“Most scenic rail trail anywhere with parallel singletrack on the South Side Trail
— joel rathje
This is a very scenic rail trail that cruises along the Susan River. This area is great for groups of different abilities as there is challenging singletrack 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 ride 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
singletrack complements the rail trail beautifully.
Following the old Fernley and Lassen Branch Line of the Southern Pacific railroad, the trail winds 27 miles from Susanville to Mooney Road. 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 as a bonus, you get to pass through two tunnels.
Susanville has four seasons because of the high elevation. 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 eventual future 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, the Southern Pacific Railroad shut down most of the old Fernley and Lassen Railroad branch line that had carried supplies and occasional passengers from early 1914 through the end of 1956. The Bureau of Land Management, finding the line vacated and abandoned, spearheaded the rails-to-trails conversion of the old railroad grade. Harold T. "Bizz" Johnson, a former congressman (1958-1980), was instrumental in getting the 30-mile segment converted for recreational use. The trail is forever named in his honor.