We’d been driving all day — up to I80 to Highway 89 and Sierraville near Tahoe, looping over to Quincy on Highway 70 and returning on the same road to Oroville and back down out of the mountains into the flats of the Central Valley north of Sacramento.

It’s board-flat for miles heading south toward Yubaville, then up on the right, these crags appear in the distance. I had no idea what they were, but knew it’d be cool to head over there and check ’em out.

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They’re called the Sutter Buttes — surrounded by private property and essentially inaccessible. Just a bunch of old, extinct volcanoes (though what fun it’d be if they became active again!). That Other Tom wrote about them the other day, mentioning an organization that leads guided hikes there.

The Buttes are the series of miniature mountains and volcanic spires located between Williams and Colusa, about 50 miles north of Sacramento. Because the Sutter Buttes are surrounded by privately owned ranches, the access roads that lead to the interior valley and trailheads for summits are blocked by locked gates.

The owners of the interior mountain tops, the Middle Mountain Foundation, will unlock those gates for a series of guided treks on weekends from now through May. They include a trek to the North Butte, my favorite here. Guided trips to see wildlife, ridge views, artifacts and others also are available.

www.middlemountain.org generally charges $35 to take people there and show ’em around.

A typical day in the Buttes begins at 8:00 am and ends around 3:30 pm (unless otherwise noted). Trips are scheduled and will proceed in all but the most severe weather conditions. Participants of all hikes should be prepared to expect uneven footing, stepping over rocks and boulders, crossing streams, and hill climbing. Spring hikers are likely to encounter wet, squishy, ankle-deep grass, while fall trekkers will be contend­ing with thistles and stickers. Poison oak is abundant, but you will be warned of its proximity. Rattlesnakes, though common in the warmer weather, are usually reclusive and inactive during our hiking seasons. Hikes are limited to 20 unless otherwise stated.

If this isn’t on your must-hike list, it oughta be.

(Sutter Buttes pictures at flickr.com.)