california
Going right also takes you to the Iconic landmark that is the unique Sun Dial Bridge, one of the highlights when visiting Redding, CA. "The Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay crosses the Sacramento River in the heart of Redding, California. Opened July 4, 2004, the bridge links the north and south campuses of Turtle Bay Exploration Park and serves as a new downtown entrance for Redding’s extensive Sacramento River Trail system. As the name suggests, the Sundial Bridge is, in fact, a working sundial and is one of the largest in the world. The sundial shadow traces such a large arc that it can record only four hours a day, from 11am - 3pm. It is not accurate in winter because the shadow is too far into the arboretum to be seen. The shadow, when visible, moves about one foot per minute, so you can readily see it move.  " (turtlebay.org)
the iconic sun dial bridge overhead view at turtle bay in downtown redding on the sacramento river trail paved bike path
You can continue along the path beyond the bridge, but I have yet to explore those, saving for another trip! I typically turn around and make my way back to my campsite at the Chappie Shasta Campground from the Sun Dial Bridge.

Keswick Dam Loop Trail: The Keswick Dam Loop Trail delivers thrills and excitement at every turn for several miles. This winding trail offers stunning views of the Sacramento River and the rugged terrain of the surrounding mountains, with challenging climbs and exhilarating descents that get the adrenaline pumping. There is even a hill called "Heart Rate Hill" - you can guess what that's like, haha. This is the connecting trail between the Sacramento River Trail to downtown Redding, and also to get to the Middle Creek Trail.  
views of the sacramento river from the Keswick Dam Loop Paved bike path trail in redding california
Middle Creek Trail: A 6.2 mile out and back paved bike trail that branches off from the Sacramento River Trail. The first section consists of a steady mild climb and stunning vistas of flowers and winding creeks dotting the landscape.
beautiful scenic colorful flowers along the Middle Creek paved bike trail from pink blooms to the brilliant orange of the California poppy, redding california
The trail then crosses over Iron Mountain Road onto the old Stage Coach route that is famous for the Ruggles Brothers Robbery from days past of the Wild West. This section of the trail is a steady climb for several miles looking down upon Middle Creek, which is then a fun downhill ride on the way back. The first time I rode this trail I was actually headed to a Post Office on the other side of the Middle Creek Trail with art packages stowed in my backpack. If I have art orders to ship and I can carry them in my backpack and ride to a close enough post office, this is my preferred mode of travel. The less I have to drive my van once I'm parked for a week or two, the better! Here is a YouTube video of my trek on my bike on the Sacramento River Trail, through Middle Creek Trail to the post office to ship my art orders.
epic views along the sacramento river trail paved bike path in redding california (8)

As the day drew to a close and the sun began its descent, I reluctantly pedaled back to my van, savoring the last moments of my cycling adventure on my favorite trails. But as I reflect on the day's journey, I'm filled with a profound sense of gratitude for the opportunity to experience the beauty of Redding's trails and the freedom of solo female van life that allows me to find these epic trails upon which to ride. Until next time, Sacramento River Trail - until next time, Redding. You'll always hold a special place in my heart, and I'll cherish the memories of our time together until we meet again on the open road soon.

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Here is a link to my Amazon shop with many of the products I have used in my cycling journey. 

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discovering the sacramento river trail and 4 picturesque paved trails in redding california  

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