Development of communities and recreation in Sierra County was the direct result of the discovery and search for gold in California. As the roads improved, travelers began to stop and enjoy the beauty and wildlife. Californians in the late 1800s were very interested in primitive environments for recreation and relaxation. Wilderness camping and mountain climbing were important aspects of this movement with a special appeal to city people as a temporary relief from the frantic pace of urban life. A form of medical treatment known as the “wilderness cure” enjoyed considerable popularity in California during the late nineteenth century and brought many recreationists to Sierra County. By 1926, the Lakes Basin area boasted a number of popular resorts with fishing, swimming, boating, and lodging available.
The lodge at Sardine Lake was first constructed in 1941 and 6 guest cabins were added in 1945-46. Packer Lake was on an early mule-pack trail and, in 1926, a lodge was built, along with platform tents and log cabins. Shortly after the mid 1850s, a recreation lodge was also built at Gold Lake.
Gold Lake Road was constructed in 1913 providing easier access to the resorts. Bassetts Station, at the intersection of Highway 49 and Gold Lake Road, began as a way station over 125 years ago. It continues to provide a rest stop and supply point for travelers.
The unspoiled lakes in this region are highly prized by fly fishermen and those who prefer to fish from the shore or small boats. Dozens of lakes provide ample space for recreationists to enjoy solitude and comfort. Boating is restricted to small boats with small or no motors. Also, kayaking at the many lakes has become a great outdoor sport. You can paddle and work on your techniques for the river, or paddle just for exercise!
The numerous campgrounds in this area offer several levels of amenities including boating, swimming, fishing, piped and stream water, camping stoves, travel trailer spaces, and sites for horse trailers. Imagine a place where you can have a whole lake to yourself on a summer’s night. That’s the Lakes Basin.
Small resorts tucked in among trees and lakes offer comfort and
amenities for those wishing to forgo the “sleeping bag.” Resorts also
provide different levels of services such as prepared meals and
Hiking, backpacking, mountain biking and horse packing in this region are what dreams are made of. The Pacific Crest Trail crosses the Sierra Buttes and can be reached from Packer Saddle or the Sierra Buttes Lookout Trail. There are numerous campgrounds in the area with trail-heads that provide access to the many lakes in this area. Sand Pond Interpretive Trail shows the flora and fauna of a riparian habitat and is accessible to wheelchairs. It provides a wonderful experience for those who cannot hike the typical mountainous trail. There is horseback riding along Gold Lake. The biking trails that Downieville is famous for originate on the Sierra Buttes—get started on Packer Saddle.
The Lakes Basin Recreation Area has numerous off-road vehicle or 4-wheel drive trails from moderate to most difficult. The trails pass through a variety of terrain and offer fishing, wildlife viewing, and exceptional scenery. The area around Gold Lake is a favorite for ATVs and in the winter snowmobilers.
Winter is a great time to explore the Lakes Basin Recreation Area. Miles of groomed roads and trails offer excellent cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. Bassetts Station at the intersection of Hwy 49 and Gold Lake Road is a favorite staging area for snowmobilers and cross-country skiers. It is complete with a general store, cafe, restrooms, and gas station. Gold Lake Road is the main access route to many miles of trails. The trip to Graeagle is a favorite among local snowmobilers. Yuba Pass Snow Park, 13 miles north of Sierra City, accesses trails that reach the Little Truckee Summit staging area, Jackson Meadows reservoir and Bassetts staging area. Lunch Creek Trail is a cross-country skiing only trail. Tubing, sledding, snowshoeing, and snow camping round out the winter fun in this large snowpark facility. Snowpark permits are required. Purchase them at Bassetts Station or call 530-324-4442.
Sierra Buttes Snowbusters snowmobile club holds monthly meetings in the winter and hosts numerous events through the season, such as group rides on weekends and a dinner ride to Sierraville. The annual Spaghetti Feed in March raises money for scholarships which are awarded to graduating seniors from Downieville High School and members’ families each year. For more information contact Sharon Grenier at 530-862-1577.