Modoc Line Rail Trail


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Modoc Line Rail Trail Facts

States: California
Counties: Lassen, Modoc
Length: 39.8 miles
Trail end points: Dons Rd (Likely in Modoc County) to Lassen St & Clarks Valley Rd (Madeline) and Horse Lake Rd (Crest) to Karlo Rd (Lassen County); Wendel Rd (Wendel in eastern Lassen County)
Trail surfaces: Ballast, Cinder, Gravel
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6217543

Modoc Line Rail Trail Description

The Modoc Line Rail Trail follows a portion the historic Modoc Line, which ran through remote ranch land and deserts in northeastern California. Originally constructed as the narrow-gauge Nevada-California-Oregon (N-C-O), Southern Pacific converted the line to standard gauge in the 1920s when they acquired it and operated it as the Modoc Line until the 1990s. An abandoned portion of the line was railbanked, and in 2008, an 85-mile section of the former rail corridor was purchased by the Lassen Land and Trails Trust, who now manage the rail-trail.

The N-C-O was also referred to as the "narrow, crooked, and ornery." And thus, modern-day users take note: the trail is rough in some places (ballast and gravel surface), and the weather in this remote country can change in minutes, so dress appropriately and take precautions. The Modoc Line is still being developed in some places, so travel is at your own risk.

There are currently three disconnected sections of the Modoc Line Rail Trail. From north to south, they are as follows:

Sagehen Segment (19.9 miles)

This section runs between Dons Road in Likely and where Lassen Street becomes Clarks Valley Road in Madeline.

One of the most scenic sections, the trail travels up Tule Mountain via switchbacks. At the highest point, there are stunning views of the Warner Mountains and the Modoc Plateau.

Snowstorm Canyon Segment (13 miles)

This section runs between Horse Lake Road in Crest to Karlo Rd in Lassen County).

From Crest, the trail meanders down into Snowstorm Creek canyon and climbs onto volcanic tablelands. Columnar basalt cliffs tower above the path and the remnants of a train wreck can be seen lying below the trail.

Continuing south along the trail, the Snowstorm Mountain is to the east and two creeks are west of the trail. Running parallel within yards of one another, the Snowstorm Creek and Pete’s Creek are only separated by a narrow volcanic wedge. 

The Bureau of Land Management's Biscar Reservoir can be seen from the trail. To access the reservoir, take Karlo Road to the Biscar entrance, where there are portable toilets and opportunities to launch kayaks, canoes, or rowboats. 

Viewland Segment (6.9 miles)

This 6.9-mile segment is only accessible from Wendel Road. The historic Noble’s Emigrant Trail, which led pioneers west, crosses the trail. From the highest point, there is a vista of the Skedaddle Mountains and Honey Lake Valley. The BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Corral is on Route 395 just west of the trail

Modoc Line Rail Trail Activities 

The Modoc Line supports a variety of users, including non-motorized and motorized (vehicle and OHVs for wildlife watching and public land access). 

Motorized vehicles must not exceed the 25-mile per hour speed limit. All motorized vehicles must have valid registration and all OHVs must have a California green or red sticker. Out-of-state OHVs must be legally registered and display a nonresident sticker. OHVs must have a properly installed unmodified spark arrestor which is approved by the US Forest Service. For information or to purchase a sticker, visit the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation website. 

For those biking, a hybrid or mountain bike is recommended.

For those horseback riding, there is no access to watering or grazing for horses within the trail corridor and no trespass onto adjacent private lands. Be prepared and carry whatever supplies are needed.

OHV (Motorized), bicycle and equestrian users wear helmets. Riders under 18 years of age must wear a helmet according to California state law. There may be other relevant California regulations or laws. Please remember that it is your responsibility to know the laws.

The trail cuts through open cattle range. Cattle gates will be found intermittently along the trail. If gates are open, please leave them open. If they are closed, please close gates behind you after you pass through.

Parking and Trail Access

The Modoc Line is under development, so there are no facilities or formal trailheads. Travel at your own risk.

To reach the southern trailhead in Wendel from Susanville, take US 395 east then turn on Wendel Road (follow the signs to Honey Lake) and continue until you cross the old railroad berm. You can also go into Wendel and park near the intersection of Amedee and Antola roads.

To access the trail in McArthur Siding from Alturas, take US 395 south to Lyneta Rd./CR 187A and turn west (right). Turn left at Beet Camp Road. The trail is on the east side of Eastside Canal.

Modoc Line Rail Trail Reviews

Pretty but a grueling trail

Did a few segments of this trail. From Likely took CR-64 (Jess Valley rd) turned right on W. Valley road (about 1.5 miles) and about a mile past the fire station the trail meets with the road and about 200' further is a nice area to park. The trail is very soft dirt, with lots of rodent holes and little shade but it is pretty, did about 5 miles up the hill going back down was tough with the soft dirt and holes.

Next drove to Madeline and picked up the trail heading north (uphill), here is it all railroad ballast and almost impossible to ride. Gave up at 2.5 miles and rode 395 back into town.

Finally, took trail from Likely south bound (again uphill). A bit more packed for the first couple of miles, but still lots of rodent holes. After the gate the trail gets soft again (seems to be lots of rancher traffic digging it up) with more rodent holes.

This could be a really beautiful trail but needs some work, otherwise it is better for horses and ATVs.

Riding our side by side on the Modoc line

In late May of 2015 we took our Rzr (side by side) on the Modoc line. Beautiful country! Sure glad they allow motorized vehicles on this rails to trails as there is a lot of very remote country. We went 74 miles that day and didn't cover it all. We had a lot of fun just being out in remote country, taking our time, stopping often to take pictures and to have lunch. I'm glad we have places like this to go to. Thanks to everyone that put a lot of work into making this happen.

Not Ready For Bikes As Of 2013

Unfortunately the rail bed has a slight washboard surface with some drain rock and loose smaller material.Biking for extended periods becomes a challenge.Hammering,fishtailing and bogging down best describe.I rode 42 miles and that was enough.

There are only 2 sections worth seeing(in my opinion).The Karlo road access point north to near Ravendale has the beautiful Snowstorm Canyon backcountry.Between Madeline and Likely has some pretty country.The rest is mostly sagebrush plains along the highway.Almost silly for a "trail".

ATVing along the Modoc Line

For those of you that like to get out in beautiful country, away from crowds, this is the place to go. We drove our ATV's 63 miles and didn't come close to seeing all the country out there. We were the only ones on the trail so be sure to go prepared and bring along extra gas. We had great time!

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