Sierra Outdoor Recreation covers approximately one-million acres. We've developed maps covering nine areas that are the natural favorites of recreation enthusiasts. We each have our preference, so we've listed them alphabetically to help visitors learn the region. If you can only focus on one or two Areas, don't miss the high-country in Lakes Basin and Grouse Ridge. The North Fork American River is unparalleled as a Wild River and canyon. The South Yuba River and Auburn State Recreation Areas are year-around attractions.
Auburn State Recreation Area is Auburn's backyard playground. Deeply incised canyons extend from the Confluence up the North and Middle Forks American River and Lake Clementine to Colfax, Foresthill, Oxbow Lake and Ralston Dam.
Donner Summit stretches along the spine of the Sierra Crest following the Pacific Crest Trail from Donner Pass north to Mount Lola and south to Tinkers Knob. Scrambling atop Castle Peak or Mount Lola are strenuous but family-friendly climbs for older kids.
The East Slope Area is western to its core. From Sierra Valley south to the rim above Lake Tahoe, Truckee and Donner Memorial State Historical Park lie the Area's heart. Jackson Meadows, Stampede, Boca, Prosser and Martis Creek Reservoirs are popular.
Small but inspiring Granite Chief Wilderness is readily accessed from the Pacific Crest Trail via Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. Headwaters of the Middle Fork American, Picayune Valley, and Rubicon Rivers are the heart and soul of the Wilderness.
"...Five Lakes Basin is considered its soul."
Grouse Ridge is loved for numerous high-country lakes and easy access via Interstate 80 and Bowman, Faucherie, and Meadow Lake Roads. Favorite destinations are Rucker, Carr, Lindsey, Island, and Penner Lakes, but Five Lakes Basin is considered its soul.
The core of Lakes Basin is the readily accessible Gold Lake, but nearly 70 lakes help make this Area popular. Sardine, Packer, and Salmon Lakes have rustic resorts located at each. Frazier Falls, Sierra Buttes, and Plumas Eureka State Park are destinations not to be missed.
North Fork of the American River is classic Wild and Scenic River -- au naturel. Euchre Bar, Big Bend Visitors Center and Loch Leven Lakes offer the best entries from the north. From the south, Mumford Bar and American River Trails are popular destinations.
North Yuba River and Highway 49 share a scenic canyon linking numerous recreational experiences stretching from Bullards Bar Reservoir to beyond Loves Falls and Bassetts Station. Downieville and Sierra City are day and night destinations for outdoor lovers.
The heart of the South Yuba River is 39 miles of free-flowing river extending from Bridgeport, through South Yuba State Park and by Malakoff Diggins State Parks to Lake Spaulding. Nevada City, Grass Valley, and Washington provide amenities for visitors.
"Downieville and Sierra City are day and night destinations for outdoor lovers."
Visit the Central Sierra Nevada Often
Choose the area that appeals to you; enjoy! Then come back and try another area and location. If you like the high country of Lakes Basin and Grouse Ridge, you'll enjoy Donner Summit and Granite Chief Wilderness. The North Fork of American River is all wild and much of the canyon is challenging even for the hearty. The North Yuba River is also free-flowing but is family-friendly with Highway 49 paralleling most of the scenic river. The South Yuba River and Auburn State Recreation Area attract over a million recreation visits annually. Try East Slope for contrast: mountains and sweeping valleys. This is where the East meets the West.
Sierra Outdoor Recreation Has a Big Backyard
Lying within the Central Sierra Nevada, the Tahoe National Forest dominates the northern section that stretches south from the Plumas-Eureka State Park in the Lakes Basin of the Plumas National Forest, to the Middle and North Forks of American River in the heart of the Auburn State Recreation Area and the northern rim of the El Dorado National Forest. Sierra Outdoor Recreation covers the foothills and mountains stretching to Nevada within Yuba, Nevada, and Placer as well as all of Sierra Counties.