Northern California is Home to the ‘World’s Smallest Mountain Range’

In Northern California, we have a lot going for us. We have multiple active volcanos, pristine National Parks, a beautiful coastline, some of the best fishing destinations on the planet and a massive waterfall that President Theodore Roosevelt dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”

Now, you can add the “World’s Smallest Mountain Range” to that list.

Sitting about 50 mile north of Sacramento along State Route 20 in Sutter County is the Sutter Buttes, a mountain range that may look out of place the first time you see it in the otherwise flatlands of the NorCal valley. The mountains are about 10 miles wide and reach 2,122 feet in elevation from the valley floor below, making it the unofficial smallest mountain range in the world.

The tiny mountain range is what remains of a volcano formed 1.6 million years ago, but now sits dormant. Today, the Sutter Buttes can be seen covered in lush green grass, glowing in the air as you approach it. Towering over the nearby town of Yuba City, it’s peaks can be seen from both the Sacramento and Yuba Rivers.

Although the Sutter Buttes are dramatically beautiful, only a select few get to see it up close. Much of the land remains on private property and the 7 access gates throughout the way up to the mountain make it difficult to access. In fact, the only way the general public can gain access to the Sutter Buttes is to go on a hike with Middle Mountain Interpretive Hikes, with fewer than 800 people permitted in the area each year.

The area not only holds a volcanic history, but also a Native American history. The Wintun and Maidu tribes each populated a different side of the range, both of which believed the Sutter Buttes had a prominent role in the story of the creation. Today, the remnants of Native American activity is prominent, with large man-made dents in the rocks used to grind acorns for cooking. It’s some of the most obvious examples of ancient Native American in NorCal.

Even with a dramatic name like the “World’s Smallest Mountain Range,” Sutter Buttes is probably NorCal’s best kept secret. Keep an eye out for the World’s Smallest Mountain Range next time you’re in Sutter County:

Active NorCal

Northern California's Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine


  1. I had heard that the Sutter Buttes were actually the tops of mountains to the east that had slid down to their present position and you could see the scar track from the air. Is there any truth to this?

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