Suitable for: hiking, biking, no motorized vehicles, no horses. Trail 58 is mostly single track, and Middle Creek Trail is paved.
Amenities: limited parking areas at both trailheads, no drinking water or restrooms
Dogs: on leash on Middle Creek Trail, under owner’s control on Trail 58
Distance: Trail 58 one-way is 1.75 miles. The described loop trail alternative, which includes a section of Middle Creek Trail, is 4.2 miles.
Elevation: (approximate): Low point – 640 ft., Highest point – 990 ft.
Best Attributes: views of Middle Creek Canyon and Mt. Shasta, seasonal waterfall, historical points of interest
Hiking time: 45-60 minutes one-way on Trail 58. 2 hours for the described loop.
Biking time: 20-30 minutes one-way on Trail 58. 1 hour for the described loop.
Trail 58, named after nearby Cal Fire Station 58, has two trailheads. One is reached by driving west on Highway 299 to Iron Mountain Road. Turn right onto Iron Mountain Road, travel two-tenths of a mile and look for the trailhead on the left side of the road. The other trailhead is accessed by traveling on Hwy 299 to Middle Creek Road (located just before the town of Old Shasta) and turning right. Don’t block the gated entrance!
Beginning at the Iron Mountain Road Trailhead, Trail 58 undulates upward for almost one-half mile before connecting with a historic water ditch and continuing its westward course. According to Bureau Of Land Management archaeologist Eric Ritter, this ditch which supplied water to gold mining sites was probably constructed some time between the 1850s and the 1870s. Just before the single track trail reaches the water ditch, the rusty remnants of a metal pipe (which spanned the adjacent gully to connect the ditch sections on either side) can be seen near the usually dry stream bed.
The trail winds beneath a canopy of grey pines and oaks on a north-facing slope which provides welcome shade in the summer. The chaparral undergrowth mainly consists of manzanita and toyon. Bright red toyon berries decorate the landscape in the winter months and provide forage for many birds.
At six tenths of a mile where the trail bends, note the remaining section of a short rock wall which served to maintain the integrity of the water ditch and captured the rain runoff from the gully above. Traveling another two tenths of a mile, the single track moves upward and out of the ditch to circumvent the deep canyon which lies ahead. It rejoins the ditch on the canyon’s opposite side. If you dare, carefully walk to the canyon edge and look below to see another section of collapsed pipe which once carried water across the chasm.
Just ahead, the trail leaves the ditch for good and descends to a small wooden bridge which spans a seasonal creek whose banks abound with plenty of verdant, feathery ferns. Now, head upward for a short distance before once again descending to a larger bridge which spans a fork of Middle Creek. On the way down, one can catch sight of a waterfall which splashes over a rocky ledge during the rainy season. Linger on the bridge deck to admire views of the canyon. Here you will also see a plaque memorializing Barbara Woodrum whose work as an archaeologist enriches our understanding of Shasta County’s past.
Now the narrow path moves abruptly upward over a very steep and rocky grade with many hairpin turns and precipitous drop-offs to the canyon below. Hikers and bikers alike need to be extremely cautious on this narrow section! The path gradually widens and becomes much smoother as it flattens out over the last half mile of its course to the trailhead located at the junction of Hwy 299 and Middle Creek Road.
Here at the trailhead you may turn around to retrace the route, or alternatively, make this outing a loop trail adventure by following the paved Middle Creek Road beyond the gate. If doing the loop, descend eastward alongside Middle Creek for less than a quarter mile where a large sign announces “Middle Creek Trail” and advises that Iron Mountain Road lies one mile ahead. Beyond this sign you will continue along Middle Creek Canyon’s south-facing slope. On this side of the canyon there are fewer oaks but numerous large grey pines and much manzanita. You will also see plenty of Himalayan blackberry bushes and several stands of Ailanthus (Tree Of Heaven), both non-native plants. There’s lots of poison oak, too, so beware!
The paved, yellow-striped trail follows a section of the historic Middle Creek Road which was constructed in 1873 to connect the once-thriving town of Shasta (now Old Shasta) to a railroad depot at the confluence of Middle Creek and the Sacramento River. After descending about one-half mile, the trail climbs and turns sharply – an ideal spot for a stagecoach robbery. As the trailside BLM sign explains, the infamous Ruggles brothers pulled off just such a heist right here in May of 1892.
Another half-mile ahead, the mysterious hull of a once-seaworthy boat begs many questions. Proceed one tenth of a mile and carefully cross Iron Mountain Road to follow the paved path upward to a portion of the trail built upon an abandoned Southern Pacific railroad bed. Last used by trains in 1974, it was a spur off the main line (made necessary by the construction of Keswick Dam). Travel one-half mile and look to your right to locate the sign which reads “To Salt Creek Trail”. Turn right onto the narrow dirt path and climb steadily for just over one-third of a mile. Now look for the sign on your right which reads “Trail 58”. Bear to the right and climb slightly uphill before leveling off and then descending on the single track which curves around to parallel Iron Mountain Road. One quarter mile ahead, carefully cross Iron Mountain Road to find the trailhead and complete this 4.2 mile loop.
This “best of” article was originally published January 25, 2017.
The Trails and Bikeways Council of Greater Redding is a non-profit organization that advocates, plans, builds and maintains trails, bikeways and open spaces in the region.
Chris Harvey, a member of the Trails and Bikeways Council of Greater Redding, is a retired elementary school teacher and full-time outdoor enthusiast.