Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail

In 1978, Southern Pacific Railroad received approval to abandon most of the old Fernley and Lassen Railroad branch line that had carried area lumber and sometimes passengers from 1914 until all railroad operations ended on the line in 1956. Following legal abandonment of the railroad in 1978, the Bureau of Land Management spearheaded the rails-to-trails conversion of the old railroad grade. Former Congressman Harold T. "Bizz" Johnson, who served in the House of Representatives from 1958-1980, was instrumental in helping establish the 30-mile segment as a Rails-to-Trails conversion for recreational use. The trail is named in his honor.

The route is ideal for families, being smooth and nearly level.   The primary trail head is located at the Susanville Railroad Depot Trailhead and Visitor Center where a number of interpretive exhibits tell the history of the area. A second visitor center is located in Westwood in a replica of the Westwood railroad depot.

The remarkable autumn colors and scenery along the Bizz Johnson Trail earned it one of eight feature spots on the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy's 1997 "Fall Foliage on the Web" rail-trails guide. Autumn is also the time for the annual Rails to Trails Festival in Susanville and along the trail.

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Latitude: 40.411432 Longitude: -120.660988 Elevation: 4225 ft
the best travel advice comes from the people who live here
Jeff Fontana

Route Directions

Following the old Fernley and Lassen Branch Line of the Southern Pacific railroad, the trail winds 25.4 miles from Susanville to Mason Station, 4.6 miles north of Westwood. 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 trail is a designated California Watchable Wildlife Site #34 making the ride a timeless adventure through a historic route accompanied by birdsong, and if you're lucky some wildlife sightings along the way.  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' on the east side of the Sierra and Cascade Range in Susanville, climbs 1300' to a high point of 5,500' at Westwood Junction then drops 400' to its terminus in Westwood at elevation 5,100'.  Check current conditions before planning a trip on the trail by calling (530) 257-0456.

Route Length

25.4 miles

Route Difficulty

Easy - Good for All Ages

ADA Accessibility Notes

The eastern section of the trail leading out of Susanville is compacted for wheelchair use.  Restrooms at Hobo Camp day use area are accessible.

Pet Friendly Notes

The trail is open to horseback riders and hikers.  Dogs are welcome under owner control.


One of the most beautiful trails I have ever been on. The canyon is wonderful. All sorts of wildlife and geologic features. After talking with the knowledgeable worker from the Rail Depot Trailhead we took the local bus from Susanville to the Westwood trailhead and rode the 26 miles back into town. Made for an easy way to experience the whole trail while only having one car. The surface is crushed stone/sand. Parts were a little loose as it appeared to be recently regraded. Had no problem with our hybrid tires, a strict road bike may find some issues in the western section but still rideable. Highly recommend! We didn't explore the "South Side Trail" as we had our hybrid bikes, but leaned from the locals that the trail offers spectacular views and great single track for hiking or mountain biking..... Next time

Beth, 7/18/2016

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