The Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail, named for the congressman who played a major role in its creation, follows the original course of the western and more scenic part of the Fernley and Lassen branch line. Part of the Southern Pacific, this was a timber railroad that declined with the industry. It was finally abandoned in 1978.
The trail runs some 25.4 miles from its eastern end in Susanville to its western end north of Westwood at Mason Station, where it joined the main line (which still exists). The total elevation gain is about 1,200 feet. The trail is closed to motor vehicles, but open to hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, and (conditions permitting) cross-country skiing.
The first 16 miles run alongside the Susan River, of which the first seven miles, with several trestles and two tunnels in the roadless Susan River Canyon, are the most scenic. The upper part from Mason Station, however, is most likely to have cross-country skiing available as it gets more snow, being at a higher elevation.
My friends and I have ridden this trail a few times. It’s full of great views and you’ll get a workout! Be sure to pack a lunch and enjoy this Northern California Gem.