The 8 Best Places for a Kayaking Adventure Near Redding, California

Photo: Visit Redding

In 2014, Time Magazine created a list of American cities and their weird obsession. While San Francisco was obsessed with brunch and Sacramento with costume play, Redding came in with a much cooler obsession – kayaking.

There’s no secret why Redding is the “unofficial capitol” of kayaking. Not only is it a fun, healthy activity, but there’s also an abundance of places to hit the water and go for a paddle. Here are our eight favorite places to go on a kayaking adventure near Redding, California:

Whiskeytown Lake

If Redding is America’s kayaking capitol, than Whiskeytown Lake is its capitol building.

With its proximity to the town along with its many different areas to explore, there’s no question that the crystal-clear waters of Whiskeytown are the preferred destinations for kayakers. The population of motorboats in the water is pretty low, making it a smooth paddle around the perimeter of the lake. And with the water levels staying high year-round, there are no surprises on this paddle.

If you want to add a cool wrinkle to your Whiskeytown Paddle, try the always-popular moonlight kayak tour, combining paddling with astronomy. If you want to rent on the lake, Oak Bottom Marina and Brandy Creek Beach Store are your best bets.

Sacramento River

Photo: Visit Redding

One unique feature of Redding is that you can literally take a tour of the town on a kayak. With the Sacramento River flowing through the town, including right under the world-famous Sundial Bridge, you can see much of the town from the water, with the gentle ride becoming a popular attraction for locals and visitors alike.

The best places to launch a kayak are the Posse Grounds above Turtle Bay, the Turtle Bay Open Space, Park Marina boat launch and the South Bonnyview boat launch. The most popular paddle journey runs from the Posse Grounds to South Bonnyview, where you can see much of the town from north to south from the water. And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can paddle the river 100 miles from Redding all the way down to Chico.

The Sacramento River in Redding is also popular for relaxing rafting trips, Stand Up Paddleboarders and fishermen. There’s no question that one of the best ways to experience the town is from the water.

Shasta Lake

It’s hard to decide where to launch your kayak on Shasta Lake’s 370-mile shoreline, but luckily for you, there’s no bad place to do it.

Shasta Lake is the mecca for water sports and recreation in Northern California. And although the motorboats are the more prominent visitors on this lake, exploring it on a kayak can give you a much more intimate experience with the lake.

Every corner of the lake has kayaking opportunities, but some of the most popular harbors offer easy rentals. Businesses like Digger Bay Marina, Bridge Bay Marina, Silverthorn Marina and Shasta Marina all offer kayaking opportunities at an affordable price.

Want a little adventure on your Shasta Lake kayak adventure? Take it up to the Little Backbone Creek natural waterslide.

Lake Siskiyou

A little over an hour drive north from Redding sits Lake Siskiyou, beautifully basking under the shadow of Mount Shasta. Although smaller than Whiskeytown Lake, Lake Siskiyou provides a similar calming experience with little traffic and views to die for.

The biggest attraction during a Lake Siskiyou kayaking experience is seeing unparalleled views of Mount Shasta, which stunningly reflects on the water during calm weather. You can easily rent your kayak with the Lake Siskiyou Camp Resort and if you bring your fishing rod, you can land one of the trophy-sized trout stocked into the water.

While this is the farthest kayaking waterway made on this list, it’s a can’t-miss destinations for kayakers in Northern California.

Manzanita Lake

Sitting just an hour east of Redding is the gem of Northern California – Lassen Volcanic National Park – and one of the park’s best adventures is kayaking on Manzanita Lake.

Manzanita Lake is the first thing you’ll see when driving into the park’s north entrance from Redding and it’s a utopia of wildlife and views. Sitting under Lassen Peak, providing pristine views of the active volcano, this small lake is best explored from a kayak.

With motorized boats prohibited from Manzanita Lake, there’s a kayak rental company sitting conveniently near the parking lot, giving adventurers of every age a chance to experience Lassen from the water. Keep an eye out for wildlife on the shore and drop a line in if you’re ready to catch some big fish!

McCloud River

When people think of an outdoor adventure on the McCloud River, they typically think of the three tiers of McCloud Falls. But there is a kayaking adventure on the famous river that can put you right next to the historic vacation home of newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst.

It’s certainly an odd way to explore historic architecture, but it’s the only way you’re going to see it. The Wyntoon Castle is not open to the public and in most cases, can only be seen from the water. If you bring your kayak down through the McCloud River, you’ll be in a rare group.

Trinity River

Sitting northwest of Redding is the Trinity River, a beautiful tributary known for its remote views along Highway 299 and epic winter steelhead runs. The best way to experience this river is on the water, and different sections can offer adventurous Class V rapids or a relaxing Class II paddle.

The adventurous can drop into Burnt Ranch Gorge, offering up to Classe V rapids for the advanced paddlers.

You can have a more relaxing time taking the Pigeon Point Run, with slow sections of crystal clear water showing you the iconic views of the tributary. You can rent a kayak from Trinity River Rafting, who will also give you a rundown of the trip down the river and offer rafting trips for groups as well.

Clear Creek

For anyone looking for a more challenging kayak trip, Clear Creek below Whiskeytown Lake offers Class IV rapids through the west side of town. The 8-mile stretch of water goes from just below Whiskeytown Lake to the take out near Igo, offering little-known whitewater for the adventurous.

Have fun on your kayak adventure near Redding, California! For kayak rental opportunities and trips in Redding, check out Headwaters Adventure Company, West Marine, or Just Kayak More.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California


  1. Nice review of kayaking tours in this area. However, re: the McCloud, I would add that it is a bit more of an epic adventure than you make of it. The shuttle is a long one (and nobody I know of offers commercial shuttles). The first mile below the put in is usually a very shallow and rocky creek. Be prepared to exit your boat several times to portage over things. If there’s enough water to eliminate the portages, be ready for fast Class 4 for a while. Spring inflow soon means that you can stay in your boat. When you come to Big Springs, which is a spectacular waterfall coming out of the side of the hill, water levels jump from maybe 50 CFS to around 800 CFS. Suddenly you are on a real river. The water temp which is already cold drops another 10 degrees or so. Even on a hot day, I’d wear wetsuit pants and a dry top. Gloves or pogies are a must, also, otherwise your hands will be too cold to hold your paddle. From there, it’s several miles of continuous Class 3 (and I mean continuous; it’s one very long rapid). The water is shallow and fast, so swimming is not recommended. The other major hazard is fallen trees, which have caused a couple deaths in recent years. Things calm down once you reach the Hearst Estate with flatter water allowing you to gawk at the lifestyles of the rich. Soon, you’ll hit Lake McCloud so can enjoy a leisurely 3 mile paddle back to the take out at the boat ramp. The shoreline is all private, and the Hearsts keep an eye on it closely. I don’t mean to scare people off this river; it’s very beautiful and scenic, with fun whitewater. It’s long been one of my favorites. It’s just a river with possibly serious consequences for those who are unprepared or inexperienced.

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