One of the major draws to the Truckee-Tahoe area is, of course, the stunning beauty of Lake Tahoe. I was fortunate to have friends with lakeside homes that I visited numerous times a year for the first three decades of my life, both in summer and winter. It was a playground I loved, but didn’t think that much about because I spent plenty of time there.
Today, living in the Lost Sierra, I don’t go to Lake Tahoe that often, but when I do, my breath still catches at the first glimpse the lake. It’s just that majestic. But the public beaches and access points have become so crowded, it’s just not an enjoyable experience for me.
What I love about living in the Lost Sierra is the sheer number of gorgeous Alpine lakes that are accessible by foot, bike or car. The hardest decision I make most days is, “Which lake shall I hike to or swim in today?” So let’s take a little tour of the Lost Sierra lakes that are right in Nakoma’s back yard. This is by no means an exhaustive list of lakes, but it will give you a sneak peek into one of the great joys of living in the Lost Sierra.
Sardine Lake – for sheer beauty, Sardine Lake is hard to beat in its forested bowl with the Sierra Buttes jutting skyward so strikingly. You can kayak or fish at Sardine, and for swimming it’s just a short hike up the hill to Upper Sardine. Or, if you have young kids, just down the road from Sardine you’ll find Sand Pond, which is aptly named for its sandy bottom and shallow depth.
Bear-Round-Silver-Long Lakes – For the casual hikers both young and old, the commonly called “Bear Lakes Loop Trail” in Lakes Basin Recreation Area provides an astonishing number of gorgeous lakes per mile of hike. The basic loop is just a few miles, but there are offshoots to Round Lake and Silver Lake if you want to extend the hike and increase your lake intake. All the lakes are swimmable and make perfect picnic spots on a warm summer day.
Gold Lake – What I call our “Mini Tahoe” is a beautiful, crystal-clear lake nearly 2 miles long with boat launching facilities and a campground along one shore. There’s also a shallow water shoreline just a couple hundred yards from the road with plenty of parking for a long day in the water and sun and easy access for launching a kayak. One of the most special summer treats is moonlight kayaks on this beautiful lake.
Rock, Jamison, Wade Lakes – Located high in Plumas Eureka State Park, it’s a bit more strenuous hike to get to these three lakes but totally worth the effort. Rock Lake looks like an infinity pool from some angles, Jamison has a small waterfall at one end that feels so good pouring on your head on a hot day and Wade has lots of shady spots for a well-deserved picnic.
Lake Davis – This huge man-made reservoir was built specifically for recreation. It’s at the north end of the Sierra Valley, above the town of Portola and is on the flyway for thousands of migrating birds making it a wonderful wildlife viewing lake. You can swim, fish, kayak and bike on the bike path that goes along the south and eastern side of the lake. There are a couple boat ramps to launch fishing boats or kayaks and several campground and picnic areas along the nearly 32 miles of shoreline.
None of these lakes compare in sheer majesty with Lake Tahoe, but for plenitude and accessibility, the Lost Sierra is truly a water wonderland.