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Free Visitor Guide
Hwy 299 Cedarville, CA 96104
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In the northeastern corner of California the Warner Mountains rise in a near solid wall to an elevation of almost 10,000 feet. Crossing over these mountains at Cedar Valley, you will enter a totally different world. Explorer John Freeman named it “the Great Basin”, the land where none of the rivers run to the sea. 

The Surprise Valley/Barrel Springs Back Country Byway is through this remote and rugged area. The byway provides an opportunity for those who want to get away from crowds and experience the west as it used to be. On this byway you will see clear evidence of our continent pulling apart, of giant earthquakes and volcanoes. You will be able to stand on the beach of a prehistoric lake where people hunted ice age animals, search for fossils and prehistoric art, and view the final resting place of 19th century cavalry troopers. 

This drive begins in Cedarville, which is reached on Hwy. 299 from Alturas. Travel north from Cedarville to Fort Bidwell, about thirty to forty minutes without stops. Fort Bidwell was founded in 1865 as a post to insure the safety of passing pioneers. In 1892 it became part of the Fort Bidwell Indian Reservation. Today the original Fort Bidwell general store is still in operation and the original hotel has been renovated to comfortably serve its guests. From Fort Bidwell take County Road 6 east to the California/Nevada border. Here the road name changes to Barrel Springs. Notice how the countryside opens up dramatically into a vast high desert. You are actually traversing a prehistoric lakebed, Lake Surprise. At this point, you will begin heading south on a route that more than 300,000 settlers used on their way to Northern California and Oregon. Once you reach the town of Vya you are in the Great Basin surrounded by Nevada high desert. Turning west again toward California you will connect with Hwy. 299. 

To many, the high desert of the Great Basin appears to be a forgotten, forlorn and desolate landscape, but this environment is home to many species of plant life, rich mineral deposits and desert wildlife. Along this route you will see dramatic vast high desert, strange rock formations, fossils, and petrified wood. You will also have traveled the route taken by many of the west’s earliest settlers. 

Drive Tips 

Distance: 93 miles 

Minimum Driving Time: 3 hours 

Best Time to go: Summer, check road conditions before traveling. 

For regional information contact Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association at 530-365-7500  

Along the byway: Contact the BLM office in Cedarville for a Byway tour guide, 530-279-6101, and Great Surprise Valley Chamber, 530-279-2001. Services along the route: Lodging and other traveler services are only available in Cedarville and Fort Bidwell. There are no other services along the route. 

Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association
1699 HWY 273, Anderson, CA 96007 | (P) 530-365-7500 | (F) 530-365-1258
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