Lookout for This View!

Hike to the Sierra Buttes Lookout in the Lakes Basin, Sierra Nevada

Hike to the Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout in the Lakes Basin

Fire lookouts are like the lighthouses of the mountains: perched at great vantages and providing the best panoramas of the surrounding area. And the Sierra Buttes Lookout, at a lofty 8,591 feet, is a memory maker for its pucker-worthy stairway to the tower’s balcony. And the reward? Epic. Ready? Look up! Wayyy up. There’s the lookout, perched on the tippy-top of the Sierra Buttes, and yep—you’re hiking to it.

Gallery image 1 of 2
Gallery image 2 of 2

It’s a 5-mile (round-trip) moderate ascent that can feel a little more challenging with the altitude. But take your time and take breaks—plenty of people of all ages do this trek. The wide dirt trail winds up through high mountain terrain. A few wildflowers, more of a spring sensation, cling to summer days. The higher you climb, the better your perspective of the Lakes Basin, including Young America Lake, with Mount Elwell to the north.

Hike to the Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout in the Lakes Basin

Now comes the big OMG: that stairway! The multi-tiered steps to the lookout require a bit of a head for heights. They’re steep but sturdy, and if you look down you’ll see a lot of craggy rock and granite beneath. Deep breath … slow and steady and …. you’re up! And whoa, the wind. And whoa-wow: the view!

Gallery image 1 of 3
Gallery image 2 of 3
Gallery image 3 of 3

The panorama of the Sierra Buttes races all the way out to Mount Lassen on clear days. To the west is the Yuba River Canyon and Sacramento Valley, while the south showcases Bowman Lakes and the peaks surrounding Tahoe. Upper Sardine Lake glints in the golden sun, and just beyond it, Lower Sardine Lake appears heart-shaped (marriage proposal spot? Don’t drop the ring!). Simply Butte-iful!

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST: In the episode “Secret Sierra” Weekend Sherpa co-founders discuss their trip to the Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout and the Lakes Basin.

CAMPING TIP: There’s great lakeside camping nearby in the Lakes Basin. Goose Lake Campground is a nice one with only 14 sites. There’s also Gold Lake, Snag Lake, Haven Lake, and others.

Hike to the Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout in the Lakes Basin

From Gold Lake Hwy. turn onto Packer Lake Rd. following the signs to Packer Lake. Shortly before reaching Packer Lake, turn left following the road and sign to Sierra Buttes. Go up a steep grade and continue left again following the sign to Sierra Buttes. Within about half a mile you’ll reach a wide parking area, but continue a bit further to reach more parking and the trailhead for hiking up to Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout.

Trending Stories Northern CA

View all Stories
  1. Image that represents the story

    Tamtastical Hike

    This 6.8-mile loop through the woods and ridges that make up the northern foothills of Tam offer the best of both worlds: solitude and grandeur. Enjoy quiet trails, tranquil forest, and big views.

    View
  2. Image that represents the story

    Hawk-Eyed Sunset

    It's one of the best sunset spots in the Bay Area. And Hawk Hill in the Marin Headlands is quieter than usual this year because of few tourists. Enjoy a sweeping panorama 923 feet above the Pacific.

    View
  3. Image that represents the story

    Thank You to Our 2020 Team

    Thank you to our wonderful 2020 team for bringing the great outdoors home in a most challenging year. Meet our contributors and get ideas from their personal favorite CA adventures this year.

    View
  4. Image that represents the story
    Sponsored

    2021 Hiking Calendar!

    Ready to kick off 2021? (Like we have to ask.) Literally kick it off, with a hike! Download the 2021 POST Hiking Calendar (complimentary)—with recommended trails for every month of the year.

    View

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Image that represents the story

    Trebek Open Space

    While most hikers head over to adjacent Runyon Canyon, instead do the 2-mile hike at Trebek Open Space and pay your respects to the legendary Jeopardy host and philanthropist, Alex Trebek.

    View
  2. Image that represents the story

    Rock the Hope at Lake Elsinore

    Hike the 4-mile Levee Trail on the shores of Southern California's largest natural freshwater lake, Lake Elsinore, and get a splash of positive energy thanks to the Rock Snake started earlier this year.

    View
  3. Image that represents the story

    Weekend Sherpa Podcast: Take it Outside

    Amid a new year that's already had challenges, Brad and Holly discuss the realities of what's happening in the country. And (!) some of the best new hiking trails locally in the Bay Area and SoCal.

    View
  4. Image that represents the story
    Sponsored

    A Very Reno Winter

    You’ve never had a winter vacation like Reno Tahoe! The Biggest Little City in the World is also one of the best winter basecamps. The Truckee River flows right through its lively Riverwalk District.

    View