Seated in the center of the Central Valley lies a little gem (though not a snow harboring gem), the good ol’ Sutter Buttes. The only cluster of geographical mounds that can claim the smallest mountain range in the world. That’s right, these little guys jutting up from the plains of the fertile Central Valley have just enough height and cover just enough ground to gain recognition as their own unique range.
The mountains are about 10 miles (16 km) from north to south and east to west, and are the smallest mountain range in the world.
Standing at a whooping 2,060 at it’s highest point, climbing the Sutter Buttes is a formidable task. In order to summit you must have the sharpest of mountain sense and an innate ability to avoid arrogant, angry farmers (All of the land is privately held by cattle, sheep ranchers and farmers who have big scary guns) who will, without fail, shoot at you as you attempt to cross their property. Due to the perils of climbing the Sutter Buttes they are rarely summitted (except by the brave few cell phone service men who, without fear nor apprehension, rally up the dirt road to the towers atop on a near daily basis).
A quick rundown of fun facts about the buttes:
- Elevation: 628m (2,060 feet)
- Formed about 1.6 million years ago in the early Pleistocene era by a volcano
- They are named for John Sutter, who received a large land grant from the Mexican government.
- The mountains are about 10 miles (16 km) from north to south and east to west
- They even have their own day, Sutter Buttes Day! (quite probably a local holiday no one has heard of)
On occasion, the Buttes will catch on fire. This is mostly due to the borderline dessert environment that is the Central Valley in the middle of summer. Combine endless rolling hills of spindly dried grass with small town, tobacco chewin’, cigarette smokin’ redneck folk and you dun got yourself a recipe for a wildfire. (I cannot vouch for the validity of the previous statement, the fire on the Buttes may well have simply been a controlled burn. But be it a redneck oops or a fire station service, it made for a great show all the same)
If you happen to be passing through the Central Valley on the way to your next big ski, surf, bike, or any other adventure, take a moment to drive around California’s little gem and get to know the Sutter Buttes, the world’s most dainty mountain range.