The longest, and arguably most scenic, rail-trail in California, the spectacular Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail runs between Westwood and Susanville in Lassen County. It cuts through the thick woodlands of the high country into the awesome Susan River Canyon, passing numerous historic sites such as tunnels and trestles along the way.
Bizz Johnson Trail follows the route of the old Fernley and Lassen Railroad line, which was established in 1914 for transporting logs and milled lumber to and from the Westwood Mill. The mill closed in 1956, and in 1978 Southern Pacific Railroad received approval to discontinue use of the old line. The Bureau of Land Management spearheaded conversion of the corridor to a trail, and former California congressional representative Harold T. "Bizz" Johnson, who served in the House of Representatives from 1958 to 1980, was instrumental in establishing the segment as a rails-to-trails conversion for recreational use. The trail is named in his honor.
Heading from Westwood to Susanville, the route is mainly flat or slightly downhill. You are surrounded by open forest for the first 4.5 miles and then you follow the Susan River for the last 16 miles. As it winds through the rugged Susan River Canyon, the trail crosses the river 12 times on bridges and trestles and passes through two tunnels. The landscape is a combination of semiarid canyon and upland forests of pine and fir. Beyond the canyon the trail follows existing roads an additional 4.5 miles into Westwood, where a railroad station-type kiosk andoddlya 25-foot carved redwood statue of Paul Bunyan mark the Westwood trailhead.
In the spring and early summer trail users can hike, mountain bike and horseback ride on the Bizz Johnson. Another highlight is camping along and fishing in the Susan River for rainbow and brown trout in the spring and early summer. You can camp along the trail on Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service lands for up to 7 days unless otherwise posted. The camping is primitive and permits are required for campfires. In the winter 18.5 miles of the trail are open for cross-country skiing.
If possible, plan your visit to coincide with the annual 3-day Rails to Trails Festival, which takes place at the Susanville Depot in early October and includes live music, a barbecue, railroad handcar rides and other fun family activities.
Parking and Trail Access
Take Highway 36 to Westwood, turn north onto Lassen County Road A-21 and continue 3 miles to County Road 101 (just before the railroad tracks). Follow County Rd 101 0.5 mile until you reach Mason Station trailhead. There is ample parking at the station. You will see a large sign with trail brochures near a restroom and the trailhead. Follow the path from the trailhead for 0.25 mile until you reach the railroad grade.
To reach the Susanville Depot, follow Highway 36, which becomes Main Street in Susanville. Continue on Main Street through Historic Uptown Susanville to Weatherlow Street, at the base of the hill. Turn right on Weatherlow (which becomes Richmond Road) and continue 0.5 mile to the Susanville Railroad Depot Trailhead Visitor Center, where you can park. The trail begins at the depot.