Dozens of high alpine lakes, spiky granite peaks, hiking trails galore… The Lakes Basin (about 90 minutes northwest of Tahoe) is a sublime Sierra basecamp with a laid-back vibe. Take a weekend to explore this high-country wonderland. A few ideas:
Wet Bar: With about 50 lakes in the Lakes Basin it’s tough to decide where to go! Here’s a good plan for a memorable evening: drinks and dinner at Sardine Lake Resort, located right on the shore of Sardine Lake. It has one of the best views of the jagged Sierra Buttes. It also rents log cabins by the week, though shorter stays are possible during certain times of the year. Get a reservation for one of the resort’s dinner seatings (6:00 p.m. or 8:00 p.m.), then arrive an hour before mealtime and head to a lakeside bar (pictured) that’s among our top picks in Northern California for grabbing a drink. (Tip: You don’t need a dinner reservation to enjoy the bar.)
The bar is actually a tiny wooden boat shack connected to the dock. With windows on all sides, it easily puts you in the mountain mood. When the dinner bell rings, walk 100 feet to the intimate, rustic dining room for a tasty meal of Angus rib eye steak, St. Louis ribs, fresh fish, or daily features. Save room for dessert…that’s all we’re saying.
Packer Plunge: Summer swimming in a Sierra lake adds years to your life (approximately 3 months for every plunge). Don’t believe us? Then try a midday swim at sprawling Packer Lake. You’ll immediately feel years younger.
The lake’s southeast side has picnic tables and a gradual access to the refreshing mountain-nourished water. It’s also a great place to cast a fishing line or lollygag in a rowboat. You say you’re into yelling “cannonball”? The north shore has rocks to jump off and is also home to the utterly charming Packer Lake Lodge. Its 15 cabins come with a rowboat for use on the lake. (“Sleeping cabins” can be rented on a nightly basis; all others rented by the week.) The tiny onsite restaurant is open for breakfast and dinner, and serves drinks throughout the day. Safety Tip: Be sure keep your fun dip fun by ensuring water levels support a cannonball moment. Water levels can very season to season, month to month.
Dinner at Sardine Lake Resort is served Wednesday to Sunday. The lakeside bar opens at 5:00 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday. Reservations for dinner (6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.) are required, (530) 862-1196.