Sims Flat along the upper Sacramento River has a hiking trail around the campground perimeter, and you can hike the west river bank in either direction to great swimming holes. There’s also good fishing!
Sims Flat makes a great place to stretch your legs and take a nature break when you’re traveling Interstate 5 north of Redding. You want the Sims Road exit (Exit 718) about 40 miles north of Redding and 20 miles south of the town of Mount Shasta. Follow the road east and then south, and park in the lot at the Sims Flat Campground entrance on the south (downstream) side of the bridge over the Upper Sacramento River.
Sims Flat and the Upper Sacramento River…
Some history: The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) had a Depression-era camp here in the 1930s, and they built a sturdy bridge across the Upper Sacramento River that gives great views of the water rushing below. Around the turn of the twentieth century, a lumber mill was situated here at Sims Flat.
Hiking the Sims Flat Campground Trail
Sims Flat is one of my favorite hiking spots in my neck of the woods. A half-mile trail loops around the campground (which usually has inexpensive spaces available) and there’s such a variety to see: the Upper Sacramento River is always mesmerizing, and Hazel Creek runs swiftly year-round on the south side of the campground. Much of the path is shaded by ponderosa pine, incense cedar, and black oak, and informational signs describe the human history of the area.
Here’s the US Forest Service info on the campground itself, including details about price, season, potable water, and more. If you prefer camping for free out in the forest, check out my book Camp for Free: Dispersed Camping & Boondocking on America’s Public Lands.
Swimming the Upper Sacramento River Near Sims Flat
Summer swimming holes abound both up and downstream. You can cross to the west side of the Upper Sacramento River and follow the railroad tracks in either direction, with north having the most options; look for small paths down to the water. A dirt road leaves the access road just before the railroad tracks and runs 200 yards north to a parking area; this is a good place to leave the car if you’re just coming for a quick swim in the river, or if you want to continue farther upstream to explore swimming and wading opportunities in Mears Creek.
This stretch of the river is also great for rafting, as long as you can handle the boulders in the water.
A Summer Memory
Several years ago I camped at Sims Flat with my oldest brother Eric and his wife Nancy. One hot afternoon we headed downstream to a stunning swimming hole on the Upper Sacramento River. The cold-but-not-too-cold water was the perfect complement to the 95 degree sunshine. We dipped in the coolness, we sunned on rocks, we floated downstream, we hopped on rocks, we took in the green of the streamside vegetation and the thick forests rising up the ridges. And the bit of smoke in the air didn’t bother us at all.
Fishing the Upper Sacramento River Near Sims Flat
This entire stretch of the Upper Sacramento River attracts people who love to fish for trout. Get details here.
You’ll definitely want to explore the hiking trails in Castle Crags State Park, just seven miles north on I-5.
Your Take: Sims Flat
Have you been? What do you like most about it?