A Local’s Guide to The Sundial Bridge At Turtle Bay (Parking, Hours & More)
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Experience Redding’s Iconic landmark by walking across this famous glass bridge.
The soaring tower of one of the largest working sundials in the world. A glass bottom walking bridge that crosses the rushing river below. Views of the Shasta Cascade mountain range and endless walking trails…. these and more, are what make the walking across The Sundial Bridge one of the best things to do in Redding and in Northern California.
I have called this area home for more than a decade, as a local, this bridge has become one of my favorite places to visit. Since I walk the bridge on a weekly basis, I have overheard visitors asking questions about the bridge and trying to figure out how it works.
I remember my first time visiting the Sundial Bridge, I was amazed and also had endless questions. To help my readers and future visitors, I thought why not put together a complete guide on how to visit the bridge.
If you are wondering if walking across the Sundial Bridge is worth it…. I will tell you right now that it is! Below, I am sharing everything you need to know to plan your visit.
If you have more questions, please let me know in the comments below. I am happy to answer them for you!
This post was originally published in the summer of 2019, and was completely updated and republished in May of 2023 to include recent changes and updates.
Visiting The Sundial Bridge
Before you head down to the bridge, here is an overview of some of the most important things you should know.
How to Get to the Bridge
The Sundial Bridge is located in Redding, California. If you have never been to Redding, this Northern California town is about 2.5 hours north of Sacramento. It’s an easy straight drive along I-5.
The bridge is located in the heart of Redding, making an easy quick stop even if you are just passing through. If you are coming from downtown or from I-5 it will only take a few minutes to reach Turtle Bay.
Parking & Fees
Parking and visiting the bridge is FREE. There is a parking area located near the entrance to the bridge. There are usually spots available in this parking lot.
However, during the busy season or special events it can be full. If there is no parking in the lot, look for the gravel parking area just past this lot, where you can also park.
Hours / Best Time of Day
The bridge is open 365 days a year from 6 am to 12 midnight. While you can visit the bridge anytime of day, my favorite times to go are in the morning (8-10 am) or in the evening (6-8). I have found that the bridge is less crowded during this times.
Also, if you are planning your visit in the summer, you should know that Redding’s temperature averages 100 degrees or more. Since the mornings and evenings are cooler on a hot summer day, it will make walking the bridge more enjoyable.
It’s also worth the visit to see the bridge at sunset or at night when it is lit up, as it offers a completely different experience than during the day.
Turtle Bay Exploration Park Entrance
From the parking lot you can see the entrance sign to Turtle Bay Exploration Park. Follow the path and it leads right to the bridge.
I think that it’s important to note that Turtle Bay Exploration Park is a 300-acre park that is home to the Sundial Bridge, a museum, and botanical gardens.
While the “Turtle Bay Museum” is a paid attraction, and closes at 5 pm, you do NOT have to pay to go on the bridge, and it’s open daily until midnight.
Since it is all part of Turtle Bay, some people get confused and think that you have to pay to see the bridge. Lucky for us, it’s 100% free, even the parking!
Walking Tips / Bridge Rules
You are able to walk, run or ride your bike across the glass bridge. You can also take pictures, and explore underneath the bridge on both sides of the river banks.
However, you cannot smoke, drive motorized vehicles, ride horses, skate, fish from the bridge, jump off the bridge or climb on the bridge.
While walking on the bridge myself, I have seen many people trying to climb the suspension cables. This is not allowed, and there is often a security guard there to make sure that the rules are being followed.
If it has been raining or the bridge is wet, be extra careful, as the glass can be slippery. Dogs are allowed on the bridge, just be sure to clean up after them. There are free dog clean up bags available near the entrance sign and near the entrance to the bridge.
During the summer, the glass plates can get very hot, so if you bring your dog, make sure it’s not too hot for their paws.
Walking Across the Bridge
You can walk across the glass bridge and also walk down to the river below. As you walk across the bridge the glass plates that make up the deck are not completely see through, but more of a translucent glass.
Once you get out of the middle, you will enjoy an incredible view of the Sacramento River and the surrounding Shasta Cascade mountains.
When walking toward the other end, you will begin to see the steel cables that hold up the bridge and that are attached to the 217-foot pylon.
Once you reach the south side of the bridge you will see the entrance to McConnel Botanical Gardens.
To the right of the bridge there is a path that leads you down to the base of the bridge. Here you can get an up close view from a different perspective. The base of the bridge is covered in broken white tiles that were imported from Spain.
Watching the Sunset From The Bridge
One of my favorite things to do at the Sundial is watch the sunset. Visiting the bridge at sunset offers an incredible experience.
The best place for watching the sunset is from the middle of the bridge facing to the west. Here you have a stunning view of the river below while the sun dips down below the mountains.
Since this is such an amazing location for watching the sunset in Redding, you can expect to see many other people stopping to enjoy the views. I have seen countless sunsets from the bridge and each one is equally beautiful!
Visiting The Sundial Bridge at Night
I would highly suggest that you try and see the bridge at night when it’s lit up. It’s a completely different experience that you don’t want to miss.
Around dusk, the bridge lights come on, but to really get the full effect of the lights, you should try to visit when it’s completely dark outside. (remember… it’s open until midnight) so any time before that.
Sometimes the bridge is lit with just white lights, but during certain months, the bridge will be lit up in different colors.
For one week at the end of October it is lit pink for Breast Cancer Awareness and one week during May it is lit blue for Peace Officer Memorial week.
If you happen to be visiting during the holidays from the middle of November until the beginning of January the bridge will be lit red and green for the annual Redding Garden of Lights, a curated holiday light display, that I highly recommend!
How Does the Sundial Bridge Work?
On the side of the bridge near the pylon there are time markers on the ground. In theory, you would be able to look for the shadow that the sun casts from the bridge and see where it was next to these time markers and know what time it is.
However, what most people don’t realize when visiting the sundial bridge, is that while it is a working sundial, it only accurately tells time one day of the year.
Unless you happen to visit on the exact day of the summer solstice, the longest day of the year at 11 am when the bridge casts an accurate shadow that points to the 11 am marker, you won’t be able to tell them time from the Sundial.
It’s one of the largest working sundials in the world, but only on one day and time each year!
While you will have to look at your watch or phone to keep track of the time, it’s still fun checking out the different time markers and exploring the areas surrounding the bridge.
Design, History and Construction
The design for the Sundial Bridge was created by Santiago Calatrava, a renowned Spanish architect and engineer. The bridge was similar to Calatrava’s earlier design of the Puente de Alamillo in Seville, Spain.
Since the salmon spawning grounds in the Sacramento River needed to be protected, the cantilever spar cable-style bridge design was chosen because it crosses the entire river without touching the water below.
The McConnell Foundation, a private foundation, funded a large portion of the bridge’s $24 million dollar cost in hopes that it would increase tourism in Redding. Construction on the bridge began in 2002 and was completed by 2004.
The Sundial bridge is 700 feet long, 23 feet wide, with a 217-foot pylon. What makes the construction unique is that parts of the bridge came from places all over the world.
The support structure was made in Vancouver, Washington, and transported to Redding in 40 feet sections. While the translucent glass tiles for the deck came from Quebec, and the white spanish tiles that decorate parts of the bridge were imported from Spain.
Today, the bridge is a functional work of art and has put Redding on the map as a tourist destination and draws in visitors from all over the world.
Things to do Nearby
If you want to stay and explore the 300 acre Turtle Bay Exploration parks, here are some things that you can do in the area:
- Take a walk along The Sacramento River Trail. The Sundial Bridge is part of the trail which extends along the river in both directions. It’s part of a larger trail system in Redding that is over 17 miles long.
- View art displays, plants, and a children’s garden at the 200-acre McConnell Arboretum & Botanical Gardens.
- Rent an electric bike or scooter and ride along the river. There is a pay as you go e-bike rental near the entrance to the bridge. You will also find scooters for rent near the parking area.
- If you have kids, you might want to visit the Turtle Bay Museum. Open most days from 9 am – 5 pm and tickets are $14-18 depending on age. It features an aquarium, animals, playground, interactive museum, and more.
Closest Hotels & Restaurants
If you are looking to grab something to eat or want to book a room near the Sundial bridge here are your options:
- Mosaic Restaurant – If you are looking for something a bit more fancy, this restaurant puts a modern twist on American cuisine. It’s located near the bridge parking area.
- Sheraton Hotel at the Sundial – This is Reddings newest and nicest hotel. Think contemporary elegance with a resort style comfort. It is conveniently located just near the Turtle Bay Park entrance.
- Branch House Riverfront Bistro – Enjoy great food and drinks with views of the bridge and Sacramento River. Start the day with coffee and breakfast and enjoy drinks and dinner out on the patio in the evening. You can’t beat the view!
Other Things You Should Know
The bridge is also easily accessible for people with disabilities. There are several handicapped parking spaces near the entrance, and a paved pathway that makes getting to the bridge easy for anyone with limited mobility.
There are very nice and clean public restrooms available in the large building located between The Branch House Restaurant, and the Turtle Bay Museum.
Another plus to visiting the bridge, is getting to enjoy all the wildlife that surrounds the bridge and trails. I have seen deer, salmon jumping from the water below, geese, butterflies and many different species of birds.
If you visit in July, you might be in for a fun experience, as thousands of swallows build their nest in the beams below the glass, and you will get to see them swooping in and out from under the bridge.
Last year, during September / October there were tons of spiders covering the bridge and the trees surrounding the river trail. I believe that this was a unique occurrence, as I have never seen this happen before.
Despite my fear of spiders, I still continued to walk the bridge, as did many others. The spiders weren’t crawling on the bridge or anything, they were just hanging out in the cobwebs that had built on the railings. I just made sure not to get too close to the railings.
You most likely won’t encounter this problem, so I would not be concerned at all. I just wanted to make note of this because there were some reviews warning visitors of spiders on the bridge.
Smoke / Air Quality
If you are planning your visit to Redding during late summer to early fall (August, September, October), you should know that this is wildfire season for Northern California.
If there are nearby fires when you visit, the air can be filled with smoke, or at unhealthy levels. This is something that is hard to predict, but if you are planning your visit during summer, I would recommend checking air quality first.
Best Time of Year to Visit
Honestly, the bridge is amazing all year round, but it is especially nice in the spring (March, April, May). The grass surrounding the trails is still lush and green and the wildflowers are in bloom.
Spring is the best time of year to visit Redding, because you won’t have to worry about hot summer heat, smoke, or winter weather.
Hopefully this guide helps inspire you to visit the Sundial Bridge, so that you can see for yourself why this has become a favorite Northern California location for locals and visitors.
Have more questions about the Sundial? Feel free to ask them in the comments below!