Sutter buttes near Yuba City, Calif.

A combine harvests rice near the Sutter Buttes.

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Rising starkly from the Central Valley near Yuba City, Calif., the Sutter Buttes have an air of mystery. "The buttes are an island, not only geologically and physically but also in time," says Mike Hubbartt, who leads hikes in what he declares is "the world's smallest mountain range" for the Middle Mountain Foundation. "The entire Central Valley has been developed, but this is wild."

All the land is private (except for a small state parcel, not yet open). But it's accessible through organized outings, from birding walks to challenging summit ascents. There's also a Native Ways hike, complete with acorn gathering, and a geology trek led by a professional vulcanologist. Hiking season starts in late October.

Fall's cooler days, with migratory birds passing through, are especially beautiful. "The wild grapes and the redbud get some color, and as it rains we start seeing green in the golden grass," says landowner Margit Sands. Adds Hubbartt: "There's no such thing as a bad day in the buttes." Advance registration for hikes is a must; starting October 7 you'll find a schedule on the foundation's Web site: middlemountain.org.

Photography by Anthony Dunn/DRR

This article was first published in September 2008. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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