Outdoor activities in the Surprise Valley area are limited only by the imagination and skills of the participants.
The surrounding area provides a host of natural and historic places of interest and beauty to discover that will be rewarding for the beginner and professional alike. Recreational geologists will be fascinated by fossil exploration, gemstone hunting and the geothermal hot springs that dot the valley. Rock hunting is a popular pastime for young and old. Other outdoor opportunities include hang gliding, cycling, windsailing on dry lakebeds, off-roading, bicycling on country roads, nature photography, camping in pristine wilderness and so much more!
Fishing is one of Modoc County's popular recreational opportunities. From the countless creeks, to reservoirs, rivers and mountain lakes, you'll find a profusion of native species including bass and trout to the big catfish and bass in the warmer waters of the Pit River.
For our more sedate visitors, the region affords spectacular views along the 93-mile Surprise Valley-Barrel Springs Scenic Byway loop or while navigating the many back roads through the valley. The Modoc Wildlife Refuge, River Center, and Modoc County Historical Museum, all located in Alturas, are negotiable by visitors of all ages and physical abilities.
Bird watching is a growing national pastime and Surprise Valley is a prime destination for those seeking to observe a great variety of birds in the wild. Seasonal sightings of sage hen, eagles, falcons and hawks, migrating ducks and geese, sand hill cranes, egret and other waterfowl, quail, pheasant, dove and grouse are common.
Fandango Pass Road (partially unpaved), just south of Fort Bidwell, roughly follows the historic Applegate Pioneer Trail over the Warner Mountains, connecting with Highway 395 near Goose Lake. County Road 2, north of Fort Bidwell, is a rough road that takes intrepid explorers up into the old gold rush area known as High Grade.
Cedar Pass Ski Hill has a T-bar lift and offers weekend winter recreation, including alpine and cross-country skiing, snowboarding and sledding.
Maps and brochures detailing outdoor options and specific sites and trails are available locally at the BLM's Surprise Field Office or from the Warner Mountain Ranger District offices of the U.S. Forest Service in Cedarville.
The North and South Warner Mountain Wilderness Areas
The Warner Mountains that form the western boundary of Surprise Valley are an impressive spur of the Cascade Range. They were named for Captain W. H. Warner who was killed by Native Americans in 1849 while making an examination of the routes from the Humboldt Valley to the Sacramento River.
Their snowcapped peaks serve as a natural barrier separating Surprise Valley from the rest of Modoc County and comprise the easternmost portion of the Modoc National Forest. Highway 299 divides the 80-mile long range at Cedar Pass into two sections - the North Warners and South Warner Wilderness Area. Elevations range from 5,000 to more than 9,900 feet.
The Warners boasts two National Recreation Trails. Blue Lake NRT encircles Blue Lake in the South Warners, and High Grade NRT runs through the heart of the North Warners.
The mountains are dotted with twelve campgrounds and recreation areas, hiking trails, stocked lakes and reservoirs that offer excellent fishing (fishing licenses and bait/accessories are available locally.) Hunters will find this a welcoming and rewarding destination in all seasons.
The South Warner Wilderness Area is eighteen miles long by eight miles wide and offers breathtaking panoramic views of the valley as well as the highest peaks in northeastern California. Hikers and visitors on horseback will appreciate the 77 miles of trails that encompass five loops, ensuring very little doubling back on any route.
While winter sports are limited in the wilderness area due to restricted access and snow pack, hardy visitors will enjoy ice fishing at Clear Lake as well as cross country skiing and snowshoeing.
Also see Recreation Resource Links
Page modified: 08 Dec 2022 13:11:38 -0800