Outdoor activities in the Surprise Valley area
are limited only by the imagination and skills of the
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
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
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
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
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.
>> See Our Recreation