Graeagle: Hidden Hiking Gem of the Sierras
By Leanne Lopes
Looking for a place with great hiking and outdoor adventures? Graeagle is a quaint mountain town in the Sierras—an ideal spot to explore trails and discover lakes and wildflowers along the Sierra Crest.
Paths range from easy family friendly strolls to strenuous and lengthy daylong excursions. The best time to hike is between June and August while there are still patches of snow along the trails and streams to cross.
To get to intermediate and advanced trails, drive south of Graeagle off highway 89 to Gold Lake Road. Some of the primary lakes of the area include Gold Lake, Salmon Lake, Long Lake and Sardine Lake.
The Lakes Basin Recreation Area has 47 great trails, including those along the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT), which stretches all the way from Canada to Mexico. My parents, 17-year-old sister and I enjoy the Round Lakes trail/PCT, which is about 7 ½ miles all together.
This hike is moderate to strenuous. The first couple uphill miles are worth the amazing view at the top of the PCT of the Sierra Buttes and all the lakes below. My sister and I like to have snowball fights in the patches of snow along the trail. Beautiful wildflowers cover the meadows and terrain that can be identified in Toni Fauver’s book Wildflower Walking in Lakes Basin of the Northern Sierra.
Advanced hikers can climb to the top of the Buttes, Mt. Elwell or Eureka Peak. Another moderate/strenuous hike is up to Jamison Lake where you can fish or enjoy a picnic by the lake. For both of these hikes, I would say ambitious 10-year-olds and over can handle these hikes.
If you have younger kids or elderly parents, I recommend the 1 mile butterfly filled Madora Lake or Frazier Falls, which is fairly short and even wheelchair accessible. We recently discovered a unique river with sections of swimming holes. It is a short, but very steep walk to the river from the trailhead next to the Johnsville Cemetery. My sister and I had a lot of fun at this place.
From the San Jose area, take I-280 South, which becomes I-680 North. Then take I-80 East to CA-89 toward Sierraville/Lake Tahoe. My family stays at River Pines Resort in a cabin. There are also air-conditioned units in the back of the property, but they are more like a motel and have less of the outdoorsy feel. Across from River Pines is Feather River Park Resort on a golf course, which has larger cabins and is pet-friendly. An upper-end, newer place to stay is Chalet View Lodge. There are campsites by the lakes and off the highways if you have an RV or if you enjoying camping.
A few of the well known restaurants include The Iron Door, The Lodge at Whitehawk Ranch, Mt Tomba Dinnerhouse, and Longboards Bar & Grill. For lunch or an ice cream treat, go to Graeagle Fros-tee, which is within walking distance from River Pines. You will find a pizzeria and bakery in the nearby town of Blairsden.
Graeagle and the surrounding Plumas National Forest is a perfect place for a spring or summer trip to actively engage with nature and enjoy all the trails and beauty of the outdoors.
Northern California Plumas County Visitors Guide
Leanne Lopes is a graducate of Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo.
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