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Sardine Lakes to Sierra Buttes Lookout

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Tahoe National Forest

Sardine Lakes to Sierra Buttes Lookout is a 13 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Sierra City, California that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, running, camping, and backpacking and is best used from July until September. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

Length 13.0 mi Elevation gain 3,448 ft Route type Out & Back
Dog friendly Backpacking Camping Hiking Running Lake Views Rocky Snow No shade
Waypoints (0)
Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (61)
Photos (590)
Recordings (46)
Completed (108)
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Jessica Cheney
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 14, 2020
HikingGreat!

Beautiful trail but very loose gravel the first couple miles. I will say for being in decent shape this was a very tough hike. Many areas are unshaded so wear sunscreen and carry at least 3l water and snacks. It was very busy at the top towards the staircase as other trails converge a mile or two before. Amazing views and worth it though.

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Elek Sebestyen
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarAugust 29, 2020
Hiking
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Sydney Heller
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 25, 2020
BackpackingBugsNo shadeRocky

The trail length of 13 mi seemed right for us, I’m not sure why some people said it was closer to 15. As per suggestion in other reviews, we decided to camp at Tamarrack lakes. We hiked in, set up camp, then continued to the Sierra Butte Fire lookout. We slept 1 night and then hiked the 4 miles back. Camping at the lake was pretty easy. There were plenty of mosquitoes (although they were pretty discrete) camping so close to the water. There was a nice stream flowing into the lake for easy water filtering at the second lake. Note, Tamarrack Lakes are accessible by car, and we did see quite a few people who had driven in to camp or to just spend the day, so it wasn’t super easy finding a spot to set up tent. Overall, the trail was pretty brutal, with very little shade, and with loose rock underfoot (tough on the ankles). The trail was pretty well defined and crossed the PCT quite a few times, although the intersections were fairly easy to navigate. The trail itself was pretty lightly trafficked. The views were stunning and continued to get better the higher we went. The final track to the lookout is definitely worth it (bring hand sanitizer as you’ll likely need to hold on to the rails going up the final stairs, which can be a bit daunting if you’re afraid of heights). Overall, great for an overnight backpacking trip and a quad/glut workout.

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Stephany Lear
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 21, 2020
Hiking

Bucket list hike! Easy enough trail to follow groom Sardine Lake campgrounds to Fire Lookout Tower, good hiking shoes helpful with all the loose rocks. Can’t stress enough to bring at least 4L pp of liquid hydration! Get up early and get ‘er done to avoid more peeps on the converging trails towards the top of the buttes.

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Naval Gupta
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 26, 2020
Backpacking

Tough hike with gravels, we backpacked and camped at Tamarack lakes, great view all round. Also its more like 13.5-14miles round trip

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Hello World
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 13, 2020
Hiking

Trail Condition: 06-13-2020 Trail is in perfect shape. There is some snow at the top but nothing hard to pass. While you may see many people around the lookout, the rest of this trail is super quite. Some part of the trail is exposed so sun cream is a must. It is a beautiful trail, with amazing views. When we reached to the lookout, it was so foggy, we literally did not see anything. But the views on the way was enough to make this hike great without the 360 view from the lookout. Definitely must do if you are in the area.

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John McCoy
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 3, 2019
Hiking

Ok so, FIRST : I’ve hiked a ton of hard trails on all trails and none really have been . HOWEVER this one is not that. I’m hurting still 15 hours after starting this hike. I ended up with 13.7 at 7hrs and was gassed. Couple tips . No snow at least today(1 nov 19) you need at LEAST 4L of water for this hike. I heard a fairly large animal on the pct portion stomp through the brush near me dunno what but be aware. It’s a straight up ...straight down ...straight up hike with a lot of loose stones so plz come prepared. I love this hike and will be doing it again! ...once I recover

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Michael Emery
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HikingNo shadeRocky
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Emily Doisy
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJuly 21, 2019
Backpacking

We turned this into a backpacking trip hiking from Sardine Lakes to Tamarack Lakes on Friday night, camped at upper Tamarack, hiked to the Sierra Buttes lookout Saturday morning and then back down to Tamarack for our packs and North on the PCT to Deer Lake. I recorded the hike from Deer Lake back to Sardine. Beautiful area, minus one star because everywhere you go the OHVs are already there. People can drive to within a half mile of the lookout and to every lake we went to.

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Megan Wolff
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 15, 2019
HikingNo shade

We started at the Tamarack Connector Trail. This is basically 3 hikes in one. First part is super rocky making your footing a little difficult. Some pretty tough switchbacks with minimal shade to get to the top. You’ll get some amazing views of the lakes. Once you get to the top, you come straight back down but at this point it’s a nice reprieve for your legs. You’ll pass a really cool rock garden with huge boulders and then go through some trees to start making your way through some longer switchbacks to the start of the the lookout trail. Last part of the hike is the hike back up to the top and you’ll hike over some snow in parts which are pretty slippery. This trail is definitely lacking in signage so keep an eye out for the pink ribbons on the trees. Definitely worth the view once you climb the 170 steps to the top. We clocked in at 7.3 miles one way. Got lost twice on the way back due to poor signage but luckily my AllTrails app let me pull up the map to get us back on track. We brought 3 liters of water and 3 liters of Gatorade and ran out of both 1.5 miles to the end. Bring snacks too! Not super difficult but expect over 14 miles rather than 11 like AllTrails says

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Frank Nichols
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJuly 13, 2019
HikingRockySnow

Great trail! The first 2 miles is a rock garden. Which is fun on the way back when you’re tired. It’s a slow rise in elevation as you pass by the Lower & Upper Sardine Lakes then there are a couple of steep switch backs to the top of the ridge. Then an easy walk down and past Tamarack Lakes followed by a steep hike to the lookout. There is still a bit of snow in the last mile and I lost the trail a few times. Thankfully I had downloaded the AllTrails map which got me to the top. Glad I got this One off the list. It was tough...or I just had a whimpy day. Next!

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Stephen Dorow
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 9, 2019
Hiking

Hiked on July 6th. Lots of patchy snowfields to cross on the summit ridge, but it's melting very fast and was not that hard to follow (look for the pink ribbon markers on the trees). There were plenty of folks coming up the shorter route, but below the PCT we only saw a couple other folks. Nice swim in Tamarack Lakes. Fantastic scenery almost the whole way up with epic 360 views at the top!

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Aditya Tyagi
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJune 23, 2019
HikingRockyScrambleSnow

Plenty of snow above 6000 feet. Packer creek is flowing fast and cold. Like really cold. We crossed it without shoes while going up but ended up circumnavigating by walking down towards a narrow section along packer lake trail. The trail disappears under snow 300 feet below PCT. We ended up turning back after reaching PCT as the stretch further up looked treacherous. Not shaded for most part.

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Tamie Tattics
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 5, 2018

we took this trail from the tamarack trail head to the sardine outlook, which overlooks upper and lower sardine lake. which is 4 miles round trip. the sardine outlook has a sign as well so you'll know when you get to it. or continue on to the sierra buttes. its a rocky trail so watch your step. beautiful views of the lakes and sierra buttes. not much shade so bring sunscreen and water. an amazing trail for the views

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Kelsey Anderson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSeptember 14, 2018
Hiking

Very beautiful, but hard. There are multiple starting points to reach the Sierra Buttes look out but starting from Sardine Lake area you take the Tamarack Lake Trailhead that is on the right before you reach the campground based on the directions from the app and then continue past Upper Tamarack Lake towards the lookout. My friends pedometer clocked us just under 14 miles round trip for this hike. My dog was a champ but the trail is very rocky and she was unable to do the stairs up to the lookout at the end, so hiking with a buddy is helpful so one can go up and enjoy the look out while one stays with the dog - then swap so you both get to enjoy the beauty at the end of the uphill climb. Hike is very hard, but very rewarding! Bring LOTS of water!

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mike hatfield
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJanuary 3, 2018
Hiking

Almost missed the trailhead as its named something else, a connector (I'll post the picture). heads up pretty quick and it's like a rocky dry creek bed the bends around through the trendline until it breaks out along the ridge. amazing views!! gets pretty steep toward the end of the Sardine Lakes section. But the views.......

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Peter Mumford
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarOctober 14, 2017

Good views of Sardine lakes and the buttes, but the "trails" are just old rocky mining roads and there are human structures everywhere. The campsites are mediocre at best, and the new switchbacks to gain the butte ridge are excessive. I would not recommend that trail or that area.

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Zach Kumler
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 4, 2017
Backpacking

Took a crew of mixed level hikers to the look out. Very challenging with a 30 lb pack but definitely worth the views. The route was difficult to follow the last mile due to the snow pack. I would recommend a quick brush up on terrain association but overall fairly easy to follow. The rocks at the beginning were treacherous on the ankles, so be careful.

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Tiago Galletti
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 19, 2016
Backpacking

Awesome trail. It's actually called the Tamarack Trail and has some great little lakes to camp next to. We hiked the 3+ miles to Lower Tamarack and set camp there before hiking to the lookout and back without our packs. Wonderful views

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Rocio Gonzalez
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 10, 2016
Hiking

Loved it

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Nathaniel Paige
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 5, 2016

Right loose rocks at first, but good views. Then a disappointing loss of altitude as you work back down towards Tamarack Lake.

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Alisia Hunter
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 22, 2016

The hike up to the fire lookout tower at 8587 feet elevation had the most spectacular views of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and valley's below. It is a trail one should do at least once in their lifetime.

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Will Ross
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 10, 2015
Hiking

Took the 4x4 trail up to within a mile of the summit before the snow prevented us from driving further. The hike up from there was a bit steep but fairly easy for anyone is decent shape. If anything, the fantastic views will take your breath away. If you don't have a 4x4 with high clearance, the hike up would still be well worth it. Once at the summit, there is a fire lookout station that we were able to walk upon an enjoy the 360 degree views from.

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Andy Cole
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 9, 2013
Off Road Driving

Easy drive in a 4WD or high any high clearance vehicle; might be a bit rough for the family mini-van though! It is about a 3/4 mile hike from the parking area up to the top, but more then worth it. The view is AMAZING!!! If you have the guts to climb the old rickety tower with a 2,000' drop to the Sardine Lakes below! You can see over the Sierras into the Nevada desert, Mount Shasta to the North, AND the Coastal range to the West! It truly feels like the top of the world!

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