Lakes Basin, Plumas National Forest CA

• 5-star hike
• 4.0 to 8.4 mile options
• Medium difficulty | Gain 530 to 1,570 ft (Peak 7,500 ft)
• Graeagle, CA | Plumas Region
• Driving Directions: Trailhead

Looking across Long Lake to Mount Elwell.

Though Plumas County might appear to have only three stoplights, it has more than its fair share of great lakes to discover. An hour north of Truckee and a world away from the busy traffic rushing to Lake Tahoe, the Lakes Basin is a tranquil escape full of beautiful lakes and great hiking opportunities.

Somewhat remote, for most people these Plumas National Forest lakes are best explored in summer and early fall for a snow-free experience. However, more experienced outdoors folk may get a kick out of tackling it in snowshoes, as Gold Lake Highway is plowed throughout the winter.

Lakes & PCT Loop, Lakes Loop, Mt Elwell.

Lakes & PCT Loop 5★
8.4 mi, Loop, Medium, Gain 1570 ft (Peak 7,500 ft) | This eight-and-a-half mile loop trail weaves around some of the prettiest lakes before ascending to the Pacific Coast Trail for some ridgeline hiking where there are even better views of the lake and the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains. Adding an ascent of the 7,816 foot tall Mount Elwell adds 740 feet of elevation gain and a round-trip of 1.5 miles.
Trailspotting Map at AllTrails

Lakes Loop 5★
4.0 mi, Loop, Medium, Gain 530ft (Peak 6,860 ft) | This shorter route takes in all the same lakes as our longer trail but without the hike up to the ridgeline.
Trailspotting Map at AllTrails

Assuming you're arriving at Lakes Basin from a Southern location and travelling through the memorable scenery of State Route 49, you'll want to head up the Gold Lake Highway in the direction of Graeagle. The left hand turn to the trailhead at Gold Lake Lodge is seven miles up the road. If you're arriving from the North, pick up the Gold Lake Highway at the junction with state route 89 just south of Graeagle and proceed around 8.6 miles to the Gold Lake Lodge.

Remember to look out for evidence of historical mining activities. Both trails pass the site of a former stamp-mine, old huts can still be found dotted around the hillsides, and be sure to check out the artifacts on display adjacent to the trailhead parking lot.

More lake views from the ridgeline and PCT.

Mining artifacts adjacent to the trailhead parking lot.

Photographers should be sure to bring their cameras to Lakes Basin.

• Trail Links: Official, Public Map at AllTrails
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