We are starting our Road Trip Susanville from Old Station because this intersection ties into several other Road Trips on our site. You can go to our Road Trip Old Station to view the features to this point.
Old Station is a very small community. As you come into town you will see Rim Rock Ranch on the right, an historic bed and breakfast plus store and cabins for rent. I like this place and the folks that run it. You can find a little bit of everything including paperbacks to trade or buy.
As kids we use to rent horses here. Good memories. Also in Old Station is JJ’s Café – good food and a gas station and store. Old Station was originally a way station on the Nobles Emigrant Trail back in the 1850’s and a military outpost that protected the stage coaches that ran through from Sacramento to Yreka beginning in 1857. A must stop for those with more curiosity than I can address here is the Forest Service Interpretive Center just past the Gas Station on the right. Get info, maps, current conditions, etc. There’s also a RV dump station and fresh water fill up to the right next to the gas station. A note of caution – from here to Susanville there are no services for 50 some miles. Old Station is a good stop for lunch or snack on Hat Creek before heading to Susanville.
Up ahead is our turn off for Susanville and Reno. Across the street is another Forrest Service Campground – right on Hat Creek but a little close to the highway for me. Highway 44 is the road to Susanville; Highway 89 goes on to Burney, highway 299 and McCloud. For these destinations, see our Road Trip Burney. Turn right on 44 as the signs indicate. After driving across the lava flow you’ll begin a steep ascent along what’s known as the Hat Creek Rim. At the top is a scenic view area to the left with a panoramic view of Lassen and the Hat Creek valley. This area is also a favorite of hang gliders. Directly across the valley is the Thousand Lake Wilderness area. For access information and description see our Road Trip Burney. From the rim area you will be heading through a large expanse of conifer forests. The road is very good with long straightaways. I love this drive. As a claustrophobic, the vast vistas and open space cleanse my psyche and sometimes myopic vision. You’ll notice tall Jeffery Pines with large reddish scales (bark) and imposing stands of Quaking Aspen growing out of the rock formations to the right side of the road. Ahead, some ten miles from the 44/89 turnoff is the road to Butte Lake. Turn right at the sign.
This is part of the Lassen National Park. It offers overnight camping, vault toilets, fresh water, but no hook-ups. The lake is fairly large and can offer decent fishing though I’ve never had much luck. Try the creek coming out of the lake. There are a couple of interesting hikes – one to Cinder Cone and another along the east side of the lake to a smaller lake reputed to have fish. Note that the Park Service has severe rules regarding dogs like they must always be on a short leash. For this reason, we prefer to pull off the road to Butte Lake before entering the park proper along the small creek and camp there.
This is a good place take a pee, walk the dog, and have a snack. You will have made a right turn off 44 to enter the rest area and probably noticed a sign indicating the road to Crater Lake across the highway to the left.
I resist mentioning this place as I consider it my secret spot – so don’t tell anyone else. The road into Crater Lake is rough and tends to keep folks away. It’s not for longer trailers and big RV’s. We have a 20’ trailer which works just fine. The lake itself is seven miles in and sits, as indicated by the name, in an old volcanic crater. There are seventeen camp sites, vault toilets, hand pump fresh water, and a boat ramp (no gas motors). The fishing tends to be good throughout the season. A couple of the camp sites front the lake with a nice expanse of sandy beach good for swimming in the summer. There are always a few ospreys fishing which is fun to watch. Try putting out some baited crawdad traps in the evening along the rocky east bank.
From the rest stop area, head towards Susanville. Ahead on the right is the Bogart Campground. It’s about as basic as it gets. Last time I was there it was sort of a boggy area with what appear to be some long term tenants. I don’t recommend it. Further on 44 after crossing the rail road tracks, look to your right for a natural body of water with no apparent name. We call it Long Lake. The access is an unmarked dirt road off the highway. The lake always seems to have some water even in droughts. It’s a particularly interesting area in late spring when the wild flowers bloom. Years ago we caught some sizable trout out of here, but nothing of late. You have to walk in, but it’s just a short distance.
Some four miles ahead there is a turn off to Silver Lake and the town of Westwood. It’s a good paved road. We’ll deal with Westwood under the ‘Road Trip to Lake Almanor’.
The turn off to Sliver Lake on the right is well marked. The gravel road leading up a small canyon parallels the headwaters of the Susan River which is hardly a river- more of a creek. It can be fun fishing for pan fry given enough water. Silver Lake is an old forest service long term lease site for summer cabins, a practice that has been abandoned for some time. There are perhaps a dozen of the old structures on the lake. It has a ‘Golden Pond” ambiance and is pretty spectacular with a huge granite outcropping along the far west shore. The campground is spacious and can handle large RV’s. There are no hook ups, but you’re in a fairly remote area bordering the Caribou Wilderness. The fishing is good but limited unless you have a boat. There used to be a small store that rented boats but it seems to come and go with the seasons. The Caribou Wilderness has over twenty lakes, numerous ponds and springs. To the west it borders Lassen Park. The lakes are planted and the fishing is usually good. The best website for info is usually Wikipedia or the Forest Service sites. The drawback of Caribou and Silver Lake are the mosquitos which can be intense until mid-July. August and September are great months for a visit.
Continuing on to Susanville via 44, you’ll come to two large, shallow reservoirs on the right called Hog Flat and McCoy Flat Reservoir.
They belong to agricultural interests in the Susanville area and are drawn down over the summer. Recently there’s been little to no water but in better years they are prime recreational sites. They’re open to the public with access at the lower ends to each. There are camp sites but not amenities. Fishing has been very good in past years and I suspect they must be planted. When full, I’ve seen people water skiing so gas powered boats are obviously not a problem. They are fed by the Susan River. A little further down 44 is the Goumaz Rd. turn off to the right. This leads to the Susan River which at this point is a lovely lava rock stream (still not a river). Given enough water, the fishing is decent. There are no developed camp sites, but people make do around the bridge area.
Back on 44 towards Susanville it’s a fairly straight shot to Highway 36. To the right on Highway 36 is Lake Almanor and Chester which is covered in the aforementioned post. To the left Susanville is five miles away. About three miles ahead is the turn off to Eagle Lake.
Go some seventeen miles and descend into the lake basin. This is an endorheic lake or, if you don’t have a PHD in geology, a water impounding basin with no outlet. It has a strain of trout that have adapted to alkaline conditions and grow quite large. Obviously it is very popular for fishing. There are facilities, RV hook-ups, a marina, provisions, houses for rent, and a variety of cheap to free campgrounds. It is controlled by the BLM. Further information is available online.
Back on 44 heading south, you descend into Susanville. You’ll get a panorama of the north eastern Sierras and the eastern edge of the Great Basin or high desert country. The first area you’ll come to is old town Susanville. On your right, notice the Pioneer Saloon which is now occupied by Lassen Ale Works.
This is a great place for local flavor, good beers, and inspired food. The road through town goes from old, historic on the north end to generic on the south end. Half way in between is Ash St. to the left which will take you to Skyline and then to Diamond Mountain Casino. I like this place. The food is good, the slots are fairly loose and, because I like gin martinis, one of the few places that pours Beefeaters from the well. There’s a good RV park to the left on Johnsonville Rd. Across from the Walmart entrance. Make your first left and it’s straight ahead. Susanville, for most folks traveling, is a ‘pass through’ town. Don’t be fooled by the blind desire to get somewhere quick. We assume, since you’ve chosen to use our site, that a meandering adventure is more your goal than a destination. This town is full of history, a lot of good antique and gift shops, a wide assortment of restaurants and a taste of the west; it is good hunting and exploring country, the seat for Lassen County and home to solid country folk.
For those into mountain biking or just hiking, the Biz Johnson Trial starts in Susanville following the Susan River for miles with many access points in between. Penny is on the Devil’s Corral Trestle Bridge, which is part of the Biz Johnson Trail. This and much of the rest of north eastern California, is a forgotten treasure. Enjoy and please share your experience via email to this website.