Sierra Buttes
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High in the Sierra
One of the most spectacular views in the central high Sierra (about one hour's drive north of Truckee, CA) is surprisingly accessible. This wasn't always the case. The first time I saw these lakes--near to far, Young America, Upper Sardine, Lower Sardine--I was 8 or 9 years old, and the climb to the lookout station at the top of the Sierra Buttes (8,591 ft. above sea level) took about 4 hours. Now you can drive up a paved logging road and walk to this spot in 45 minutes to an hour, with just three or four mildly steep ascents on a beautifully maintained trail. From Highway 49 (up from Sierra City or down from the Yuba Pass), turn north onto the Gold Lake Road; about 1/4 mile up the road, turn left onto the Sardine Lake/Packer Lake Road, and stay right onto the Packer Lake Road for about 3.5 miles. At Packer Lake, take the fork left on the road uphill to Packer Saddle on the Pacific Crest trail. At the top of the ridge, turn left and drive to the end of the road. You'll find the trailhead at the end of the gravel parking lot. About 4o minutes up the trail to the Buttes lookout, you'll walk through an amazing forest of giant boulders; keep an eye out to your left for the path out to this overlook. You'll have a hard time pulling yourself away. But continue to the unmanned ranger station for an unmatched 360-degree panorama. For more about the trail:
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