Guidebook

Escape the Crowds on These Top Hikes in the Lost Sierra

Delve into this guidebook for a curated list of the must-do hikes in the Lost Sierra.

Greg Heil

Description

In a state as populous and overrun as California, finding a way to escape from the constant traffic caused by the 40 million residents—both on the highways and on the trails—seems nearly impossible. And yet, there are not-so-hidden gems tucked away in the mountains that still avoid the press of tourist traffic that big-name destinations like Lake Tahoe receive. If you’re in search of hundreds of miles of singletrack with a fraction of the crowds, then set your GPS to Graeagle, California.

Graeagle reigns as the epicenter of hiking and trail running in a region known as the Lost Sierra. “The Lost Sierra. . .hasn’t changed much since the 1849 Gold Rush,” writes journalist Kurt Gensheimer in Dirt Rag Magazine. While the population and trail crowds continue to explode in the rest of the state, “the Lost Sierra is one of the only places in California where the population today is less than it was in the 1860s,” says Gensheimer.

I can confirm: over the course of a two-week stay in the Lost Sierra during the height of the summer season, I was pleasantly surprised by the manageable crowds. I could still find peaceful serenity on many trails, even on the weekend. Sure, most of the campgrounds still fill up on Friday and Saturday nights, but compared to overrun destinations like nearby Lake Tahoe, Bend in Oregon, and almost every single mountain town in Colorado, the Lost Sierra felt downright deserted.

And as for the trails? They’re to die for!

The hiking in the region is anchored by the Lakes Basin area. The Lakes Basin offers an unexpected haven filled with incredible recreation opportunities and gorgeous views, hidden deep in the Sierras. This basin is filled with crystal-clear alpine lakes flanked by towering walls of granite. The exposed rock walls rise up to form towering mountains, with the spine of the Sierras soaring high above the entire milieu. Top hikes in the Lakes Basin include the loop around the Bear Lakes, the short but scenic hike to Frazier Falls, and more.

For even more epic hikes, you can head higher up into the Sierras to climb to the tops of the tallest mountains or traverse the nearby sections of the Pacific Crest Trail. One of the must-do hikes in the region leads to the top of the Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout, and Mt. Elwell provides a worthy peak climbing objective. The options truly are limitless, so delve into this guidebook for a curated list of the top must-do hikes in the region.

Sacramento, CA: Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout

Sacramento, CA: Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout

Downieville
2 - 3 hrs
7.7 km
493 m
493 m
Climb to the very top of the Sierra Buttes for sweeping views from an old fire lookout.
Difficult
Private
Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 27

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 27

Downieville
1 day +
51.4 km
2,731 m
2,154 m
*SIERRA CITY to QUINCY-LAPORTE ROAD:* Hike past dozens of alpine lakes and a few notable peaks on this 31.7-mile section. Don't pass by the Sierra Buttes without climbing to the old lookout, the views from the top are some of California's best.
Difficult
Private
Mt. Elwell
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Mt. Elwell

4 - 5 hrs
12.8 km
663 m
663 m
Gain stunning views above the Lakes Basin area from the summit of Mt. Elwell.
Difficult
Private
Bear Lakes Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Bear Lakes Loop

1 - 2 hrs
6.6 km
192 m
192 m
Dip your toes into Lakes Basin hiking!
Difficult
Private
Frazier Falls
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Frazier Falls

0 - 1 hrs
1.7 km
15 m
15 m
One of the most popular sights in the Lakes Basin.
Easy
Private
Long Lake Lollipop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Long Lake Lollipop

10.8 km
557 m
558 m
Challenging hike in the Lakes Basin.
Severe
Private
Jamison Lake
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Jamison Lake

2 - 3 hrs
9.8 km
343 m
343 m
Hike to a pair of sublime alpine lakes in a rocky amphitheater.
Difficult
Private