On the weekends we love to pack up the Chinook and head to the Lakes Basin area for a night or two. The Sierra Buttes make for a dramatic background in an area which is home to over 100 lakes. Only an hour and a half drive from Reno this is our secret getaway. We hope are list of favorite "to dos" inspire others to take the drive and enjoy this beautiful area.
1.) Sierra Buttes Lookout hike
One of the best hikes in the area is to the top of the Sierra Buttes fire lookout tower. This is an intermediate hike that starts at an elevation of 7,000 ft and goes to 9,000 ft. The trail has views of the lakes below and is only a slight incline. In 1869 a 106 pound gold nugget was found here! To find the beginning of the trail drive up to Packer Saddle. When you reach the fire lookout, climb to the top for a breathtaking 360 degree view.
2.) Drive the Gold Lakes Road
The Gold Lake Road winds through the forest from Hwy 49 beneath the towering Sierra Buttes to Graeagle. This picturesque road is dotted with lakes, campgrounds and picnic areas. If you’re lucky you can find a lake all to yourselves. Some of our favorite lakes are Packer Lake and Upper and Lower Sardine. There is a variety of different hikes in this area including the Pacific Crest Trail. For a lake a little off the beaten path, hike into Volcano Lake. For the serious adventures take an overnight trip to Young America Lake.
3.) Brewing Lair
After a day hiking around the area we always love to stop at one of our favorite breweries. The Brewing Lair is a brewery located on 15 acres of dense forest right outside of Graeagle. This place is dog friendly and has a giant outdoor space under the pine trees. With a9 hole disc golf course, a slackline, and corn hole set up there is always something fun to do while sipping on your deliciously cold beer.
Direction from Reno
Head North toward Susanville on US-395 for 23.8 miles. Take the CA-70 ramp to Portola/Quincy exit and turn left onto CA-70 West. The brewery will be on your right in 32.4 miles.
4.) Downieville Downhill
One of the coolest downhill bike trails in the area. It is a 15- mile, mostly downhill single-track ride that drops 4,000 feet in elevation. Take a shuttle from Downieville to the top of Packer Saddle ($20) to start your ride. You can also rent high-end downhill bikes in Downieville for the day. Recommended for the more advanced riders! Also try to ride this trail in early Spring or late Fall for the best trail conditions.
5.) Fly Fishing/ Water Activities
This entire area is full of beautiful rivers and alpine lakes. The Yuba River is a perfectly gin clear freestone river that is quite chilly year round but well worth a dip!
(From the Gallows in Downieville walk down and left to a small parking lot right above the river. From here walk upstream for about a 1/3 mile to a nice big rock outcropping. These rocks are great for a remote place to jump off the rocks and hangout.)
There are dozens of lakes in this area, and believe us, they are ALL worth checking out. Besides rainbow, brown, and brook trout, you also have a good chance of finding some tiger trout and even golden trout. The lakes that take a short hike to get to don’t see very much fishing pressure so the fish can be great for beginners. If you want to test your skills in the river try the Yuba from Bassetts station down to Downieville, or try the Feather River that runs through Graeagle.
Downieville is a tiny town tucked into a remote region of the Gold Country. Founded during the gold rush this little ghost town on the Yuba river still holds it charm. There are only a few restaurants in town along with an old saloon. One of the “tourist” attractions is the old gallows by the courthouse. There are incredible swimming holes all along the river so bring a swimsuit! Downieville is a little gem that makes for a great little day trip.