Hike up to incredible panoramic views of Sardine Lake and the Sierra Buttes

The Lakes Basin and the Gold Lake highway near between Downieville and Graeagle Ca. is a section of recreational magic that many crave to explore more and more. For me the opportunity to explore the Sardine Lake region of the area was high on my bucket list for 22″. So I grabbed the cameras and the dog and headed North of Truckee on HWY 89 to the 49 (Yuba Pass). With no exact plan, except relax, take the photos as I see them and find a trail to explore for the day and see where adventure leads you.

An early morning start would allow me to miss most of the heavy traffic and allowed for casual stops along the Little Truckee river and a few scenic shots of Sierraville as I was driving through.

The Little Truckee off HWY 89
Sierraville basin

Sardine Lake Recreation Area

Arriving at Gold lakes highway via the 49, I decided quickly that having the sierra Buttes in my sight today was a must on any hikes or area I would explore. Forgetting my map, (Actually brought the wrong one), I found myself driving around a bit looking for trailheads in the area. I located Packer Lake first and the Tamarack Lakes trail North of Sardine lakes. Backtracking to Sardine Lakes area I checked out Sand Pond and then decided that I wanted to get up above the forest floor to see these lakes. The Sardine Lake Look out trail I had passed on the way into Sardine Lakes area, So i back Tracked to the trailhead and prepared for the hike with Dakota (The dog).

Sardine Lakes Lookout trail

The Sardine Lake Lookout Trail

The Sardine Lakes Lookout trail is also a connecter trail to Tamarack Lakes. The trail width and make up for the first mile makes you feel like maybe this was an old jeep trail that has transformed to a hiking trail over the years. It climbs steadily on a moderate to easy slope up along the ridge line North of Sardine Lakes until you are a couple hundred feet above the lakes, well out of the trees and staring directly at a very scenic Sierra Buttes.

The trail continues along for another mile giving you many locations to stop and take a great image of the two lakes with Sierra Buttes in the back ground. On the Northside of the trail the ridge line continues to climb several hundred feet mostly with manzanita bush and old growth trees. Looks like the region maybe was once logged or burnt.

Upper Sardine Lake from the trail with Sierra Buttes backdrop

Trail Split

At roughly the two mile mark the trail splits a sign suggests the Sierra lookout is the lower trail. We decided to follow it, because we did not have a map and just was not certain the upper trail was headed. The sierra lookout trail at this point becomes skinny, overgrown, and bit tricky in points as is is obviously less traveled. The trail continues down toward the Western side of upper Sardine lake directly below the Sierra Buttes.

We would pull our self off the trail onto a pile of rocks for lunch, as i had no need to walk all the way down to the lake. Enjoying the afternoon above the lake, we enjoyed the wildflowers in bloom and finding old relics of the mining days in the bushes along the trail.

Upper Sardine Lake from Trail above.

Back up to the split we had a choice of climbing up the upper trail to the unknown or heading back to continue our adventures along Gold lakes HWY and several other lakes. We choose option 2, and headed back for the truck. We enjoyed multiple lakes and walks at Salmon lake, Snag Lake, Goose lake, Gold Lake and Lilly Lake in the afternoon. however i will return to Sardine lakes and hike again to the Tamarack lakes above, simply so I can experience the view once more.

Upper and Lower Sardine looking south east from the Trail


Publisher of Sierra Rec Magazine. An avid hiker and explorer of mountain lifestyle and adventure. I love to discover new trails, hike along rivers and hang a hammock along the shores of a mountain lake. I often great people on the trail and have found some of my favorite places from the advice of people I meet in the Wilderness. I love the sierra and just like sharing what I know.

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