Following the old Fernley and Lassen Branch Line of the Southern Pacific railroad, the trail winds 25.4 miles from Susanville to Mason Station. You can pick up an Interpretive Trail Guide and Map at any Lassen National Forest office or at the Bureau of Land Management office in Susanville. An additional trailhead kiosk is located in Westwood next to the Paul Bunyan Statue and near the Westwood Museum. 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 4,200 feet on the east side of the Sierra and Cascade Ranges in Susanville, climbs 1,300 feet to a high point of 5,500 feet at Westwood Junction then drops 400 feet to its terminus in Westwood at elevation 5,100 feet. Check current conditions with the BLM Office before planning a trip on the trail.
Please Note: Water sources found along the trail are not safe for drinking. Cattle and stock use the river upstream, and springs in the area have not been tested. Drinking water should be packed in or treated.
There are many recreational activities available to the public along the Bizz Johnson Trail:
Hiking: If you plan to hike the trail, you will find the 18-mile segment along the Susan River from Westwood Junction to Susanville most scenic because of the variety afforded by the adjacent river and canyon and views of the surrounding mountains. It is an easy hike with maximum 3 percent grade. A variety of day hikes are possible from the many trailheads. By arranging your own shuttle between trailheads, hikers can enjoy more of the trail without backtracking. Backpacking can also be enjoyed along the trail. Trail courtesy: Walkers and bicyclists yield to horseback riders. When overtaking another trail user, let them know you are approaching so you do not startle them or their horses.
A bus that will carry bikes runs between Susanville and Westwood, Monday through Friday. For current schedule and bus stops, call Lassen Rural Bus. On weekends or at times not served by the bus, you may be able to arrange for a van shuttle by calling the Mt. Lassen Cab and Shuttle Service. See Eagle Lake Contact Information for telephone numbers.
Bicycling: Bicycling on the Bizz Johnson Trail is best enjoyed on wide-tire bicycles. Multi-geared mountain bicycles are excellent for trail use, but single-speed wide-tire bicycles are also suitable. The trail surface consists of a relatively level railroad grade (3 percent maximum) composed of aggregate material. The trail gradually climbs 500 feet in the first 12 miles from Westwood to Westwood Junction, then drops 1,300 feet in the 18 miles between Westwood Junction and Susanville. Wide-tire bicycles can easily travel the entire trail. Exercise caution when crossing planking on decked bridges and when traveling through unlighted tunnels. Trail courtesy: Share the trail. Bicyclists yield to walkers and walkers and bicyclists yield to horseback riders. When overtaking another trail user, let them know you are approaching so you do not startle them or their horse. Limited shuttle service provides an alternative to round-trip rides on the trail.
Equestrian: Eleven bridges are passable on horseback, as are two tunnels, one 800 feet long, the other 450 feet. If you wish to avoid the tunnels, riverside trails provide alternate routes.
Cross-country skiing: The best areas for cross-country skiing are on the trail's upper 18.5-mile segment, west of Highway 36 and the Devils Corral area. Elevations from 4,760 feet to 5,500 feet, northern exposures and shading combine to provide the most reliable snow conditions. A recommended trail segment for cross-country combines snowed-in road skiing from Highway 44 to Goumaz (three miles) with trail skiing from Goumaz to Highway 36. This nine-mile segment affords a gentle downhill slope with good views of the Susan River and Diamond Mountain. To avoid backtracking, arranging your own shuttle is recommended. The lower seven miles of trail from Highway 36 east to Susanville can be skied following major snowfall, but snow conditions deteriorate rapidly on this section due to lower elevations and open southern exposures. Also, two tunnels (one 800 feet, the other 450 feet) require walking. The best public access areas are at Mason Station near Westwood, Highway 44 near Hog Flat Reservoir, Highway 36 near Devils Corral, and Susanville Trailhead. Before beginning a cross-country skiing expedition, check local weather conditions and use caution.
Camping: Primitive camping is allowed along the trail on BLM and U.S. Forest Service Land. There is a seven-day camping limit between trailheads unless otherwise posted. The U.S. Forest Service has an undeveloped drive-in campground area at Goumaz. No camping is allowed at or within one mile of Hobo Camp or Devils Corral, unless authorized. Camping is prohibited along the South Side Road within the Susan River Canyon west of Hobo Camp. Campfires require permits from the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service or the California Department of Forestry. Between Susanville and Devil's Corral, build fires in designated fire-safe areas only. Seasonal fire restrictions may apply along the entire trail - campfires may be prohibited at times of peak fire danger.
Fishing: Fishing in the Susan River is best in spring to early summer. The river provides habitat for rainbow and brown trout, speckled dace, Lahontan redside, and Tahoe sucker. Twice monthly in May, June and July, the California Department of Fish and Game stocks rainbow trout in the lower Susan River between Susanville and Devils Corral. Stocking of fish generally ends in July when river temperature peaks reach 70-75 degrees F, usually in July.
Wildlife Watching: Many birds are attracted to plants along the Susan River. Look for species ranging from belted kingfishers and hooded orioles to calliope hummingbirds and canyon wrens. Watch the skies for turkey vultures, American kestrels, great horned owls, and other birds of prey. The river attracts beavers, who build their dams with brush, and muskrats. Patient observers may see bats, raccoons, porcupines, coyotes - even black bears.
Directions: From Westwood, CA, Take Highway 36 at Westwood, follow County Road A-21 one mile south into Westwood. Park at the Bizz Johnson Trail kiosk in front of the Westwood Community Center and next to the Paul Bunyan statue. Begin ride by following A-21 back through town, the way you came. Cross Highway 36 and continue on A-21 three miles to County Road 101 (just before the railroad tracks). Follow County Road 101 for half a mile to Mason Station Trailhead. Ride through trailhead and follow path past kiosk a quarter mile to abandoned railroad grade. Follow the railroad grade 25 miles to Susanville. (To avoid riding on the roads, drive directly to parking area at Mason Station Trailhead.)
Elevation: 5,500 feet
Ending Elevation: 5,100 feet
Elevation Gain: 1,300 feet
Distance: 25.4 miles
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