Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout Trail
The Sierra Buttes are a series of crags in the Lakes Basin in Northeastern California. At 8587 feet above sea level, the Buttes are the highest peaks in the Lakes Basin. The Buttes are composed of erosion-resistant rocks exploded from undersea volcanoes about 350 million years ago. Gold was mined here in the mid-to-late 1800’s. In 1869, a 106 pound gold nugget was uncovered near the Buttes.
View of Sardine Lakes along the PCT en route to the Fire Lookout Tower
The Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout Trail is about 5 miles in length (from the 2WD parking lot. From the 4WD parking lot, the tower is about ¾ mile away.) The trailhead from the 2WD parking lot took us on the Pacific Crest Trail. The hike is all uphill to the Lookout Tower, all downhill back. The last ½ - ¾ mile of the trail are switchbacks (mostly unshaded) to Fire Lookout Tower.
Towering boulders lining the switchbacks leading to the Fire Lookout Tower
The stairs up to the tower (about 200 stairs, I've read - I did not confirm this, too busy keeping focus on not falling) had railings on both sides, and gaps between each step. There were two portions that was super scary for acrophobic me. The Tower itself was no better - the “floor” was made of see-through metal.
Metal Stairs going up to the Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout Tower
There were lots of bugs at the top of tower, though we didn't get bitten. Views were similar to the views just before the 4x4 parking lot, with some snow sneaking into the frame from the Lookout Tower. The view was of several alpine lakes, including Sardine Lakes. Below is a map of the trail and trailhead.
Map of Sierra Buttes Trail and Trailhead
|Features:||Walk to the tallest peak of the Lakes Basin with views of three lakes in series: Upper, Lower Sardine Lakes and Sand Pond along the trail and from the Lookout. Views of a double lake (Tamarack Lakes?) from trail as well.|
|Our Hike:||5 mile rt, 1600 ft elev gain, all uphill there, all downhill back|
|Directions:||See Map Above|
|Don't Forget:||Water(No water on trail), Hat, Sunscreen|
We drove to Lower Sardine Lake, parked at the last parking lot and walked up 4x4 road to Upper Sardine Lake across from the parking lot. The hike was unshaded, about 4 miles return and 800 ft elevation gain.
Trail to Upper Sardine Lake via 4WD trail from Lower Sardine Lake
Upper Sardine Lake had the Buttes towering over it. From the rocky lagoon that divided Upper from Lower Sardine Lakes, we could see Lower Sardine Lake below, and Upper Sardine Lake above us. We could hear the creek rushing from Upper to Lower Sardine Lakes. It was a beautiful early evening hike with the almost-full moon making it's appearance at the end of our hike.
Upper Sardine Lake with Buttes towering over it
We drove past Sardine Lake Campground then Sardine Lake Resort on our way to our parking spot. Lower Sardine Lake looked busier than Upper Sardine Lake. Upper Sardine Lake was smaller but more beautiful with the Buttes framing its upper half. We saw a couple kayaking at Upper Sardine Lake. I wished we brought our inflatable boat here.
Views of Lower Sardine Lake
During our trip, we stayed at Salmon Creek Campground, at site #15. Our site had trees over us, but with minimal privacy from our neighboring camper. The Campground, like most here, was only equipped with a vault toilet, but we had no trouble finding spigots with potable water.
|Features:||Walk along Lower Sardine Lake to the rocky lagoon that separates Upper and Lower Sardine Lakes. Take in views of both lakes, with Upper Sardine Lakes framed by the Sierra Buttes.|
|Our Hike:||4 miles rt, 800 ft elev gain, all uphill there, all downhill back|
|Sardine Lake Resort:||990 Sardine Lake Rd, Sierra City, CA 96125 (public parking is close to this address).|
|Don't Forget:||Water, Hat, Sunscreen|