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Two men mountain biking in Redding, CA.
Jaret Brantley
Two men mountain biking in Redding, CA.
Jaret Brantley

Why Redding Is An Underrated Mountain Bike Town

By Redding CVB | 02/25/2019 | Biking, Family Friendly , Fun and Free, Great Outdoors, State & National Parks, Things to See and Do, Trails


Photo courtesy of Jaret Brantley.

In far Northern California, the promise of uncrowded trails means plenty of space to spread out and shred the singletrack—and Redding serves as the best base camp to explore it all. Within 15 miles, you’ll find more than 225 miles of trails crisscrossing the sprawling mountain ridges and pristine forests surrounding the town. When it comes to mountain biking, Redding boasts a vibrant history and an ongoing love affair with the sport. A convenient location right off I-5, prime riding conditions for much of the year, a growing trail network, and a thriving community of avid riders make Redding an under-the-radar mountain bike destination for anyone who enjoy off-road adventures on two wheels.

Home to the Ultra Classic Race

The knobby-tired revolution has deep roots in California, with Mt. Tamalpais just north of San Francisco generally regarded as the birthplace of modern mountain biking in the 1970s. Not long after the first riders blazed the trail on Mt. Tam, the sport gained major traction some 200 miles north on the mountain slopes of Redding.

In 1981, the Redding cycling community hosted the event widely considered to be the world’s first organized mountain bike race: the Whiskeytown Downhill. Seventy-six eager riders representing four states took to the singletrack in the sport’s inaugural competition, which grew to attract more than 500 racers just five years later. The Lemurian Shasta Downhill replaced the original Whiskeytown course in 1987, and it remains one of the sport’s classic races. Well known among mountain bike enthusiasts, the event helped put Redding on the map as a world-class trail hub.

An Ever-Expanding Network


Photo courtesy of Jaret Brantley.

By 2017, then-Redding Mayor Brent Weaver saw a disconnect between the quality of Redding’s mountain bike trails and how little people knew about them. Along with local singletrack enthusiasts, Weaver hatched the Mayor’s Mountain Bike Challenge, which has now morphed into the Bigfoot Mountain Bike Challenge. The Challenge promotes Redding as a mountain bike destination by highlighting 14 trails each year that riders can complete to win prizes—and friendly bragging rights.

“People from here were shocked at how good our trail system was,” Weaver said. “We had people visit from Southern Oregon and the Bay Area who learned about Redding as a result of this challenge.”

The Challenge continues to promote riding in the area, with featured trails expanding into Weaverville and Mount Shasta. One of the key partners in the Mountain Bike Challenge has been the Redding Trail Alliance, which was formed to build, maintain, and promote Redding’s mountain bike trails and bike parks. A local MTB community and a passion for quality singletrack remain at the heart of the operation, which organizes volunteer days and fundraising events and provides easily accessible trail information for visitors and residents alike. The Alliance has done incredible work in elevating Redding to the mountain bike destination it is today—and it’s not finished, as it continues to expand trail development.

Redding’s Iconic Rides


Photo courtesy of Jaret Brantley.

Visiting mountain bikers can get a taste for Redding’s ever-growing offerings by tackling a few of its iconic trails. Here are some of the best, sorted by riding style:

Beginner: Churn Creek Greenway makes for a mellow introduction to off-road cycling in Redding. This 3.5-mile, mostly flat gravel and singletrack route loops through a shady oasis of oak trees and grasslands along the creek. The Princess Ditch Trail offers a bit more of a challenge for beginner riders. The out-and-back ride climbs 310 feet over 7.7 miles and connects with several intermediate trails in Swasey Recreation Area, making it ideal for groups of varying abilities or introductory riders looking to test their mettle on a few miles of tougher trail without much commitment.

Intermediate: Trail 58/French Fry features a moderate climb and a flowy downhill sprinkled with some more technical sections. A 12-mile loop with 770 feet of elevation gain, the route includes a few miles of gravel trail and a short bit of road riding, with the main climb and descent on native-soil singletrack. The Swasey Mule Mountain Loop clocks in at 13.3 miles and boasts a little bit of everything, including technical rocky sections, fun switchbacks, a jump trail, and a sustained climb—all with spectacular views. Located just west of Redding, the Mule Ridge Trails connect to the trail system in Swasey Recreation Area.

Advanced: The Redding to Whiskeytown loop joins paved and dirt trails with plenty of singletrack for an epic 33-mile ride from Mary Lake to Whiskeytown National Recreation Area and back. Advanced riders will be challenged to a nonstop succession of climbs and descents and rewarded with excellent views from the Top of the World, plus exciting sections of jump trail.


Photo courtesy of Jaret Brantley.

The long course for the Shasta Lemurian Classic must be mentioned when discussing Redding’s iconic trails. There's also a short (11 miles) and intermediate (19 miles) course.

Navigating the Redding Mountain Bike Scene Like a Local


Photo courtesy of Jaret Brantley.

In addition to world-class trails, Redding offers visiting mountain bikers all the conveniences necessary for an enjoyable and hassle-free trip. Within the city, you won’t have to look far for qualified bike mechanics and gear shops brimming with top-of-the-line bikes, components and accessories, and, of course, insider knowledge of the area. Check out The Chain Gang Bike Shop, The Bike Shop, Jefferson State Adventure Hub or Redding Sports LTD—all locally owned and operated — for any of your bike-related needs.

For the most up-to-date trail statuses and local mountain biking news and events, tap into the online resources from the City of Redding's interactive trails map or the Redding Trail Alliance, the area’s primary trail stewards and promoters. Meanwhile, Ride Redding maintains a full calendar of road and mountain biking events and races and Healthy Shasta is an advocate of getting outside and on the trail.

After crushing the singletrack, reconvene in Redding to take advantage of the lively food and drink scene. For post-ride brews, head to Fall River Brewing Company to sample year-round and seasonal beers in a dog-friendly tap house. Then try a flight of Woody’s Brewing Company’s award-winning beers, which pair nicely with a full pub menu of inventive and hearty eats. There’s no need to stop there, thanks to Redding’s thriving craft beer scene—you’ll have even more pint selections at Final Draft Brewing Company and Cedar Crest Brewing as well.

From the incredible trails to places for post-ride fun, Redding has everything you need for an unforgettable mountain biking getaway.

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