Protecting a Fractured Landscape
The Sierra Buttes are a compact massif rising more than 4,500 feet above the North Fork of the Yuba River. The northernmost granitic outcropping in the Sierra Nevada, the Buttes provide a dramatic backdrop to the Lakes Basin with its 100 glaciated lakes and ponds.
Few people realize that this ostensibly pristine landscape was actively mined during the Gold Rush. Old mines and mining structures still dot the landscape, along with pre-World War II lodges and campgrounds that have accommodated generations of loyal visitors. Until recently, approximately 3,000 of the area’s 19,000 acres were in private ownership including a substantial portion of the Buttes and several of the Lakes Basin’s most picturesque and pristine lakes. Development of these private in-holdings could dramatically affect water quality, disrupt wildlife corridors, and diminish the recreational and scenic values of the Lakes Basin.
Conservation of the Sierra Buttes
In 2011, the Trust for Public Land, in partnership with the Sierra County Land Trust, purchased several important properties at the heart of the Buttes: Volcano Lake on the apron of the Buttes, a second parcel covering much of the rock face of the Buttes, and a beautiful shoreline property on Upper and Lower Sardine Lakes previously at risk for development. These properties provide public access to a popular hiking trail linking the Pacific Crest Trail with the summit of the Buttes, and protect four pristine high alpine lakes and habitat for a number of rare and endangered species. Additionally, these lands are part of the Yuba River watershed, a critical source of clean water for Northern California.
Stewardship and Recreation
The Sierra County Land Trust is now the owner and steward of these lands. The Trust’s goals include maintaining the ecological integrity of the properties, water quality for downstream users, and the myriad of recreational opportunities for visitors.
Directions from Truckee
- Take Highway 89 north 25 miles to Sierraville.
- Turn west on Highway 49 and follow over the Yuba Pass to Bassetts.
- Turn right (north) onto the Gold Lake Highway/County Route S620 and follow 1-2 miles to the Packer Lake Road/County Route 621.
- Turn left and follow to campground near Sardine Lake where you will find a trailhead near the Sardine Lake Resort, a great place for dinner. There are many trails in the Lakes Basin including several up to the top of the Sierra Buttes. For more information and a map of some of the trails in the Lakes Basin, please go to: