What is it about the change of seasons that just grabs you and readies you for the next few months’ ride on the circling calendar of life? Perhaps it is the smell of the damp forest in the fall or the fabulous views of rivers and streams surrounded by the dazzling colors of autumn that get you in the mood for the holiday filled season to come. Rivers adorned with shades of yellows, oranges and deep reds beckon you to notice. Valleys, too, are filled with the fabulous colors of fall and you won’t need to travel far to find a fabulous autumn display. Here are some our favorite drives, hikes and rides in Northeastern California, where the Sierras meet the Cascade Mountain Range.
LASSEN NATIONAL PARK
Take a beautiful drive through Lassen National Park before the snow flies. Not only will you experience magnificent fall color as if painted against skies of blue, you will find those famous boiling sulfur pots and crystal clear lakes among amazing views (any time of year!). Enter from Highway 36 between Chester and Red Bluff (Southwest entrance): GPS: 40°26’08″N 121°32’02″W From Red Bluff, California: The Southwest entrance is approximately 45 miles east on Highway 36. From Reno, Nevada: The Southwest entrance is 160 miles west of Reno, Nevada via Highway 395 and Highway 36.
The Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center is open all year – daily, closed December 24 at 12:30 and December 25. The visitors center is open November 1 – May 27 from 9 am to 5 pm and May 28 – October 31 9 am to 6 pm. It includes a gift shop, dining area and exhibits. A movie presentation is also offered. Information and park publications are available, including maps, trail and road guides, field guides, and children’s activities. Ranger-led programs are available in summer. Amenities include restrooms, restaurant and gift shop, a bookstore and first aid. Nearest fuel is in Chester, 30 miles east on Highway 36. Other fuel is 41 miles west in Red Bluff. Lassen Cafe & Gifts is located inside the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center as a separate concession, not necessarily open at all times the visitor center is open. You can contact the visitor center at (530) 595-4480 for more information.
BIZZ JOHNSON TRAIL – For equestrian use, hiking, biking and cross-country skiing in winter
This beautiful trail is a ‘Rails to Trails’ conversion. 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.
Autumn is one of the most popular seasons to visit the Bizz Johnson Trail. As the changing foliage of cottonwoods turn the river bottoms golden yellow, willows along the river take on various tones of red and golden yellow, and oaks scattered through the landscape add accents of bright orange. Autumn visitors should prepare for cooler temperatures at this altitude – from about 4,000 to 5,500 feet above sea level. Temperatures during an autumn day may range from a nighttime low in the 20s to a daylight high in the 70s. For current trail and weather conditions, call the area BLM office at (530) 257-0456.
HIKE ALONG THE LAKE?
Have the time and energy to veer off for a hike or bicycle ride along the shoreline of a beautiful mountain lake? Consider a stop for a trek on the Lake Almanor Recreation Trail. Start your bike ride or hike on the lake by taking Almanor-Butt Reservoir Road off Highway 89 to Almanor Drive West. Turn right. A half mile or so after Carol’s Cafe, watch for the trailhead and parking lot on your left. Spectacular views of the lake, Dyer Mountain and Lassen Peak can be enjoyed along the entire paved trail. The newest segment of the trail can be accessed at the boat ramp on Hwy. 89 near the junction of Hwy. 147. All offer stunning views. If you want to stay nearby, Wilson’s Camp Prattville and Plumas Pines Resort offer lodging within bicycle distance.
A STOP IN GRAEAGLE
Another beautiful fall spot to drive to is the tiny town of Graeagle at the intersection of Hwy. 70 and Hwy. 89 (25 miles from Quincy). Turn onto Hwy. 89 and drive 1 mile to Graeagle where you will be greeted by a town painted red! This old lumber mill town now houses quaint gift shops and services with a picturesque Graeagle Mill Pond in the center of town. It’s easy spotting fall color along the Feather River and Gray Eagle Creek, and numerous hiking trails within Plumas Eureka State Park and the Lakes Basin Recreation Area also provide excellent off-road foliage viewing. For information on places to stay in Plumas County, contact the Plumas County Visitors Bureau, where you can also pick up information on dozens of fall color hot spots in Plumas County. Visit.plumascounty.org or call or visit them at 550 Crescent St. (Highway 70), one-half mile west of downtown Quincy, CA 95971, (800) 326-2247 or (530) 283-6345.
Sources: US National Parks Service, US Bureau of Land Management, Plumas County Visitors Bureau