Graeagle: Hidden Hiking Gem of the Sierras
By Leanne Lopes

Looking for a place with for 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.

HIKER’S PARADISE

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 is 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 the book Wildflower Walking in the Lakes Basin.

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 would be able to do these hikes.

If you have younger kids or elderly parents, I recommend the butterfly filled Madora Lake 1 mile trail or Frazier Falls which is fairly short and even wheelchair accessible. We recently discovered a cool 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.

GETTING THERE

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 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. If you have an RV or like camping better, there are campsites by the lakes and off the highways too.

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. In the neighboring town of Blairsden, you will find a pizzereria and bakery.
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.

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NOTEWORTHY WEBSITES/RESOURCES:

http://www.shastacascade.org/
http://www.graeagle.com/
http://www.riverpines.com/
Northern California Plumas County Visitors Guide 2008-2009

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Leanne Lopes is a journalism major at Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo. This is her first article for BAFT.


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