To the native Maidu they were known as Esto Yamani (Middle Mountain), from a legend about how the world was formed; and Histum Yani (Spirit Mountain) where the spirits of the departed Maidu are located. To the Spanish explorers who viewed them in the early 1800’s, they were Los Tres Picos, or three peaks. John Fremont called them the Sacramento Peaks and for almost 100 years they were known as the Marysville Buttes.
In 1949, the Yuba City Women’s Club succeeded, after a 26-year effort, to assign ownership to the host community in having the world’s smallest mountain range officially christened the Sutter Buttes. By any name they are unique and to those who live and travel in the northern Sacramento Valley, a significant landmark and icon. Formed by unusual volcanic up-thrust that ceased about 1.5 million years ago, they are circular in shape, 10 miles wide and cover 75 square miles. The highest of the three peaks is 2,132 feet above sea level. The Buttes are on mostly private property and access is available in the spring and fall through guided tours with Middle Mountain Interpretive Hikes. Signs along Hwy 20 will direct you to a scenic drive tour. The Sutter Buttes are the only mountain range you can circle in a day. This 40 mile loop can be done by car or bicycle.