High Sierra Lakes

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Northern Sierra Nevada, Sierra County has a total population of just over 3,000. The old Gold Rush Highway (Highway 49) meanders along the North Fork of the Yuba River through the historic towns of Downieville and Sierra City.
(On your way through, be sure to check out the gallows in Downieville, near the courthouse.)

Just past Sierra City, visitors enter the Lakes Basin Area, which offers more than 50 clear alpine lakes for fishing, swimming and boating. Much of the area lies within Tahoe and Plumas national forests.

Plumas County

Sierra City

Sierra County Chamber,

Downieville campsites,, (877) 444-6777

Mountain biking, http://www.YubaExpeditions.com/



Though cabin reservations can be scarce during the summer, many have openings after mid-August; the lakes are still warm, the fishing good and you can enjoy the warm days and cool nights of Indian summer. (Most cabins close for the season mid-October.)

Camping sites, part of the Tahoe National Forest, abound along Highway 49 and the North Yuba River, beginning before Downieville and continuing through Sierra City.

Along Gold Lake Road, many more campsites pop up along the lakes and creeks. These campgrounds have running water, vault toilets and cost $18-$24 per night, with a 14-day limit. You can find a list of them at plumascounty.org, or call (877) 444-6777 for reservations.


For mountain-biking enthusiasts, Yuba Expeditions, yubaexpeditions.com, offers shuttles to the many local mountain biking trails.


 At Packer Lake Lodge, you’ll find rustic charm with rough beams and wagon wheel lights, lanterns and fresh flowers on the tables. During the summer, a Wednesday night Italian buffet is followed by Bingo that starts at 6 p.m. Be sure to call for reservations. (Closed Tuesdays.)

Sardine Lake Lodge, on one of the area’s most picturesque lakes, also offers dinners in a rustic cabin setting. Call way ahead for reservations.
Gray Eagle Lodge
serves dinners in its majestic high-ceilinged building.

The Sierra City General Store is famous for Larry’s “gut-buster hamburgers,” a favorite for hikers stopping off from the Pacific Crest Trail. The store also stocks camping supplies.


The Pacific Crest Trail winds through this area, and the hiking possibilities are endless with hikes for all skill levels.
 Maps are available through the Tahoe National Forest or the Sierra County Chamber of Commerce.

The Sierra Buttes, the rugged and craggy peaks that jut up from the surrounding tree-lined hills, reach an elevation of 8,700 feet at the summit lookout tower. To hike the Buttes trail, visitors drive to a parking area and begin part way up, so don’t be intimidated by how high they look from the road. The hike is best done early in the day. The view is worth the effort.

Allow three to four hours for the climb. If you’re wary of heights, skip the last minute of the ascent, up the stairs of a former fire lookout station.

After you’ve hiked back down, head to Bassett’s Station for a well-deserved ice cream cone.  They also serve breakfast and lunch and old-fashioned milkshakes that arrive at your table in a frosty metal container.

Sardine lake from Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout


Questions? info@MarinInfo.org