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Rails to Trails Festival and Handcar Races

Competition or Sporting Event

Side-by-side handcar races, Susanville, CA

Sponsored by the Lassen Land and Trails Trust, the annual Rails to Trails Festival takes place at the Historic Susanville Railroad Depot and the trailhead of the Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail. The highlight of the annual festival are the historic railway handcar races, a chili cook-off and salsa contest, a craft fair, live music and local culture.

The main attraction of the festival is always the Historic Railway Handcar Races. The historic handcars were used by the railroads to maintain the tracks. The handcar design consists of a seesaw-like arm, which the competitors alternately push down and pull up to move down the tracks, just like the railroad workers did back in the day. In fact, this race is the only side-by-side handcar race in California, that features parallel tracks stretching over ¼ mile. The competition allows teams to race against each other and the clock to become a part of our local history. Teams consist of 5 members, 1 pusher and 4 pumpers. Race categories include Women's, Men's, Coed, and Masters (50 years old and over).

The Rails to Trails Festival Chili Cook-off and Salsa Contest is a great way for the community to showcase their cooking talents. Festival goers can sample more than 15 chili and salsa entries under one tent from noon to 2:00pm and help pick the People's Choice award to complement the judge's awards.

Along with the various competitions, the festival will be serenaded with live bluegrass music by Wild Horse Drive. Local and regional artists will be on hand with a variety of one-of-a-kind items. Stop by, grab a cold beer from the Trust, and enjoy the entertainment.

The Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail winds 25.4 miles through the rugged Susan River Canyon from the eastern-most trailhead at the Susanville Railroad Depot to the west end trailhead at Mason Station, 4.6 miles north of Westwood. It follows the old Southern Pacific Railroad’s Fernley and Lassen branch line. The trail features 12 bridges, two tunnels and beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. The trail is used for multiple activities, including hiking, jogging, mountain bicycling, and horseback riding. Lassen Land and Trails Trust has partnered with the Bureau of Land Management and Lassen Rural Bus to provide the community with convenient access to the Bizz Johnson Trail. The trail is also a designated California Watchable Wildlife Site *#*34.Riders and hikers can arrange one-way trips on the trail without having to plan their own vehicle shuttles with convenient shuttles from Susanville.

All aboard!

Participation Requirements (if any)

You must be at least 16 years old to participate in the handcar races.

Pet Friendly Notes

Please leave your pets at home!


Admission Fee (if any)

Admission fee for a team to participate in the Handcar Races is $50 ($10 per team member). There is a $10 fee to enter the Chili Cook-off and Salsa Contest, and tasting kits cost $7 each or a family pack of four for $25