You can see them from Interstate 5 north of Sacramento, a rugged set of outcroppings, a tiny mountain range of its own, set amidst the endless flats of rice fields and almond trees. Rising more than 2000′ in jagged spires and rounded towers flanked with green pastureland, the Sutter Buttes are perhaps the most mysterious of California’s ranges. Remnants of volcanic activity nearly 2 million years ago they are geologically set apart from the rest of the valley. Culturally too they are set apart. Most of the Buttes are privately held by longtime ranching families. Sutter Buttes Regional Land Trust offers educational hikes but none to the the highest summit of South Butte. Thankfully after long negotiations a small group of peakbaggers were able to make a special visit to the tower site and the high point of Sutter County.
After a precipitous drive to the base of the summit we hiked the last few hundred feet up a grassy slope and along a rocky path through manzanita and poison oak to the highest rock formations. This image is from the summit looking towards North Butte and the Sierras and shows the seldom-seen interior of the Buttes.
Although access is difficult, hopefully the Land Trust can find ways to allow more people to visit Sutter Buttes and contribute to their ongoing protection.