Wild West Adventure

Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail

A mere two hours north of Lake Tahoe—just east of the Sierra and Cascade mountain ranges—you'll find incredible beauty in the craggy canyons and upland forests of Lassen County, Calif. This area is home to the 25.4-mile Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail, an exquisite rail-trail that carves through the Susan River Canyon between the communities of Susanville and Westwood.

Named for former Congressman Harold T. "Bizz" Johnson, the corridor follows the old Fernley and Lassen Branch Line of the Southern Pacific railroad. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) completed assembly of the trail in 1986 and now jointly manages it with the U.S. Forest Service. For a glimpse into the past, visit the Susanville Railroad Depot, the main trailhead for the Bizz Johnson trail and a treasure trove of historical relics and information about the region.

It is a popular and versatile attraction year-round, yet no season has proven more inviting on the Bizz Johnson than the fall, when visitors and events seem to gravitate to the trail. While you won't find many places in the state known for autumn leaves, the Bizz Johnson is a huge exception, usually peaking around the third and fourth weeks of October.

The West County route of the Lassen Rural Bus will pick you up in Susanville and drop you off at various locations from which you can access the Bizz Johnson. In the summer, the shuttle runs six days a week. The ideal launching spot is Mason Station in Westwood. From there, the first seven miles cover an almost imperceptible uphill climb to Westwood Junction, the highest elevation on the trail at 5,500 feet. Riders, runners or intrepid hikers can then enjoy a comfortable 1,300-foot descent into Susanville.

Photo by: Michael McCullough

You’ll conclude your ride with a fantastic finale— eight bridges, two tunnels and some of the most scenic portions of the trail.

Susanville also hosts the annual Rails to Trails Festival each Columbus Day weekend. The celebration began as a fundraising event for the Susanville Railroad Depot and has since evolved to feature live music, a chili cook-off, a salsa contest and old-fashioned railroad handcar races.

It’s important to remember that the Bizz Johnson trail travels through some remote countryside. The gravel surface is best suited for fat tires and soft saddles, and visitors are advised to bring ample water and resources for the journey. There are no services between the two endpoints; what you carry is what you'll have to use. The trail has a habit of converting avid new fans with each new face and adventure. Regardless of the season or your mode of choice—horseback, skis, bicycle or foot—the Bizz Johnson trail is bound to please.
Photo by: Cory Aguilar

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