With its many rivers, lakes, and beautiful open spaces, the Yuba Sutter region is an outstanding destination for anyone looking to spend time outdoors. These two Central Valley counties, located about 45 minutes north of Sacramento, might be better known for their agricultural traditions, but whether you’re into bicycling, hiking, fishing, or birding, you’ll find plenty of uncrowded activities.
Stretching from the flatlands of the Central Valley and into the Sierra Nevada foothills, the Yuba Sutter region encompasses a wide variety of environments. Bullards Bar Reservoir, situated off State Highway 49 in Tahoe National Forest, has more than 60 miles of shoreline and earned acclaim as one of the country’s top recreational lakes from Water Ski Magazine. Watercraft rentals are available at the marina, and anglers come to this lake on the North Yuba River (formed by the New Bullards Bar Dam) for outstanding trout and Kokanee salmon fishing, as well as its big populations of largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass.
Where to Hike in the Yuba Sutter Region
Hikers can explore the lake and surrounding pine forests on trails ranging from short routes ideal for children to the 14-mile Bullards Bar Trail. There’s so much to do that you might want to spend a few days at the lake, whether you get together with a group of friends and rent a houseboat, or pitch a tent at one of the reservoir’s many campgrounds. There’s more recreation on the water and along 24 miles of shoreline at Englebright Lake, where the campsites are boat-in only and you can rent houseboats and smaller craft at the marina.
The region is also home to the Sutter Buttes—dubbed “the world’s smallest mountain range.” This distinctive set of eroded volcanic peaks rise from the valley floor to an elevation of 2,132-feet. Because the range is on private land, trail access is limited to guided outings led by Middle Mountain Interpretive Hikes.
Where to Bike in Yuba Sutter
A mostly flat bicycling loop circles the Sutter Buttes, and the annual Bike Around the Buttes fundraising event lets you pedal along four different routes before the ride culminates in a celebratory lunch with live music. If you’re looking for a short and easy ride, the Sutter Commuter Bikeway travels through farmland as it follows the onetime route of the Sacramento Northern Railroad on a scenic, mostly car-free 10-mile roundtrip with views of the Sutter Buttes.
Wildlife Spotting in Yuba Sutter
The region’s many wildlife refuges and preserves give visitors a chance to enjoy a diverse range of outdoor activities. At the 11,900-acre Spenceville Wildlife Area adjacent to Beale Air Force Base, a 5.3-mile loop open to hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians leads to two waterfalls. The wildlife area is also a popular destination for fishing.
About 20 minutes south of Yuba City, experience a surviving remnant of the natural Central Valley as you follow five miles of trails through oak forests and riparian woodlands along the Feather River at the 430-acre Bobelaine Audubon Sanctuary. More than 190 bird species have been identified at this preserve, and you might also spot river otters and beavers.
Yuba Sutter’s location along the migratory route of the Pacific Flyway definitely makes it a hotspot for birders. The ponds and fields at the 9,100-acre Gray Lodge Wildlife Area northwest of Yuba City draw more than one million waterfowl, especially in the peak months from November into early February. There’s also outstanding wildlife viewing at the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge, where a boardwalk overlooks a wetland filled with waterfowl, and on six miles of trails at the Sutter National Wildlife Refuge.
For birds of a very different feather, West Coast Falconry conducts an assortment of private and group outings during which you can observe and interact with birds of prey including falcons, hawks, and owls.
Be sure to explore the region’s many rivers, including prime fishing for wild rainbow trout on a 21-mile stretch of the Yuba River, and kayaking and rafting along the Bear River’s four miles of Class II whitewater. On the Sacramento River, Lovey’s Landing Marina is the place to go for camping and to see if you can hook a king salmon during the season from August into December.