Hat Creek Crossing

5 Star Route

This is a 5 Star Route, meaning that it is a highly curated, premier riding route.

Explore California’s Intermountain area! This route includes continuous views of Mt Shasta, the Lava Wilderness Study area, Hat Creek (the birth place of CALTrout which is all about river restoration). You’ll also visit the historic Glenburn church, the Crystal Lake Fish Hatchery and the Popcorn caves.

Do this ride if you like:

  • big mountain views
  • scenic rivers
  • beautiful farm lands
  • the quietness of the country
  • and to go where others can’t (do it by bike!)

Adventure / Gravel Route

Loop: 51 miles / 3200 ft gain
– Surface: ~ 50% gravel, 50% paved
eBike Friendly: Yes
– Location: ~ 1 hour, 20 minutes from Redding, California
– Published: April 2021

Terrain & Technical Riding Difficulty[what this means]


The descent down Red Mountain Road is steep gravel and, in places rutted. This section is about a mile long.

When we like to ride this …

Spring and Fall are the best times for this route. Most of the gravel is on a solid base and drains well. Spring has the added benefit of duck and geese populations traversing the Western Flyway.

The Start

Intermountain Fairgrounds, McArthur, CA
Lat / Long: 41.0520, -121.4010


Red = paved road
Brown = gravel / dirt road

For help with GPS files, the RideWithGPs mapping app and to learn how to download our routes for free, see the “Using Our Rides” page.

Ride Highlights

Intermountain Fairgrounds / Mile 0

The ride starts at the Intermountain Fairgrounds in McArthur, California; if you are there at the right time, it hosts a county fair, a destruction derby, a cutting horse show, and a hot air balloon festival.

Fall River / Mile ~4.8

Shortly after leaving the fairgrounds, you cross the famous Blue Ribbon Waters of Fall River. Blue Ribbon Waters are some of the most diverse, pure, and noteworthy fly fishing waters in the world.

If you are here from mid-June to early August and if your timing is just right you will experience the Hexagenia Hatch on the Fall River. Hexagenia are relatively large aquatic insects that hatch for a couple of weeks in the early summer. The large, fast-growing trout of the Fall River key in on the insect hatch which occurs just after sunset and makes it one of the best times of year to fish on Fall River.

In the winter and spring, the valley is host to thousands of ducks and geese. The area is on the western flyway for many bird species. Bird watchers delight in all the Avarian species to be spotted in the area.

Glenburn Church / Mile ~5.2

Shortly after crossing the Fall River, you pass by the historic Glenburn church established in 1885. It is beautifully maintained and still holds weekly services to this day.

Soldier Mountain and Tricky Descent / Miles 7.9 to 15

Continue on Red Mountain Road to the first gravel sector of the day, a 500 fott climb up Soldier Mountain. From the summit, you will have views of Burney Mountain and the valley below where Hat Creek and the Pit River come together.

On the descent, there is a 1-mile section that is deeply rutted. Take it slow and easy. You definitely want to do this route in the direction as mapped, climbing this rutted gravel section would be very challenging.

Hat Creek / Mile ~18.4

After crossing the Pit River turn immediately left. Go through the gate leading to a dirt road leading to the Hat Creek Wild Trout section of the river. You will arrive at a beautiful spot on the river with a footbridge crossing. This is another Blue Ribbon Waters section managed for wild trout since the 1970s.

Sculpture Park / Mile ~22

The sculptures are made from large metal machine parts and include dinosaurs, spaceship, trout, giant ant, giraffe, and many more.

Crystal Lake Fish Hatchery / Mile ~24.6

Get off the bike and stroll by the fish pins. You may see some of the rare albino trout population the hatchery maintains.

The town of Cassel / Mile ~25.6

Once on the road again, you will have a gravel climb past the State Campground adjacent to the small community of Cassel. This is another popular fishing area known as Rising River.

Lava Wilderness / Mile ~ 33.9

It’s paved from Cassel until you turn right onto an unnamed gravel road that leads you into the Lava Wilderness Study Area. Along this section you will pass Cinder pit, a natural cinder formation that has unfortunately become a unauthorized shooting range. Near the Cinder pit is a small parking area for access to the nearby Volcanic Popcorn caves.

Fall River Valley / Mile 43 to 51

Fall River Valley is farm country. Wild Rice, Hay, Strawberries, Alfalfa, Mint and more are grown in the area. Driscoll Berry Farms has a large operation that supplies Strawberry shoots to the Berry Industry here.

Food & Water

~ mile 25. Water at Cassel campground.

Ride Notes

I rode 35mm tires for this ride, although I don’t think you would have any trouble going as low as 30mm. The gravel sections have a solid base.

Ride Options

You can shorten the route by going straight at mile 34, staying on Fall River Cassel Road rather than taking a right, which leads through the Lava Wilderness section. If you choose this option, it is a 7.5-mile road ride back to the Fairgrounds: Fall River Cassel Road to Fall River, then Right on Highway 299 back to McArthur. Highway 299 has a bike lane between Fall River Mills and McArthur.

Ridden and Reviewed by …

PaulH / Team Dirty Freehub

I am a long-time bike rider, but go into the gravel scene about 5 years ago. I’ve done gravel events and probably will again someday, but what I really enjoy is exploring beautiful places with little to no traffic on my gravel bike. Oh, and I hand-built my gravel bike from steel tubes. It’s orange, and I love it!


Revision History

  • March 2021 / Original Post as a 5 Star Route.
    • Next steps: refine / add to pictures / verify cue sheet, capture video. Podcast with CalTrout. Logo for CalTrout.
    • Next for Kevin: pictures negative margin, add caltrout logo, pauls bio.

Get Involved!

California Trout has been active in the restoration of waters for the last 50 years. Along this route you will experience some of their work first hand at Fall River and Hat Creek – some of the best trout fishing waters in the US and the world. We encourage you to learn more about their work, advocate on their behalf and possibly contribute back with time, talent or money.

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