5 - 6
FATMAP difficulty grade
Pair the stunning Lakes Basin area with mountain top singletrack running along the spine of the Sierras on this epic high-mountain loop! The route begins at a trailhead on Packer Lake Road, quickly making for the top of the ridge via the Pacific Crest Trail.
This section of the PCT is a new alignment, as is the section that you’ll run as you descend from the ridge.
The original alignment of the Pacific Crest Trail in this area followed the spine of the ridge, which you’ll hike as well.
In essence, this loop combines the new PCT section with the old one into a stunning loop! During your climb from the Basin, you’ll get to enjoy views of the Tamarack Lakes—a couple of the crystal-clear alpine lakes that the Lakes Basin is named for.
After the lakes, keep switchbacking up the mountainside in earnest, eventually gaining the mountain ridge. Once on the ridge, you’re not far from the Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout, which provides an incredible 360-degree view of the Lost Sierras! If you’re interested in a stunning view and a few bonus miles, consider turning left to tag the lookout before heading right along the ridge. After a couple miles of hiking, you’ll pass Packer Saddle and continue on the original PCT alignment, now known as the Gold Valley Rim Trail.
This section of trail is now shared with mountain bikers, but it isn’t nearly as popular as the downhill trails descending toward Downieville. The Gold Valley Rim singletrack is flowy and scenic, providing absolutely stunning views of the Lakes Basin spread out below you and the Sierra Buttes behind you.
A few turns in the trail even provide stunning vistas of the Sierra Buttes in all their glory! After several miles of the best ridgetop hiking imaginable, you’ll turn right again just above Deer Lake to descend the new PCT alignment, dropping back down into the Basin, ending your loop exactly where you began.