Mary West: Exploring Round Lake
Chasing spring up the mountain, you can still find lush greenery and wildflowers. I hiked in the Basin Lakes area of Sierra County in the Plumas National Forest and it was spectacular. The drive-up Highway 49 on the Golden Chain Highway is always a pleasure.
My high school friend Matt suggested this trail. An avid outdoorsman, Matt said I must go here after reading my column on the Sierra Buttes Lookout (also Matt’s suggestion).
I passed the town of Downieville and recall this as the sight of gallows where a young woman of 20 was the only woman ever hung. Juanita had killed a man.
I stopped in Sierra City because if you don’t stop you will miss it all together. The story goes, the Monument gold nugget was found here weighing over 106 pounds recovered in September 1869. On your way, a mile out of Sierra City on Highway 49, you cross the Pacific Crest Trail. If you pull over and hike maybe a quarter mile on the east side, you will see Loves Falls with its beautiful bridge and the heart shaped rock below that gives this section of the Pacific Crest Trail its name.
Continue down Highway 49 to CA-89 North. Turn left on Gold Lake Highway. Park at the Trailhead near Gold Lake Lodge and get ready to take in spectacular views of several mountain lakes including Round Lake and Bear Lake.
Tranquil is the best way to describe this hike. The trail is dusty until you get deeper into the woods but it is well maintained. This is a recreation area, so the length of the hike is up to you. I wandered for about four miles before another friend texted me another must-see side trip to the Mills Peak Lookout.
Going back the way you came in, you’ll see the road for Mills Peak Lookout on your left. The view is worth the extra time.
A high clearance vehicle is advised but I took it slow and made it in my low-profile Subaru simply fine. There is nothing like the view from the top.
Mary West is author of the book series Day Hiker – Gold Country Trail Guide I, II and III (2nd edition Available on Amazon). The books are a collection of the Day Hiker columns where West shares her longtime love of the outdoors, favorite hikes in Northern California’s Gold Country and beyond. West was the recipient of the 2017 and 2019 CRAFT Award for Best Outdoor Column and the 2020 Craft Award for her second book in the series-Day Hiker Gold Country Trail Guide by the Outdoor Writers of California. You can follow West on Facebook and Instagram
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