Butte County’s high country turns into a winter wonderland once the snow season begins. Whether by ski, snowshoe, or snowmobile, one of the best local spots to experience winter sports is in Jonesville. This tiny but historic town just past Butte Meadows lies within Lassen National Forest not too far from the headwaters of Butte Creek. The Jonesville Staging Area off of Humboldt Road is the starting point for a variety of winter adventures.
If you’re ready to cross-country ski or snowshoe, the Colby Meadows Winter Recreation Area offers nine miles of ungroomed cross-country ski trails in a beautiful valley that follows Colby Creek. Enjoy beginner routes perfect for new winter explorers as well as intermediate and expert options. There are also several routes measuring about five miles in length that can bring you to the top of Colby Mountain Lookout (a 1,000 foot ascent). While on the trail, keep an eye out for aqua-blue diamond markers and markers indicating trail difficulty. To access the Colby Meadows area, find the trail head on the western side of the Jonesville Staging Area that includes a bridge over Willow Creek. Snowshoers are asked to walk next to, not on, established ski paths.
There is also a backcountry yurt available for reservation from CSU Chico’s Adventure Outings organization. The yurt is a 1.3 mile hike, ski, or snowshoe from the Staging Area alongside Colby Creek.
The Jonesville Snowmobile Park also starts at the Staging Area and provides over 60 miles of groomed trails with several loop options. Snowmobiling trails are generally on forest service roads and include Humboldt and Humbug Summits. There is also snowmobile access to Colby Mountain Lookout (via 2NN57) which includes views of Lassen Peak on clear days. You can even cruise all the way to Lake Almanor via snowmobile if you’re prepared for a full day! The Jonesville Staging Area has day-use hours of 6:00AM to 10:00PM and includes a vault toilet.
Make your way to Chico via Highway 99 (85 miles north of Sacramento, 75 miles south of Redding). Take Exit 385 eastbound onto Highway 32. Ascend into Sierra Nevada foothills past the community of Forest Ranch. After 26.7 miles, turn left onto Humboldt Road (you’ll see a sign directing you towards Butte Meadows). Continue 10.2 miles through the community Butte Meadows (last chance for food, supplies, and gas). During the winter, the maintained portion of Humboldt Road will be gated at the Jonesville Snowmobile Park staging area. Those wanting to travel by ski or snowshoe should park towards the western (left) side of the parking area to access Colby Meadows. Road conditions may vary depending on winter weather! Be prepared with chains and extra supplies.