Every now and then, a respite from the masses is in order for residents of the Lake Tahoe and Truckee area — like after back-to-back weekends of holiday reveler congestion.
The Lakes Basin Recreation Area, about an hour north of Truckee, is just the spot.
The Lakes Basin butts up to the southern end of Plumas Eureka State Park and lies just north of the craggy Sierra Buttes. It’s reached by way of Gold Lake Road, which climbs west from Highway 89, just south of Graeagle.
Removed from the hustle and bustle of Tahoe, the area features more than 20 glacial lakes nestled among colorful, rocky, alpine terrain, which tops out at 7,812 feet at the peak of Mt. Elwell.
A spidering network of hiking trails makes for easy access to most of the lakes, including the scenic Long Lake, at 6,556 feet, Big Bear Lake and Round Lake, among many others. The Pacific Crest Trail runs along the western boundary of the Lakes Basin.
Gold Lake is the largest and most popular body of water — although it can hardly be called crowded. Located just off of the main road, it offers a boat launch and campground, with quality trolling for trout and Mackinaw. Frazier Falls stands out among the main attractions as well, at 176 feet high and with easy access by car or foot.
On the return drive, Bassetts Station at the fork of Gold Lake Road and Highway 49 is a good stop for food and gas — which, strangely, is priced some 30 cents a gallon cheaper than the wallet-gouging stations of Truckee and Tahoe.
A left on 49 connects travelers back to 89 over Yuba Pass for the pretty drive home. Mountain bikers, though, may opt for a right turn into the historic gold-mining town of Downieville, which is known for its world-class biking trails.
It’s tough to go wrong in those parts.