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At the crossroads between mountains and desert, this northeastern California town beckons explorers and history lovers

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Historic Susanville keeps close ties to its landscape and its past. Visit this town perched on a high-desert plateau to stroll golden foothills, hike or pedal one of the West’s best rail trails, delve into California history, or chat with the locals over craft beer and pizza. Whatever you do, there’s no need to hurry—this small town in the state’s Shasta Cascade region, located about two hours east of Redding, is delightfully untouched by the rush.

Things to Do in Susanville

The best way to explore this four-season landscape in Lassen County is on two wheels. The Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail, fringed with riverside woodlands, sagebrush, and pines, winds 25 miles through the rugged Susan River canyon. The smooth gravel treadway follows the route of the old Southern Pacific Railroad line, crossing 12 bridges and trestles and passing through two tunnels. Start at the historic Susanville railroad depot, then ride out-and-back as far as you please on an easy, mellow grade.

See more of this pastoral landscape at 1,100-acre Susanville Ranch Park, where 75 miles of trails lace the sun-kissed foothills—including 29 miles of single-track built with mountain bikers in mind. Dog walkers and families stick to easy strolls on the park’s south side, where Paiute and Bagwell creeks nourish grassy meadows and cottonwood groves. More ambitious hikers prefer the park’s higher-elevation northern stretch, which offers aerobic climbs and scenic viewpoints. With a pre-dawn start, you can watch the sun rise to the east over the Great Basin.

Eagle Lake in Susanville, California

California’s second-largest natural lake lies 16 miles north. Home to a unique species of rainbow trout that lives only in this lake’s alkaline waters, Eagle Lake also has a family-friendly paved bike trail, campgrounds, and a marina. Birders know it’s a dependable place to spot bald eagles and osprey.

There’s even more outdoor adventure farther afield. An hour’s drive leads to the remote eastern edge of Lassen Volcanic National Park and the hulking Cinder Cone and Painted Dunes—remarkable relics from the area’s volcanic past.

Where to Eat and Drink in Susanville

If you’re starting the day with an early bike ride or hike, fuel up with espresso, berry bowls, and bagel sandwiches at Joe’s Coffee. After your adventures, sip craft beers at the town’s lively gathering spot, Lassen Ale Works. The taps pour eight in-house brews, including a malt-forward Almanor Amber, crisp Bizz Johnson blonde, and smoky Pioneer Porter, plus rotating seasonal varieties. Each beer pairs perfectly with a roasted mushroom or pesto pizza from the kitchen’s wood-fired oven.

Other noteworthy food stops in town include Courthouse Café for birria tacos or carnitas burritos, and Whitehouse Restaurant for perfectly spiced pad see ew and avocado curry.

Where to Learn About Susanville’s History

Learn about Susanville’s colorful past at the Lassen Historical Museum, which houses nostalgic memorabilia and rare photos from Lassen County’s pioneer days. The most intriguing artifact is the adjacent log cabin, Roop’s Fort, which served as a trading post for travelers on the Noble Emigrant Trail. The cabin overlooks Paiute Creek and Memorial Park, where thousands of 1850s emigrants camped in wagon trains on their way to the gold fields. The “fort” was built by Isaac Roop, who founded Susanville and named it for his daughter.

Roop’s Fort was also the site of the little-known Sagebrush War of 1863, a two-day skirmish over who had the jurisdiction to tax the people of Susanville and Honey Valley. The argument ended with the creation of Lassen County, and Susanville was named the new county’s seat.

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