Whiskeytown Lake is a gem. Maybe not so hidden, since you drive over it while taking the 299West, from Redding towards the coast. However, it’s so much more than meets the eye during the drive on the Highway. So much more!
Whiskeytown Lake is a 39 000 acres recreational area, located only 8 miles from the city of Redding (CA.) It takes about 15 min to drive from Redding, to the visitor center. Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area consists of three units: Whiskeytown Unit, Trinity Unit and Shasta Unit. Whiskeytown lake itself, is a reservoir, and it has a huge (70 miles long) trail system, in the surrounding wilderness.
I’ve visited the area several times. I even brought my dad, his wife, and my sister there, when they came from Sweden to visit me, a couple years ago. This place is amazing for locals, and international tourists. The lake itself is over 3400 acres. It’s a popular hangout spot during the summers. You might not have the trail to yourself in the high season, but due to the size of the place, the trails never feel too crowded. The lake can be a little crowded at times, especially the beaches closest to the highway.
When the locals talk about going to Whiskeytown, it can be anywhere in this area. There’s actually a little town called Whiskeytown (a former mining town,) but it’s usually not the town, but more often the lake, or the trails that people refer too.
This post is part of my series; Amazing Places in Northern California.
Whiskeytown is a fantastic place, that features camping, hiking, horseback riding, swimming, boating, fishing, places of historic interest, rivers, waterfalls, mountains, nature preservation, incredible vistas, and so much more. Too much to be included in one post.
When you visit you should start out by going to the visitor center. For several reasons. You need a permit for your vehicle, and you buy the permit here; $10 for a week pass, or $40 for an annual pass.
The visitor center have great maps of the area, and friendly workers that loves to help make your experience the very best one. You can also learn a lot about the local history here. This is the address for your GPS:
Whiskeytown National Recreation Area Visitor Center
Highway 299 & J.F. Kennedy Memorial Drive
Maybe you need to pickup a sunhat? The California sun gets hot up here. They have those at the visitor center as well. Some of the trailheads have simple restrooms, but you can count on clean restrooms with running water here.
This is a great destination for families of all ages. My 3 year old daughter and I hiked one of the trails yesterday, the one to Whiskeytown Falls. She is an avid hiker, and did not have any problems with this 3.4 mile hike. This might be the most famous waterfall in this area, but there’s many, many more. I will write about those in separate posts. The four most famous waterfalls in the area are; Whiskeytown Falls, Boulder Creek Falls, Brandy Creek Falls, and Lower Crystal Creek Falls.
On a side note, if you read the reviews of the hikes in this area, everyone is thrilled with the amazing nature, but many people consider the trails to be rated as a little easier than they actually are.
If you’re not used to mountains, be aware that there’s some climbs here. The mountain sides ares sometimes steep. All trails are well maintained, and most have plenty of benches where you can catch your breath.
The best way to predict the future is to create it. – Peter F. Drucker
As we started out at Whiskeytown Falls trailhead, a song kept repeating itself in my head.
I’m awestruck by this nature. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been here several times. It’s just something about this particular wilderness, that makes me come back, again, and again. I will happily admit that so far, I have not spent that much time by the lake, my time is spent on the trails. Spending time with my daughter out in nature is most precious to me. I don’t take it for granted, but it surely helps both of us stay sane.
We met a very friendly ranger at the trailhead. Can you imagine what working in this kind of amazing nature every day, would do to a person? I’m sure that contributed to his big smile, and friendly appearance. Talk about an office with a view!
The trail up to Whiskeytown Falls is mostly shaded by surrounding forest. It starts out at 2000+ ft elevation, and goes uphills, all the way to the falls. The total elevation gain is 700ft. The shade is a blessing. If you’re not used to the heat, I would recommend not doing any strenuous hikes in the area during the hottest part of the day.
It’s April now, and it was 75 degrees in the shade, at 10am. The sun felt hot at noon, and I know this is nothing, compared to what is to come later in the summer. I recommend spring, or early summer as the best times to visit. I have made this hike later in the year as well, if you do, go early in the morning.
My daughter and I spent a lot of time admiring the wildflowers, they are beautiful this time of the year, and naming the trees (mostly pines, manzanitas, and a few cedars here and there.) We did see poison oak on the side of the trail.
If you bring a furry friend, your dog has to be on leash at all times. There’s plenty of water along this trail, and I didn’t carry any drinking water for my dog, as I knew he would have his fill in the creek.
You should bring plenty of water for yourself! My daughter and I shared 5 water bottles during the hike, (and a couple more when we got back to the truck. )
It’s a three-tiered waterfall, and we thought the lower part was plenty amazing.
The whole adventure from the trailhead, hike, picnic, and back to the parking lot took 3,5 hours. We hiked at a moderate pace, with several breaks. The trail is well marked, and there is never any question of where to go.
BTW, the roads leading to the trailheads in this area are often steep, but very well maintained, and you don’t need to drive a 4×4. The roads are narrow, curvy, and sometimes there’s rockslides on the sides, take it easy. Drive slow, and you’ll be fine.
I hope you enjoyed this little sneak peak of this incredible place! If you feel inspired to visit, plan to spend some time here. There’s plenty to do, and see. The primitive (cheap) campgrounds are on a first come, first serve basis. The other campgrounds takes reservations.
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Love & Light, Always
PS. Bring LIFE into your living space! Add MAGIC to your walls! YOU can be anywhere you want, in the comfort of your home. My reasons for bringing my camera with me every day, is that I love taking you to amazing places. Inspirational prints are available in my gallery!