The Sutter Buttes are often referred to as the world’s smallest mountain range. In the middle of the flatlands of the Sacramento Valley, a cluster of small mountains about 10 miles across rises over two thousand feet from the surrounding orchards, ranches, and rice paddies. This part of California is mostly unknown to the glamorous celebrities of Los Angeles, the beach bums of San Diego, and the techies of Silicon Valley. Yuba City is the nearest medium-sized city, just a few miles away, and the nearest major metropolitan area is Sacramento, a little over an hour away by car. Here’s an overhead view I snipped from Google Maps (the big gray blob southeast of the mountains is Yuba City and Marysville, with the Feather River separating them):
I’ve driven within view of the Sutter Buttes many times. My dad was born in Chico, and in my younger years we often drove through Yuba City on the way to and from visiting relates in Chico. I have been that way many times as an adult too. The Buttes look mysterious and out of place, surrounded on all sides by one of the flattest parts of California; they are certainly an unexpected sight to one unfamiliar with the area.
I had never been any closer to the Sutter Buttes than driving by at a distance, until earlier this week. I had a free day, and I felt like driving, so I did a bit of exploring. Most of the land is privately owned, inaccessible except for occasional guided hikes. But there are public roads that make almost a complete circle around the Buttes, which I traveled.
Sometimes, unexpected obstacles arise in life. At first, the unexpected can look scary and mysterious. But what is scary and mysterious from a distance can end up being quite beautiful up close. So take a closer look… you might be pleasantly surprised at what you find.