“The most scenic rail trail anywhere with parallel singletrack on the South Side Trail.”
— joel rathje
Fall Colors · River/Creek · Swimming · Views
This is a very scenic rail trail that cruises along the Susan River. This area is great for groups of different abilities as the trail is more challenging on the south side of the canyon. There are several connections for meeting up. This rail trail was rated the most scenic rail trail in California by the Rails to Trails Conservancy.
Need to Know
The Susan River Canyon offers fun trails, fishing, camping right next to Susanville. No need to drive to trailheads in Susanville.
The best time to experience this trail is in the fall. The trees light up the canyon and contrast the deep blue sky. This is a very peaceful place and is surprisingly accessible from town. The new South Side Trail
complements the rail trail beautifully.
Following the old Fernley and Lassen Branch Line of the Southern Pacific railroad, the trail winds 25.4 miles from Susanville to Mason Station. For the first 16 miles, the trail follows the Susan River. 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 semi-arid canyon and upland forests of pine and fir. The trail then follows existing roads an additional 4.5 miles into Westwood, where a railroad station type kiosk and a 25-foot carved redwood statue of Paul Bunyan mark the Westwood trailhead.
The trail has four distinct seasons because of the high elevation location. The trail begins at 4200' on the east side of the Sierra and Cascade Ranges in Susanville, climbs 1300' to a high point of 5500' at Westwood Junction then drops 400' to its terminus in Westwood at elevation 5100'. Check current conditions before planning a trip on the trail by calling (530) 257-0456.
History & Background
In 1978, Southern Pacific Railroad received approval to abandon most of the old Fernley and Lassen Railroad branch line that had carried area lumber and sometimes passengers from 1914 until all railroad operations ended on the line in 1956.
Following legal abandonment of the railroad in 1978, the Bureau of Land Management spearheaded the rails-to-trails conversion of the old railroad grade. Former Congressman Harold T. "Bizz" Johnson, who served in the House of Representatives from 1958-1980, was instrumental in helping establish the 30-mile segment as a Rails-to-Trails conversion for recreational use. The trail is named in his honor.