12 unmissable things to do in Redding (CA) and Shasta Cascade

Last updated on August 21, 2023

Perhaps one of the most overlooked areas of California, especially for those outside the States, is the gorgeous Shasta Cascade region, also known as Upstate CA. 

Home to some of the state’s most epic nature, including Mount Shasta and Mount Lassen Volcanic Park, it was a highlight of our California road trip and our drive from San Francisco to Seattle

It’s an amazing place for nature lovers, and also for families, offering some unique places to stay and fun family things to do. 

Here’s our guide to the best things to do in Redding (CA) and the surrounding Shasta Cascade region. These are all within about an hour of Redding.

Where to stay in Redding and Shasta Cascade

Railroad Park Resort

A definite California highlight for our sons was staying at the Railroad Park Resort near Mount Shasta. Guests get to stay in converted railway cabooses (or cabins if you prefer). And there are also trains to play on, a restaurant in a train carriage, and an outdoor pool.

It’s about 10 minutes from the town of Mount Shasta and an hour from Redding. It’s a great place to base yourself for exploring the northern parts of the region, including Mount Shasta.

Strawhouse Resorts

Strawhouse Resorts is a beautifully put together guesthouse and cafe on the Trinity River between Redding and the coast. Owned by husband and wife team Don and Julia, it’s one of the places where you know by the detail and passion that’s gone into it that it was the product of dreams. 

The couple have taken great care to create a beautiful riverside retreat where they also roast their own coffee and host pizza nights in the summer months. 

Check availability and book now.

Choose from a number of cabins, including two that are right beside the river with incredible views through giant picture windows. And there’s also a yurt and camping pitches. It’s right next to the roadside, but there’s hardly any traffic, so the whole place is very peaceful. It’s an ideal place to stay if you’d prefer to be out in nature rather than in the town of Redding.

The river is popular for rafting and there are a few hire places nearby.

Hilton Garden Inn

If you want to stay in Redding itself, the Hilton Garden Inn is a good option as it has fantastic views from the rooms at the rear. The rooms are fairly standard for a chain hotel, but the views make it special.

12 fun things to do in Redding and Shasta Cascade

Turtle Bay Exploration Park

If you’re visiting Redding with kids then visiting Turtle Bay Exploration Park is a must. The park combines a cultural and science museum with live animal exhibits, an aquarium and a brilliant outdoor play park. 

Highlights include the bird walk where you can feed colourful lorikeets, and during the summer months, they have an animal show that teaches about the resident animals. 

I particularly loved seeing the grey fox and baby skunk, and for Otis, visiting the park was one of the best days of his life as he got to meet his favourite animal, a racoon! It’s one of the best things to do in California with kids.

Turtle Bay Exploration Park

There are indoor and outdoor sections, and plenty to entertain kids. The playground alone makes it worth visiting. And you can also do a behind the scenes tour where you get to meet animals, like a beaver, up close. 

A day at Turtle Bay Exploration Park is the perfect family day out and an unmissable thing to do in Redding with kids (or indeed the whole of California with kids).

See Mount Shasta

Photo by Visit California

The majestic Mount Shasta is a highlight of Shasta Cascade – that is if you’re lucky enough to see it. The mountain was hidden by clouds for much of our visit in May, but that made it all the more spectacular when it finally appeared. 

The volcano towers over the town of Mount Shasta and on a clear day you can see it up to 200 miles away! There are some excellent viewpoints in the surrounding area, including along Highway 97 and 89. 

We loved seeing it from Lake Siskiyou, which is also a destination in its own right, popular for camping and hiking in the summer. See the view above by driving to the Cable Beach Parking and Trailhead car park where it’s a short walk down to the lakeside.

You could also take the Everitt Memorial Highway to Bunny Flat to see Mt. Shasta up close. Or even climb to the top (although this is for experienced climbers – find out more at the Fifth Season store in town). 

Discover the spiritual side of Mount Shasta 

Mount Shasta is also famed as a spiritual destination and energy vortex, so attracts spiritual seekers from around the world. The local town of Mount Shasta has a few spiritual shops selling crystals and the like, such as Wild Mountain Crystals

And you can also do guided tours with Shasta Vortex Adventures, including vision quests, hikes and retreats. Mount Shasta Retreats is another popular option.

Sundial Bridge

If you search things to do in Redding, one of the first images you’ll see is the iconic Sundial Bridge at the entrance to Turtle Bay Exploration Park. 

The working sundial doubles as a bridge and was designed by renowned architect Santiago Calatrava. It makes for some excellent photos and it’s fun reading the time to see just how accurate it is. It’s one of the top redding attractions.

Whiskeytown recreation area

Photo by Visit California

The Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, just outside Redding, is a beautiful park with a huge lake and loads of opportunities for hiking, kayaking and exploring nature. These waterfall hikes are some of the most popular: Whiskeytown Falls, Boulder Creek Falls, Brandy Creek Falls, and Lower Crystal Creek Falls. See info on how to get to them here

If you’re short on time, you can quite easily drive to Crystal Creek Falls on your way to Weaverville/the coast from Redding, although the road there isn’t for the faint of heart! 

And also stop by the park’s visitor centre just off the highway where you can get a great view of the lake, plus more information on what’s accessible at that time of year. It’s one of the best things to do near Redding, CA.

Visit Weaverville

The historic mining town of Weaverville is a picturesque little town with a characterful historic high street. Pop into the Up North Confectionery and Mercantile for some decadent ice cream, including a massive banana split that earns you a picture on the wall if you manage to eat it all in one sitting!

Weaverville is also home to Joss House, the oldest running Taoist temple in California.

Ski, cycle and hike in the Shasta Trinity National Forest

There are plenty of outdoor adventures to be enjoyed in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest (California’s largest national forest). In the wintertime, there’s the low key Mount Shasta ski park. And in the summer, enjoy hiking, cycling and fishing. Hire bikes at Bike Shasta and Cycle Siskiyou.

Another popular outdoor pursuit in the Shasta Cascade area is rafting on the Trinity River. There are some hire places near Strawhouse Resorts.

Explore some caves

Photo by Visit California/Carol Highsmith

Much of the Shasta Cascade region has been created by volcanic activity and that means there are lots of caves formed by tubes of lava! Popular caves to explore include:

  • Lake Shasta Caverns National Natural Landmark where you can take a boat ride before exploring the ancient limestone caves
  • Subway Cove, an easily accessible lava tube with a self-guided trail
  • Lava Beds National Monument – over 800 caves, Native American art and historic battlefields. There are caves for beginners to advanced explorers, including a crystal ice cave in the winter

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Bumpass Hell by Visit California

Lassen Volcanic National Park is California’s answer to Yellowstone. It’s filled with geysers, fumaroles and mud springs, and topped by Lassen Peak, the world’s largest volcanic dome. The volcano erupted in 1915 and was made into a national park thereafter for people to see and study the devastated land. 

There are lots of hiking trails to the hydrothermal features, including the easily accessible Sulphur Works (where you can see fumaroles from the car park), and the popular Bumpass Hell trail, which is a gentle 3-mile hike that takes you past bubbling mud and turquoise pools, and has incredible views of Lassen Peak.

Manzanita Lake is a big highlight with an epic view of Lassen Peak and an easy 1.5 mile loop trail around the edge. It’s a good place to stay with lots of camping spots and cabins. 

Most of the park is only accessible in the summer months, from around May. But you can do some guided snow shoeing and cross country ski tours in winter.

Visit one of the region’s waterfalls

There are A LOT of waterfalls around Redding, but two of the most popular options are McCloud Falls and Burney Falls. Burney Falls look incredible, but our little ones weren’t up for the hike, so we opted for McCloud instead, which are really easy to access and also gorgeous.

McCloud Falls is actually a series of three waterfalls (lower, middle and upper) along the McCloud River and they’re all easily accessible from their individual car parks, which are all a short drive from one another. A more scenic way to see the falls would be to hike the 3.8 mile trail between the three, but we went for the easy option with the kids. 

Many people say the middle falls is the best one, but we most enjoyed the lower falls the most as the kids could climb around on the rocks and see all the chipmunks jumping around. 

Please note that there are some small gaps in the fence at the middle falls and some sheer drops, which frightened me with the kids – keep your eyes on any children!

Shasta State Historical Park

Shasta is a census-designated place (CDP) in Shasta County, California,[2] United States. Shasta sits at an elevation of 843 feet (257 m).b The 2010 U.S. Census reported Shasta’s population was 1,771..Shasta State Historic Park located at Shasta is a ghost town and California State Historic Park.

To get a feel for the region’s history, head to Shasta State Historical Park where you can see the remains of Shasta City, which was the original heart of the region’s gold rush. It’s in the hills, so when the railroad arrived, people largely moved to Redding where the train station was. 

Nowadays Shasta City is a historical park with a few shells of the old buildings and a small museum in the restored courthouse and jail. You can wander the ruins yourself or do a guided tour.

Visit Shasta Dam

Shasta Dam

One of the world’s tallest dams at 602ft, Shasta Dam is a mighty sight to behold. Although, personally, I preferred the lake that the dam created. Shasta Lake is California’s largest manufactured lake and it’s beautiful with turquoise waters and bright yellow banks.

Of course, most people are there to see the dam, and you can normally do tours, although they’re currently on hold. The visitor centre is still open Monday-Friday where you can learn about and see photos of the dam’s construction. And if you’re lucky you might see a drawdown where you can watch water crashing down the dam from a viewing platform.

Where to eat in Redding and Shasta Cascade Region

Shasta Cascade isn’t a foodie destination like some of its California neighbours such as Sonoma, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some excellent food to be had. Here are a few recommendations.

Yaks on the 5

Yaks on the 5 is a cult roadside burger joint that serves up a mighty fine burger from a decadent menu of OTT inventions with excellent names like ‘Come to Jesus’ and ‘Make me want to cry garlic obsession’. It has a fabulously eclectic decor and everything’s served with enthusiasm. 


We had a good meal at Mosaic before heading into Turtle Bay. It’s part of the Sheraton Hotel and the decor feels somewhat fancy for a lunch, but they’re welcoming to kids and our little ones enjoyed the kids’ pasta. 

Taste and See Creamery

For ice cream in Redding, head to Taste and See Creamery where you’ll find well made, inventive flavours. It’s also home to Cinders Wood Fired Pizza

Strawhouse Resorts

During the summer months, don’t miss the pizza nights at Strawhouse Resorts. Plus they also have a lovely cafe menu the rest of the year, including bagels and excellent cakes. It’s a great place to stop for lunch. 

Penny’s Diner

For a classic American 50s diner experience, head to Penny’s Diner in Dunsmuir, which is a US chain. This one is particularly special due to its location in an Airstream-style hut looking out onto the surrounding hills. Don’t expect a gourmet meal, but it’s a quintessential American experience. 

White Mountain Cafe

The White Mountain Cafe in McCloud is an authentic, local diner in the historic mining town of McCloud. Expect big portions, plenty of character and a lot of charm. It’s closed on Mondays and Tuesdays so we could only peek through the window. The reviews were excellent though. 

McCloud Mercantile and Candy Store

The McCloud Mercantile and Candy Store is a characterful place to pick up some old fashioned candy, And they also have a little cafe at the back.

Final Draft Brewing

The most highly rated place in town for beer. The food does’t get great reviews so we ate elsewhere. 

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Our California travel guides

We also have detailed guides to loads of California destinations that can help you plan even more. They’ll especially suit you if you’re a bit like us, keen on discovering the creative side of a destination and in pursuit of all the best cafes, ice creams, doughnuts, bookshops, murals and beauty spots. And we have lots of family guides if you’re travelling with kids.

Road trips: California Road Trip | Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip | San Francisco to Seattle road trip | San Francisco to Seattle road trip

Handpicked travel guides: Laguna Beach | Mendocino |San ClementeSan Diego  | Santa Barbara  | Santa Cruz|Shasta Cascade and Redding Sonoma |Tuolumne County Yolo County

California family travel guides: California with kidsLos Angeles with kids | Sacramento with kidsSan Diego with kids | San Francisco with kids

California accommodation guides: Joshua Tree Airbnb | Laguna Beach Airbnb | Hip Palm Springs Hotels | Palm Springs Airbnb | Palm Springs VRBO | San Diego Airbnb | Santa Cruz Airbnb | Santa Barbara Airbnb |Santa Monica Airbnb | Sonoma Airbnb | Venice Beach AirbnbHip San Francisco Hotels

California attraction guides: How to get the most out of Disneyland with toddlers | The ultimate guide to Universal Studios with babies and toddlers

If you’re heading elsewhere in the USA or even worldwide, see more of our family travel tips here.

19 thoughts on “12 unmissable things to do in Redding (CA) and Shasta Cascade”

  1. You failed to mention the best burger in the area, which is a 5 *Basshole Burger from The Basshole. It’s a beer and burger joint located about halfway between Redding and Mt. Shasta directly off Interstate 5 in the small town of Lakehead. at the north end of Shasta Lake.

    • Okay! Just writing what I was told by someone from the region! Also the tourism board itself calls it that! Guess there are lots of nicknames?

    • It is Upstate CA! It covers the Shasta Cascade tourism region and separates us from NorCal which is usually about Santa Cruz, the Bay Area, and Sacramento. Many out of state and even from SoCal think or act like California stops at SF and Sacramento. Upstate CA is a reminder that our area is here. It’s 20% of the state with 3% of its population.

  2. I really appreciate your style and fairness to the region. I love that the comments show a little bit of our local “flare”. You represented the region well, like Yaks and Mosaic. There are other great restaurants but for a tourist those are great ones to represent our area. The same goes for waterfalls. There are 2 dozen or so wonderful waterfall hikes, but you picked a few good ones to represent and let people know an honest experience on keeping your little ones safe. I’ve lived in Burney for 8 years, Redding for 5 and lake siskiyou is a fantastic way to experience the majesty of mount shasta even if it takes 45 min to get there. Also, never heard of “upstate California” but I think I’ll start using that. It beats saying, “we are almost Oregon” or “north Northern California” and reminds me of the beautiful rolling hills of upstate New York. Thanks for your helpful review!


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