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Directions: Take Hwy 99 north to Yuba City. Guides will set a meeting location in town and drive you 11 miles to the trailhead.
Let's be honest. Part of the pull to explore the Sutter Buttes—that stark and dramatic outcropping of volcanic spires exploding out of flat farmland near Yuba City—is its velvet-rope appeal. Since it’s privately owned, the only public access is through limited excursions during the spring and autumn organized by the Middle Mountain Foundation (MMF). Starting in late October, MMF offers around two dozen fall hikes, and they are as diverse in theme as the terrain they cover (moonlight stroll, anyone?). But the scrapbook experience has to be the heart-pounding Buttes Transect Higher, which takes sure-footed trekkers through the range’s grassy apron and almost 2,000 feet up to the soaring ridgeline of its castellated core. Guides will tell you that the Native Americans who lived here believed that after death, their souls ascended to its highest peaks. A journey through this pristine landscape certainly feels just like heaven. Hikes run $35-$50 per person. middlemountain.org —T.S.
With its sizable Sikh population, Yuba knows South Asian, and locals will tell you that the best Punjabi can be found at Star of India. Ensconced in a mini-mall near the Sutter Buttes gate, the low-key spot specializes in savory curries with just the right postscript of heat, as well as snowy idlis and accoutrements such as coconut chutney. The lunch buffet, which costs less than $10, lets you take advantage of the myriad choices, including silky saag paneer, deep red chicken tandoori and hearty garlic naan. 1538 Poole Blvd., Yuba City. 530-673-1999