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Sunken Road, Whiskeytown Lake


Duration: Day Trip, 2-4 hours

Distance: 0.7 miles, 0ft elevation gain

Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

Region: Shasta County, CA

Nearby Cities: Redding

Traffic: Moderate-High

Day Use/Parking Pass: Day Use or Annual Park Pass Required

Dogs Allowed: Yes

Restrictions: Dogs must be leashed on trails

Many locals know the history of Whiskeytown Lake Reservoir. Parallel to countless other mountainous areas of Northern California, a small boomtown was erected in the 1840s following the discovery of gold in ‘dem hills, and faded just as quickly following the exhaust of local resources and human spirit. Construction of the dam on the southwest side of the canyon began in 1960 and between then and its dedication by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, buildings and residents were moved out of the area or to higher ground. Anything left behind was flooded and lost beneath the waves not unlike the fabled City of Atlantis. Although most of the ruins were demolished or have been taken over by the underwater elements, some remnants can be seen by scuba divers who take the plunge into the murky freshwater depths, reaching over a hundred feet deep in some places. A piece of this history, however, is accessible to those who possess even the most limited watercraft.

Southeast of Oak Bottom Marina (point your nose toward New York Gulch) at 40°38’34.2″N 122°34’42.5″W is the remnant of Hwy 299 that runs on the north side of the lake. Just a foot below the water level at the end of summer, the pavement and even some slimy yellow and white lines are visible beneath the silt that has settled on top of the asphalt.

Just a healthy paddle from the marina (if you’re looking for a good workout via kayak) and accessible by boat, this hidden gem is a corridor for visitors and wildlife alike.

For residents as well as tourists this is a unique stop during on-water activities and is a marvel for children to behold. Although we didn’t take Cookie along for this trip I’m sure she would have loved to splash around on the pavement beside our boats, and it would certainly mean more stability during her usual mounting and dismounting of my kayak. The narrow passageway that signifies the former byway is bordered by groves of fresh blackberries ripe for the picking. I gathered enough while paddling around to make a double cobbler. If you haven’t picked blackberries via kayak, I highly recommend it! We found immense outcroppings growing on the edges of the lake that are only accessible via boat, and given that they’re away from greedy fingers and close to fresh water and direct sunlight, it’s no surprise these are the best berries on the lake.

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Ready to Run

Aaron and I have been housesitting for family for the past two weeks, so while our adventures have taken a back burner to chores and pet watching, I wanted to revisit a few of my favorite foot trails here in Redding. Cookie loves to run and play so we are out jogging every chance we get, but finding safe, dog-friendly places to go can be difficult. Check out these spots if you’re looking for a great workout and you’d like to bring your pup along.

Redding River Trail

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The Sacramento River Trail has been a local favorite for many decades. Boasting over 20 miles of hiking, biking, and walking trails, it borders many of Shasta County’s most scenic areas, including the 44 Bridge to Downtown Redding, the Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay, Redding River Park, Keswick Dam and Reservoir, and even reaching all the way to Shasta Dam via the Sacramento Ditch Trail.

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In more recent years however these trails have become a point of contingency for local activists and trailgoers. The increasing frequency of littering, squatting and even assault and battery have deterred many cyclists and joggers from attending the trails closer to Downtown. 

We prefer to run on Hornbeck Trail, accessible from Quartz Hill Road just a ten-minute drive from anywhere in central or West Redding. While a bit rocky in some places, the trail is mostly clear of brush and debris, poison oak is sparse, and traffic is usually light or nonexistent, and it even features benches and a vault toilet restroom close to the parking area. Cookie loves to play in the reservoir or frolic in the adjacent creek on a hot day. 

Clear Creek/Swasey Trail System

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Because habitual joggers are being forced out of town and onto more rural trails, Clear Creek Gorge and the Swasey Trail System have become increasingly popular destinations. The well maintained paths aren’t as scenic as the River Trail but have unique upgrades such as a gazebo area with picnic tables, plyometric equipment, and even a monument standing at Horsetown containing a bit of local history even I was unaware of. Clear Creek is also great for swimming in summer, but be cautious of areas with rapid water, as the creek is known to be a rafting/tubing destination and a few unfortunate accidents have occurred in the Gorge over the years.

WARNING: The trail crosses Clear Creek Road multiple times over the duration of the full hike, so always keep pups leashed and be careful of oncoming traffic while crossing the road. This is a winding country road and many drivers go faster than what allows for safe stopping distance. Stop, look, and listen for traffic (remove headphones if you’re playing music) before resuming your run.

The Swasey trail continues on to Whiskeytown Lake’s southern trail system, and for those who enjoy long-distance running, hiking or backpacking, this is a fabulous gateway to all that the National Park has to offer.
Whiskeytown Lake Trails

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Whiskeytown Lake has over 50 miles of walking, hiking, biking, horseback and backpacking trails to be utilized right at Redding’s backdoor. The year-round trails are constantly maintained, frequently visited, and well illustrated through many trail maps and guides available online and in print. Cookie and I have personally hiked nearly every trail in the NRA, but our favorite trails are the four on the Waterfall Passport, which can be printed off the park’s website or picked up at the Visitor Center. At each waterfall there is a plate which can be rubbed (with chalk or colored pencil) and when all four have been completed, turned in for a reward – a colorful bandana stating “I Walked The Falls.” 

Almost every time we finish a hike or jog in the park, we stop on the shoreline along the highway and have a dip and a game of fetch at one of the many sandy beaches on the lake.

Remember:

ALL the listed trails require dogs to be leashed and preferably well-behaved. Please remember to bring doggie bags as well. Nobody likes to dodge land mines on their walk or jog!

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Faery Falls/Ney Springs

Duration: Day Trip, 2-4 hours

Distance: 1.2 miles, 300ft elevation gain

Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

Region: Siskiyou County, CA

Nearby Cities: Mt. Shasta hi

Traffic: Low-Moderate

Day Use/Parking Pass: None

Dogs Allowed: Yes

Restrictions: Dirt access road is not maintained, low clearance vehicles not recommended

Being a lifelong resident of Shasta County, I relish any opportunity to venture somewhere I haven’t already heard of or been to. As it turns out, Faery Falls/Ney Springs was one of those opportunities that was right under my nose! We love to visit Siskiyou/Castle/Heart Lakes, and the falls and preceding ruins are tucked into Ney Springs Canyon just before the turn onto Castle Lake Road.

The hike is a fairly easy one leading gently uphill on even ground(with the exception of one 100ft uphill slope), although in early July there was quite a bit of mud on the trail, purportedly due to the extended snowpack here in Northern California from the heavy winter we had this year. There were a few things I really appreciated along this trail: we had no company for the duration of the hike and about an hour at the waterfall; the majority of the trail is nicely shaded and well-traveled; it is dog-friendly and although Cookie didn’t accompany us this trip, the pool below the falls is perfect for fetching or paddling pups, large or small; and finally, the bit of local history that comes with this trip is as intriguing as it is elusive.

John Ney discovered the springs in 1887 and the resort was erected shortly after, boasting a hotel, a bathhouse, and various other outbuildings that drew visitors for many years. Presently the remains of the resort are few and far between, consisting of a few stone walls, a fountain, and a cistern that have all been reclaimed by creeping foliage. These ruins are an interesting feature, so if you’re planning on taking the hike to Faery Falls, stay for an extra daylight hour and take some time to explore the ruins, which can be seen from the trail and followed to the major remains. There are ruins of the carriage house foundation as well as a moderately well-preserved cistern.

At the end of the trail, standing only 40 feet tall, the falls were quaint and refreshing. Even in July the water was cold enough to hurt your bare feet! 

Wildlife was scarce this trip, but we were lucky enough to spot a garter snake swimming through the pool, and various songbirds could be spotted in the trees, as well as the occasional chipmunk.

All in all I would definitely revisit Faery Falls and bring the dog along for the hike. This was a great little excursion for family and out-of-town visitors.