Before I begin, here is a video of my daughter Briana and I after we made the long hike up to the lookout that sits atop the Sierra Buttes. The Sierra Buttes are in the Tahoe National Forest in the state of California. They are located Northwest of Lake Tahoe.
This lookout is located on top of a 8,587-foot peak of Sierra Buttes, near Sierra City. It is possible to see Mount Lassen and Mount Shasta from this vantage point. You can also see the Sutter Buttes to the southwest which are located near Marysville, California.
In the video, you can see the Sardine Lakes which actually turn a greenish color during the summer. Here they are again in this image:
There are actually a couple ways to go. The regular hike is far less than two hours. We actually took my “shortcut” which was a road that led to the first stopping point, adding an extra hour to the entire hike.
Either way, it was a beautiful view and great for hiking. We have gone up a couple times, and each time it offers something new. We will be posting more videos and images on the website. Until then, here is a quick overview of the Sierra Buttes, directions, hiking trails, and some camping info.
Overview of the Sierra Buttes
If you are ever in Northern California, you really need to take a trip up to the Lakes basin area which is located in the Sierra Nevada’s. As you come over the crest of the road passing by several of the Lakes, you can’t help but notice the craggy peaks of this high mountain range. It has a volcanic origin, and is the perfect spot for the lookout which is perched high on top, the final destination of this very rewarding and awesome hike.
If you look to the northeast once you arrive, you’ll see evidence of glacial canyons leading down to the Sardine Lakes below. Even beyond that is a little lake called Sand Pond where the locals go swimming. There are even camping facilities with little cabins on the lower Sardine but you can see from the lookout. People look like little ants floating on sticks!
Main Hiking Trail
One of the easiest ways to get to the lookout is to start from Packer Lake. Leaving Sierra City, you take Highway 49 going east, then left on Gold Lake road. You take another left and follow the signs to Packer Lake and you will see the Sierra Buttes trailhead turnoff (again another left!!!). This is an easy 3 mile hike to the summit which is scenic all the way up.
Another way to get to the top is going via Packer Saddle, which is actually the Ridgetop trailhead on the Pacific Crest Trail. Driving this little extra distance, you can cut about a mile off of the hike making it about 2 miles to the top.
Finally, you can just leave from Sierra City. Unlike the other starting points which began around 6000 feet, you are starting around 4500 feet which makes the climb seriously difficult. Don’t try this unless you are in optimal shape!
State Parks and Counties in the Area
There is a state park in nearby Plumas County called Eureka State Park which has some past skiing history. This is also adjacent to the Pacific Crest Trail which thousands of people hike on every year. As you drive up to where you park to hike, you actually cross through three counties (Plumas, Sierra, and Tahoe).
Other Attractions Along the Way
There are several places to stop as you drive up to the top, and you will pass by several lakes including Goose Lake and Gold Lake. There is also another lookout called Mills Peak, and a popular waterfall called Frasier Falls which is beautiful, especially if there has been a lot of rain early in the year.
Hiking Tips and Camping
Obviously, you don’t want to try to get to the top of this 8,587-foot peak if there is snow on the ground. I will post a picture of Briana going through a snow bank that is just about her height. Luckily it had melted enough to give us a little crevice to crawl through so we could get to the other side and finally make it up to the lookout.
The best time to go is definitely in late June or early July. Even then, the snow may still be there. The times we have been up have been in late July and August, and we still have pictures of snow at the top!
If you want to go camping, you’re going to need a permit. You can pick these up in the little towns in the area. In Plumas County, you will have to go to Portola or Graeagle. If you are already in the Lakes Basin area, just head over to Sierra City to get your permit. There are several campgrounds to choose from and they usually are not crowded in the early summer.
We will be posting more pictures and videos, plus some maps on where to go and what to do in the area. Thanks for visiting our Sierra Buttes webpage!