Must-See Hidden Gems Around the Lake Almanor Area

You have survived the winter, made it through the holidays, and binge-watched all of your favorite shows.  Now summer has finally arrived, and it is during this time of year we start thinking about getting out for adventures.  For you valley dwellers, the Lake Almanor area is a perfect day’s drive that offers a ton of things to see and do.  Getting out of the summer heat in Sacramento Valley can be refreshing.

Lake Almanor Area

There is a reason Highway 36 is called the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway.  It can be summed up by that magical feeling you get when you round the corner at Johnson Grade that first time back visiting Almanor and are greeted by Mt. Lassen off in the distance, snow capped and towering over the entire basin.  The feeling of untouched wilderness and absolute grandeur lets you know you’ve arrived someplace special.

If you are new to the area and want to find out where to start exploring, stop in at the Lassen National Forest Ranger Station in Chester and pick up a map of the forest.  While you’re there, stop by the Coffee Station in Chester and purchase a Water Trails Map of Lake Almanor that highlights the great spots to explore while on the water, as well as all of the local services that support the watersports enthusiast.  Lastly, don’t forget to stop by our office at 681 Main St. in Chester and let us know you enjoyed the article.  Here are some of our favorite spots to visit:  

Things to do near Lake Almanor

Drakesbad Guest Ranch

The historic lodge of Drakesbad is located in Warner Valley about 17 miles from Chester, CA, and offers plenty to do even if you only have a morning or afternoon to visit.  Make reservations for dinner, enjoy some horseback riding, a relaxing massage, and a soak in the hot springs. You can also enjoy some hiking in the area;  Boiling Springs Lake Hiking trail and Devil’s Kitchen Hiking Trail are in the Warner Valley area and are open to all visitors.  These trails are both part of the Pacific Crest Trail, and the trailhead is located 1/4 mile before Drakesbad.  

Indian Valley

Both Greenville and the communities around Indian Valley have a rich history as boomtowns.  Abandoned structures and local lore lead many a traveler to the area in search of a romantic, bygone era.  Architecture and history buffs alike will immediately fall in love with the locale.  The town centers of Greenville, Taylorsville, and Genesee all have buildings dating back to the 1860s that are still being used as shops and residences today.  That being said, what really draws people to the area is its sheer beauty.   

Mount Hough is located at the southernmost end of Indian Valley, and its snow-covered shoots make it look as if you might be driving through the European Alps.  Atop of Mt. Hough sits the subalpine Crystal Lake, a pristine beauty that is truly the diamond of the Sierra Nevada.  From there, the immense and spectacular vistas,ranging from Mt. Lassen in the north to the Sierra Buttes in the south, make the climb an experience that is simply not to be missed.

Things to do near Crystal Lake

Westwood

The drive from Lake Almanor to Westwood is a picturesque cruise where you can stop off at a number of locations and take in all the area’s natural beauty.  The Hamilton Branch of the Feather River, which originates from the watersheds of the Keddie Ridge, Coyote Peak, and Pegleg Mountain, drains into Mountain Meadow Reservoir before running along the northern route of HWY 147, and features some of the best fishing holes in the area.  The community of Hamilton Branch has public parking on county road A-13, where you can hike down to the river and fish in an area that is well known for its monster Rainbow Trout.  When passing through the community of Clear Creek, be sure to stop off for a picnic lunch at the park nestled next to the naturally occurring pond, which is fed from underground springs that bubble up through the lava flows of Mt. Lassen.

Buffalo Chips Pizza

If you are driving through Westwood, be sure to stop by Buffalo Chips Pizza. Its is located at 322 Birch Street.   One thing is for sure, if you are looking for the best of the best, a new go-to, Buffalo Chips Pizza is it.  Marilyn Gibbs’ legacy lives on with her son Ryan at the helm, and boy does it taste good.  They are doing it the right way: hand throwing homemade dough, topping it with the freshest ingredients and the tastiest super secret sauce, and crisping it in an old fashioned brick oven to a bubbling perfection.  You might also try their real crowd-pleaser, the Beefy Cheese Supreme.  

It really feels like you are stepping back in time when you visit Westwood and dine at Buffalo Chips Pizza,housed in their converted Red River Lumber Company bunkhouse.  Don’t miss the opportunity to experience both the history of logging and the technological marvels of the Red River Lumber Company on display at the local museum, and snap a selfie with Paul and Babe.

Things to do near Buffalo Chips

Susanville

Susanville, a short drive from Lake Almanor, is an up-and-coming destination for cycling enthusiasts.  The Susanville Ranch Park and the Southside Trail offer over 40 miles of non-motorized trails ideal for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and dog walking, as well as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.  Or, one could simply go for a quiet stroll. The 14 miles of trails in the northern portion of the park offer a very exciting experience for more advanced trail users. There are challenging climbs, bermed turns, an obstacle park, many loop options, and spectacular views of the Honey Lake Valley.  

Biz Johnson Trail

The Bizz Johnson Rail Trail is perfect for beginner riders or hikers that want to take in the area’s beauty without too much of a challenge.  The former logging rail line that was converted into a recreation trail in the early 1980s is best known for its gorgeous landscapes that meander through the Susan River Canyon, and include semi-arid plateaus, upland forests of pine and fir, and historic tunnels and trestles.  After your outing, stop in at the Lassen Land and Trails Trust’s Farmers’ Market (located at 601 Richmond Road in Susanville) and sample some of Northeastern California’s best locally produced eggs, fruit, meats, vegetables, and prepared foods.  The Market operates from June through early October.  

Things to do near the Bizz Johnson Rail Trail