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Sierra Buttes Lookout Trail is a 4.8 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Sierra City, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking and running and is best used from June until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

Length 4.8 mi Elevation gain 1,548 ft Route type Out & Back
Dog friendly Hiking Running Forest Views Wild flowers Wildlife Snow
Description
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Getting There

Views of three lakes to fire lookout where you can see the Sacramento Valley. Trailhead is about 1/4 to 1/2 mile after the end of paved road. Beyond trailhead is OHV-only. Trail is mostly uphill but not too steep with plenty of flat ground. As you approach the first ridge, you'll see wildflowers & butterflies galore. Around the bend are the Tamarack Lakes, reflecting the sky, clouds, & trees. A little ways farther is Young America lake, which is just as reflective. Finally, you'll meet up with the 4WD trail that has 4 or 5 switchbacks, and finally reach the bottom of the lookout tower. If you're afraid of heights, you might not want to climb, but if not, be prepared for the views! Approximately 200 steps later, you'll be atop the lookout tower, with 360-degree views of the entire Sacramento Valley. On clear days you can see as far as Lassen! You also have a wonderful view of Upper & Lower Sardine Lake.

North Yuba Visitor Center, 1-530-288-3232

Highway 80 to Truckee. Exit Highway 89 north to Sierraville. Highway 49 west 10 miles to Bassetts. North on the Gold Lake Highway and 1.5 miles to Sardine Lake/Packer Lake Road. Turn left, cross small bridge, and bear right on Packer Lake Road. Pass Packer Lake and bear left at fork. Follow signs to Pacific Crest Trail trailhead. Continue to small parking area.

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (446)
Photos (757)
Recordings (360)
Completed (848)
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Anja Van Elgort
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 22, 2020
HikingGreat!

The day was truly magical! Very few people out today. Had the look out to myself. Lots of wind with a little chill so be prepared. Crazy blue skies with no smoke. The trail is awesome!

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Chris Nosko
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 7, 2020
Hiking
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Marcella Pittman
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 6, 2020
HikingGreat!

absolutely amazing trail. very challenging hike a little over 1500ft gain in elevation in 2.5 miles, so worth it when you reach the top. park in the lot at the trail head. its just past the paved road.

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JT *.*
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSeptember 6, 2020
Hiking

If you’re in good shape this should be a good work out verses a hard trail. It was still a bit smoky, but no ash. I have old feet injuries from dance so I highly recommend walking poles (which I don’t own) especially for the trail down. Lots of rocks. As another hiker said you can drive down the dirt road a bit and park to the right of the HOV sign to save yourself some hassle. I didn’t find the walk back up to the pave road too bad. The views are stunning, but claiming the tower at the top was nerve racking. Not for those with severe height phobias. I was shaky a bit going both up and down. It was too windy, but we’re in a heat wave. There are no bathrooms, like anywhere, unless you use one at the campsite before you hit the trail, so be advised and pack everything in, especially water. I had a hard time breathing because of the elevation climb and that was the biggest reason I have to tale many breaks on the way up.

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Quinn Gardner
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 6, 2020
HikingGreat!

We hit this on July 19th and ... this was hands down the most physically demanding hike I’ve ever been on. Not at all easy - but one that every self respecting hiker in NorCal should tackle at some point in their hiking career. Gorgeous, stunning, breath taking are all words that don’t do justice to describing the views from the top. Can’t even imagine what it must have been like being stationed there! We will definitely do this one again (just perhaps when we’ve gotten in better shape! LOL!).

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Julie Nguyen
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 21, 2020
Hiking

8/21/20: Gorgeous trail, just picked the wrong day to hike it. Hazy the entire way up, but the trees and flowers were beautiful. I can only imagine how lovely it'd be on a nice day. Idk how, but I got lost about 1 mile in, just follow the rocks! The trail is wide and well-marked. It's moderate for the most part. Hardest part for me were the switchbacks leading up to the lookout tower. It was cold and WINDY at the tower, so I'd recommend a lightweight jacket. Last note, definitely park across from the OHV sign. You'll drive a short distance onto the gravel road and the lot will be on your left, directly next to the trail. I parked at the first lot on the left and had to hike uphill when heading back to the car. I'm too tired for that!

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Amber Baker
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 16, 2020
HikingGreat!

A good hike with an amazing view. Bring lots of water, sunblock, & lunch at the lookout is great idea too.

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Kara & Rex Rountree
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 10, 2020
HikingGreat!

Holy switchbacks Batman, the trek to the Sierra Buttes Lookout is no joke! This hike definitely tested some fears. The stairs at the top to the fire watch station were insane. Seeing the rock many feet beneath each step was quite unnerving. But, I got out of my head and did it anyway. Thank you body for just doing as you were told and not giving me any lip! Once at the top there was a 360 degree breathtaking view of “incredible”. We felt like we stepped through the wardrobe into Narnia. Up at the top, you could see for miles and miles, just forest and mountains, no towns or cities. It was like being teleported to the past when California was undiscovered. Apple Watch Stats: Miles: 5.4 Elevation Gain: 1,709 Wow: 1,500ft in first 2 miles!

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Frank Dowling
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 8, 2020
Hiking

Magnificent hike. Rated difficult but only if you’re in extremely poor shape. While it’s almost all uphill, it’s not at all technical and there’s plenty of places to rest. The views and wild flowers combine to make this a very special hike.

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Steve Doughty
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Dave Maher
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Hiking

Easy to follow

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Jenny & Jason Showalter
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 8, 2020
Hiking

We got to this hike a little past 9 am on a Saturday and there was already several cars in the little lot just before the start of the trailhead. This hike starts off with a pretty heavy incline that gets your legs working. Depending on what time you go a good portion of the hike may or may not be shaded (the incline up was shaded in quite a few areas for us, but going back down there was way more sun). There are plenty of good lookout spots which are nice when you want to take some recovery breaks from the incline. The view from the lookout shelter was definitely worth it, however, there was a lot of bugs at the time that we went there. Bring plenty of water and maybe even a little snack/lunch as there was plenty of good rest spots to enjoy.

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Jesus Barot
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Christopher Sutterley
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Hiking
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tsun dere
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 4, 2020
HikingNo shadeRocky

My calves are burning today! Quite the climb up but very worth it. The stairs at the lookout are narrow and steep as many have pointed out. They're a piece of cake compared to the hike though. Mostly wide trails and you'll be sharing some parts with OHVs except on the PCT. Speaking of the PCT, I got very lost on the way back. Ended up on the PCT but didn't remember taking that part of the trail to the lookout. It kept branching off what felt like every 1/3 mile and I kept picking the wrong fork and had to keep doubling back. But it was my first time on the PCT and it was absolutely magical - wildflowers and butterflies to my left and right! The weather was amazing, not too hot with a soft breeze every now and again. It added probably 1.5 hours to my hike though. There are actually two parking areas. When coming from the Tamarack Lake direction, there's a big lot that I would have been more comfortable navigating in an offroad vehicle. But if you drive down a bit more there's a smaller lot that's right at the trailhead.

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brendan coyne
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 3, 2020
HikingGreat!

A good little workout to get to the top. The vistas were breathtaking. A little something for everyone with wooded pathways, flora (even in summer), rock gardens, and a daring final ascent to the lookout tower itself. Bring water and some snacks. My advice to novices is just take your time going up. If you need a break take one. It’s ok. You will walk through uneven, rocky terrain and lots of loose gravel. We took a little over 3.5 hours with about a half hour of breaks all total, all while taking of some very worthy Instagram photos.

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Gerard Sulentic
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 3, 2020
Hiking

One of the most beautiful hikes of my life! Hiked with my family and dog. Lovely varied terrain. Wild flowers, trees, vistas... View from the lookout was stunning!

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Ruriko Widmar
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 31, 2020
HikingGreat!Rocky

Steep but 100% worth it. Bring plenty of water and snacks. Wear good hiking boots.

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Susan Stewart
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 24, 2020
Hiking

Great views dog friendly step in some parts but the view from the lookout tower is sooo worth it.

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Crystal Au
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 20, 2020
HikingBugs

The trail is pretty wide, we started early so didn’t run into anyone. There were a few wasps and lots of fruit flies at the lookout. Beautiful views all along the way up the stairs and down overlooking the upper and sardine lakes.

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Emma Verbeek
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 19, 2020
HikingRocky

The whole way to the look out is steep. There was plenty of shade so it made it very tolerable. Once you get to the top it is very well worth your while. The hard trek there was rewarded with a beautiful view. This is a must see!

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Dan McMullen
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarJuly 19, 2020
Hiking

The views at the lookout tower were spectacular. I would have appreciated more signage to know that the main trail head can get you to the lookout. I ended up looking for an alternate trailhead that I would have needed a 4WD to get to and in turn added a lot of steep hiking to my trip. My own fault for poor planning, but better signage would be a plus. To anyone that runs into the same problem: use the obvious wide parking right before the sign that points to the OHV road.

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Chantel Giongco
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJuly 18, 2020
Hiking

Hard trail. Not much shade. Good incline. Amazing views.

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Rachel Smith
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 15, 2020

Great leg burner! Steady, steep grade but the views are stunning! A little windy at the top but the stairs are stable - I'm scared of heights so skipped the lookout tower but great hike.

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Michelle Murphy
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 14, 2020
Hiking

Crazy chance here but I dropped my camera on this hike about 9 years ago. It had photos from 3 months of travel abroad. We had taken a wrong turn at some point (huge amount of snow in July) so not sure where it fell out of my pocket. Hike is rad and I’ll do it again... I really just want that memory card back. Blue Fuji weatherproof camera. (Was kinda cool back then). Maybe one day one of you rad hikers will find it and return my amazing memories!!!!

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Nicole Beadle
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 13, 2020
Hiking

Mid-July wildflowers were in full bloom today and it was beautiful! A gorgeous, easy-to-follow trail with amazing views from the top as a reward for the climb.

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Marilou AK
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 12, 2020
HikingRocky
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Trevor Se'e
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 9, 2020
Hiking

definitely earns the moderate to hard rating for how steep it is, had to take a decent amount of brakes, but damn that view was worth it! Hella beautiful 360 view of the mountains and lakes. If you have the time a must do.

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