So Much to Do, So Little Time...
It's difficult to know where to start when compiling a list of things to do in this area. There is so much to choose from, and each season offers a multitude of different recreation possibilities. On this page, we've put together an overview of some of the highlights for you, together with a number of useful links.
The entrance to the Lakes Basin Recreation Area is just a two mile drive from our house. The Lakes Basin is a spectacular area of some 50+ pristine, glacial lakes. It extends from the Tahoe National Forest into the Plumas National Forest and contains two major watersheds (the Middle Fork of the Feather River and the North Fork of the Yuba).
The Lakes Basin offers an abundance of stunning hiking trails and backcountry exploring, not to mention endless opportunities for canoeing, kayaking, boating, swimming and fishing. In summer you can take a wonderfully scenic 15 mile drive through the heart of this area and over the crest of the Sierra Nevada along Gold Lake Highway. Elevation ranges from around 5400 feet at the entrance to the Basin to the crowning glory of the Sierra Buttes at a summit elevation of 8600 feet.
One of the many joys of the Lakes Basin is that you can always find a quiet spot here if you hike to one of the many lakes further off the beaten path. With over 50 lakes to choose from and endless hiking possibilities, you can be assured of finding your own personal piece of paradise all year round. In winter this same area is transformed into a snow-covered wonderland just waiting to be explored on snow-shoes, cross-country skis of snowmobile
For more information about the Lakes Basin Recreation Area, try this website:www.fs.fed.us/r5/plumas/recreation/rec_areas/lakesbasin.shtml
At 8600 feet the dramatic Sierra Buttes dominate the entire region with their majesty and stature. In summer there is a great hike to the summit where you will find a "look-out tower" with breathtaking panoramic views. In winter you will never tire of gazing in awe at their snow-capped beauty. Here is a link to details of the spectacular 6 mile hike to the Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout
A clearly marked entrance to the Pacific Crest Trail is just a couple of minute's drive from our house down Highway 49. This is a magnificent stretch of the trail taking you through deep forests and offering glorious vistas along the way. There are also many wonderful side trails to explore. Follow this link for more information about hiking the PCT from nearby Sierra City (3 miles down the road from our house): Pacific Crest Trail Association
Really, the entire area is a hiker's paradise and there are many excellent websites that describe the best trails. We also have a binder at our house with details of our favorite hikes.
We are in the heart of historic goldrush country and there are many fascinating reminders of this area's rich past in the local towns, including some fine museums. To learn more about Sierra County history, follow this link:www.sierracountygold.com/History/index.html
In the charming community of Sierra City, the Kentucky Mine Museum and Amphitheater is a delight, not just for history buffs! With it's park-like setting, picnic tables, barbecues and wonderful summer weekend concert series, it has much to offer both inside and out. Please click Kentucky Mine Historic Park and Museum for full details. For more information about Sierra City and all it has to offer, follow the link below:www.sierracity.com
The charming town of Downieville (14 miles from our house) is also rich in history. But mainly it's worth visiting because it's so pretty! And a 16 mile drive in the other direction, via Bassetts will take you through the heart of the scenic Lakes Basin along Gold Lake Highway (closed in winter) to Graegle. This rather upscale town boasts a fine local art gallery, interesting shops and a championship golf course!
The tiny, scenic town of Downieville (14 miles from our house) is well-worth a visit in it's own right, but especially so if you are a mountain bike enthusaist. This small townsite has developed a big name for itself in the world of mountain biking, most notably due to the "Downieville Downhill", the renowned mountain bike race held here annually. A shuttle bus from Downieville takes you up to the trailhead at an elevation of approximately 7500 ft. From there you descend a total of 4500 ft along a single lane road back down to Downieville. Thousands of mountain bikers come every year to take part!
There are dozens of other spectacular mountain bike trails to choose from and two bike outfitters in Downieville:www.yubaexpeditions.com
For those fearless paddling experts who like their recreation adrenaline-fuelled, why not try some whitewater rafting! The North Fork of the Yuba has always been a favorite whitewater destination in California and there are three outfitters with permits to run commercial ventures here:www.rivertrip.com/yuba.html www.whitewatervoyages.com/rivers/lowernorthyubariver.html www.whitewatertours.com/rivers.htm#Yuba
A scenic 13 mile drive from our house along Highway 49 will take you up over Yuba Pass and on to breathtaking Sierra Valley. This huge mountain valley is filled with grassland, sagebrush and extensive freshwater marshes, making it a prime birding location. It's also extraordinarily beautiful! Highway 49 is open year-round and a vista point on the way down to the Valley allows you to stop and take in the full majesty of this area during all four seasons.
A great number of migratory birds stop in Sierra Valley in the fall and nest here in spring. Follow this link for more birding information:www.nevadaaudubon.org/BirdSites/SierraValley.htm
We are just a couple of miles from the Sierra Nevada Field Campus of the San Francisco State University, which runs acclaimed naturalist courses for the general public throughout the summer. Learn all about the flora and fauna of the Sierra Nevada! For their full summer schedule, please visit the link below:www.sfsu.edu/~sierra/courses.htm
For some, the fun doesn't really start until the first snow falls! Typically, this happens any time after Halloween and we enjoy abundant snowfall throughout the winter months (November 1 through May 30). Highway 49 is plowed and open year round, providing easy access to dozens of trailheads. This is an excellent snow-shoe and cross-country ski area with hundreds of groomed trails and endless opportunities for backcountry exploring. The Lakes Basin becomes a vast snow-covered paradise in winter, and there are numerous other spectacular trails. We have a binder at our house with details of some of our favorite outings, one of which starts right outside our front door.
There is also a Sno-Park at Yuba Pass (a twenty minute drive from our house up Highway 49). You will find ample parking, cross-country ski trails, good snow play and extensive groomed snowmobile trails. Day permits ($5) and season passes ($25) can be purchased at Bassett's Station, a mile from our house.
The nearest downhill skiing areas are Sugar Bowl or Northstar at Tahoe, each approximately an hour's drive from our house. Why not make a day of it and stop to relax your tired muscles at Sierra Hot Springs in Sierraville on the way home!
If you enjoy soaking in natural hot springs, a real treat can be found at the Sierra Hot Springs Resort in nearby Sierraville. Not only is the drive to get there especially scenic - taking you over Yuba Pass and through glorious Sierra Valley - the destination of the springs themselves is truly special. It will take you approximately 40 minutes to drive to Sierra Hot Springs from our house, and we think it's well worth it! Visit their website for more information.
We're pretty sure you'll find there's never a dull moment in this area. And even if you decide to sit on the deck and do nothing, dull just isn't the word that comes to mind! We have many books and local resources at our house which provide more in-depth details of all these activities and more.