Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Wrapping up our stay in Lake Almanor, CA

It's been an thoroughly enjoyable week at Lake Almanor. We followed up our Lassen experiences by branching out into the surrounding area:

The Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail is a Rails to Trails route running 25.4 miles between Westwood and Susanville, CA. Not wanting to drive all the way to Susanville, we chose to start at the Westwood Junction trailhead, thereby knocking off about 7 miles of forested trail from the main Western trail head. We figured we'd ride as far as we desired based on the heat and the fact that the return would be slightly uphill. We ended up riding about 7.5 miles of the trail.

Our only problem with Rails to Trails routes is they tend to be a little monotonous since they were originally railroad beds, and we count on the scenery to make up for the mostly straight and flat ride. The portion of the trail we rode was mostly forested with just a few scenic points along the way. In comparison, the Lake Almanor Recreation Trail that we rode the other day, though paved, had a lot of twists and turns and small ups and downs, as well as lake views to make it more interesting.

If we ride this trail again we will start at Susanville, as the East end of the trail is likely to be more interesting because it has a lot of bridges over the Susan River and two tunnels. We also learned that on Saturdays from June through October there is a shuttle from Susanville to three different trail access points so you can ride downhill all the way back to Susanville...sweet!

A slice of meadow with the Susan River running through it.
Not much water due to a minimal snow winter.

Much of the trail we rode looked like this. We were grateful for the shade!

We drove through Westwood, CA after the ride, Paul Bunyan has a place in the towns history.

The Caribou Wilderness lies 12 miles North of Chester, CA, where we parked at the Hay Meadow trail head and hiked a seven mile loop passing at least 20 small lakes. The mosquito's were pretty thick near the water, so this hike would probably be best in the late summer. Regardless, we always keep a can of Natrapel in the truck and with that protection we really enjoyed this pretty trail. (Trail head directions.)

Most of the lakes along the trail were small and unnamed, like this one.


All of the lakes were incredibly clear.

Western Tanager.

For our last hike we went for views. Mt Harkness, at 8,046 feet, offers up extraordinary 360 degree views after a relatively easy 2 mile uphill hike. The trail head is just 14 miles North of Chester, CA on a decent paved, then dirt road. A working fire lookout tops the mountain and, if staffed, you'll probably get a tour. As early as this spring has been we were surprised to find it closed up.

Lake Almanor seems to glow on a hazy day.

Mt Lassen and the other peaks in the National Park that were all once part of Mt Tehama.
Drakesbad Guest Ranch is in the small green meadow in the center of the photo.
Mt Shasta, over 100 miles away, was a ghostly sight.

Our stay at Big Springs Resort was perfect. The place is rustic, with 8 cabins and 8 full hookup RV sites, dirt roads throughout. Sites are pretty close together and can be difficult to get in to due to trees. Fortunately they had good wifi because our Verizon signal was only good enough for phone calls.

Though the sites were close together we only had a neighbor one night out of seven. The road leading to the RV park has very low traffic volume and the park was extremely peaceful every day and night. It's a one block walk to a dock on the lake where we put our feet into the cool, clear water of Lake Almanor. We did not experience mosquito's around Lake Almanor, only at the smaller lakes deep in the mountains.

We will definitely return to this area, we could easily spend a month here. Chester, CA is big enough for a real grocery store and has a bunch of cute shops and restaurants, though the lone laundromat was overworked. There are many other campgrounds around here to choose from. Plumas County in general seems to have a lot of outdoor recreation possibilities. Fall, without the mosquito's, is probably an awesome time to visit.

Today we're on the road again heading North with a one night stay in Alturas ahead of us.


  1. In Susanville there is an absolute gem of a park. The trails looked very ride-able and they're not rail to trail. We walked it, but decided that if we were back in the area we'd take the mountain bikes out there. There's some up and down, but generally it looked fun.


    1. Good to know. we may be travelling back through this area in October.

  2. All of the water looks so clear and cool, and the tanager is wonderful. Thanks for sharing another great area in California. We're hoping to start out on flat bike trails so I'm glad to hear that many of the Rails to Trails stretches will work for us. Safe travels to Alturas!

    1. Both of the trails we rode would be good for folks not used to riding bikes much.

  3. Interesting area. We've never been. Will have to put it on the "list"


  4. I remembered walking a trail in Susanville but forgot the name of it. The town is cute with lots of murals on buildings. We passed thru this area in October coming from Lava Beds NP and yes the fall foliage was really beautiful then.
    Beautiful place, CA is still top on my states list!

  5. We rode this trail from Susanville a couple of years ago but never made it to where the two of you stayed. It looks like a lovely place to do some hiking. Will bookmark this for our travels back out west. Thanks!

  6. Beautiful area....love the reflections in the lakes.

  7. A Western tanager! How cool! I'd love to spot one. I don't know when you actually took the photo of Mt. Shasta, but I wonder if you're getting the smoke down there from the "Two Bulls" fire up here in Bend that was blowing southward from Sunday to Tuesday. It was pretty intense here for awhile.

    1. Yes, that's what our haze is from.

      We headed North today and the haze seemed to improve a little so I guess the wind shifted. We're in Burns now, pretty much due East of Bend.

  8. Looks like another wonderful place to visit. We'll definitely pin this.

    Riding rail trails can be a bit boring. We have the same problem when riding the rail trail back in York. Nice bike riding fir sure but rather boring.