With the rise of the automobile in the 1950s, many of the railroads that were laid across the American West in the 1800s were abandoned and left to disrepair. These days, however, with the help of the Federal Rails To Trails initiative, many of these railways are being converted into multi-use trails, and because trains rarely travel on grades that exceed 3 percent, these trails are easily traversed in either direction.
The Bizz Johnson National Recreation trail is one such trail, stretching 25.4 miles and linking the California towns of Susanville and Westwood in Lassen County. Located roughly a hundred miles north of Reno, Nevada, just off of California’s Highway 395, both towns were formerly active logging centers.
The once bustling Susanville-to-Westwood railroad is now perfect for cycling, hiking, trail running, horseback riding, and even cross-country skiing in the winter months. The trail winds through the rugged Susan River canyon, going over 12 bridges and through two huge tunnels. With high canyon walls on either side, beautiful rocky cliffs, and the crystal clear water flowing down the river, the area feels like the set of a Western movie. It’s isolated, beautiful, and totally worth taking the time to check out. In summer months, pack a swimsuit and look for one of the many swimming holes along the route.
Runners should also take note of the annual Bizz Johnson Marathon that takes place each October. The run, which goes from Westwood to Susanville, is a qualifying race for the Boston Marathon, and the entire length of the race is slightly downhill (although it is at altitude).
New for the summer, Bureau of Land Management crews are hard at work cutting four new miles of singletrack mountain bike trails adjacent to the Bizz Johnson trail. The new South Side Trail starts just west of Susanville at the Hobo Camp trailhead and connects back to the Bizz above both railroad tunnels. The new trail features rock crossings, technical climbs and descents, banked turns, and fun and flowing lines through the trees along the river two miles up from Hobo Camp. The South Side Trail adds some technical features that the Bizz’s compact gravel road can’t offer, and makes a great loop for those who want a little variety on their rides.
For more information on The Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail, or to find a Rails to Trails conversion in an area near you, check out www.traillink.com to search through the approximately 2,000 trails nationwide.