The Devils Corral to Susanville section of the Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail beckons day hikers, backpackers, bikers, and nature lovers to enjoy the exceptional beauty of the Susan River Canyon.
Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail, Devils Corral to Susanville Key Data
Length: 13.8 miles round trip
Hiking time: 7 hours, or 2 days for backpackers
High point: 4,660 feet
Total elevation gain: 450 feet
Season: early May to early November; the Bizz Johnson Trail is prettiest in May to early June and mid- to late October; often snow-free in winter, and open to cross-country skiing when snow covered. One of the best far Northern California spring backpacking trips
Water: available from the Susan River; purify first. Best to bring your own.
Maps: Download an excellent map from the Lassen Land and Trails Trust site. Topo maps: USGS 7.5′ Roop Mountain, USGS 7.5′ Susanville
Wilderness Permit: none required
Backpacking: allowed. Backpackers need a campfire permit.
Nearest campground: Merrill Campground
Information: Eagle Lake Field Office, Bureau of Land Management
Devils Corral Bizz Johnson Trail Trailhead GPS coordinates: N 40 23.878 W 120 46.401
Notes: dogs allowed, toilet at trailhead. You’ll share the trail with bikers and equestrians.
Driving Directions to the Devils Corral/Bizz Johnson Trail Trailhead
Travel CA Highway 36 to the signed Devil’s Corral trail-access point, which is on the south side of the highway and just east of the bridge across the Susan River, 14 miles east of Westwood and 7 miles west of Susanville. Follow the paved road 0.2 mile to the parking area. (To reach the Susanville end of the hike, take Highway 36 to Susanville and head south on Weatherlow Street, which eventually becomes Richmond Road. Follow Richmond Road to the trail-access point at the historic Susanville railroad depot, which is about 0.5 mile from Highway 36.)
Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail From Devils Corral to Susanville: Hiking/Biking Trail Map
I’ve reproduced the basic trail map for this Bizz Johnson Trail section from my out-of-print book 75 Hikes in California’s Mount Shasta and Lassen Volcanic National Park Regions. Find an up-to-date and infinitely better trail map here, courtesy of Lassen Land and Trails Trust.
Hiking the Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail From Devils Corral to Susanville
The Susan River emerges from mountain lakes near the Caribou Wilderness and flows southeast to empty into Honey Lake. This hike takes you through a scenic section of the river canyon that shelters a large variety of plant and animal life and offers a large dose of human history. Note that you can backpack the trail, but its heavy use by mountain bikers and other hikers means that you’d have little privacy. The walk is described here as beginning at Devil’s Corral, but you also can begin it from Susanville railroad depot or arrange for a car shuttle.
The Fernley and Lassen Railroad
As you begin the hike, note that the Bizz Johnson Trail is wide and flat with a very gentle grade—it once held the tracks of the Fernley and Lassen Railroad. In operation from 1914 to 1956, the railroad serviced the local timber industry. As you walk the trail, note the mixture of plant habitats: Drier areas hold western juniper, sagebrush, and antelopebrush; moister areas feature ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, and white fir; and the river’s waters allow streamside willows and black cottonwoods to flourish.
The Bizz Johnson Trail Meets the Susan River
You’ll soon catch the first view of the Susan River, which will be your constant companion for the remainder of the hike. At 1.3 miles, cross the river on the first of several bridges, then see Cheney Creek tumble in from the south. Inspect the canyon walls; they’re composed of basalt that began as fluid lava that flowed for miles before cooling. Look for the bands separating successive flows and for the columnar jointing that cracked the basalt as it cooled.
Reach a tunnel at 1.7 miles. It’s cool and dusky recesses offer welcome respite from the heat and light outside, and its damp and musty smell will remind you of a wine cellar. (A good swimming hole is just upstream from the tunnel’s east end.) Pass through a second tunnel at 2.0 miles, then take a rest on a log bench situated under the shade of a ponderosa pine at 2.8 miles.
Susan River Swimming Holes
The way continues east past the Susan River’s tumbling waters. The stream slows enough to allow swimming under a bridge at 5.4 miles and farther downstream near sandbars accessed by side trails. Susanville and civilization appear at 6.2 miles, and at 6.9 miles, you’ll reach the Susanville railroad depot, which has a visitor center, outside interpretive displays, and an information kiosk.
Devil’s Corral to Goumaz on the Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail
If you wish to explore more of the Bizz Johnson Trail’s 25-mile length, consider hiking upstream 6 miles from Devil’s Corral to Goumaz. For information on this section and on the rest of the trail, contact the Eagle Lake Ranger District.
Want to Hike Nearby Trails?
Then see my book Day Hiking: Mount Shasta, Lassen & Trinity Alps Regions. It has numerous hikes in nearby Lassen Volcanic National Park and surrounding terrain in Lassen National Forest.
Your Take: Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail
What’s been your experience? Anything to add?