Sierra Buttes Trail

Portola, California 96122

Sierra Buttes Trail

Sierra Buttes Trail Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"The prominent volcanic peaks of Sierra Buttes, visible for miles around, are one of the most distinctive geological features in the northern Sierra Nevada. As you approach the buttes, the forest service’s small lookout can be seen perched precariously on the uppermost peak (8,587 feet). Although no longer used for spotting fires, the lookout is now one of the most popular hiking destinations in the region. On warm summer weekends, it is not unusual to see 30 or more hikers admiring the views from the lookout platform. Special Attractions: Long section of narrow shelf road with views of Sierra Buttes and the North Yuba River Valley; Moderately strenuous hike to the Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout; Access to a network of 4WD trails and many lakes for fishing and camping. High-clearance 4WDs are preferred, but any high-clearance vehicle is acceptable. Expect a rough road surface; mud and sand are possible but will be easily passable. You may encounter rocks up to 6 inches in diameter, a loose road surface, and shelf roads, though these will be wide enough for passing or will have adequate pull-offs."

More Sierra Buttes Trail Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

101 Hikes in Northern California: Exploring Mountains, Valleys, and Seashore (Wilderness Press)
Matt Heid
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"Sierra Buttes soar, powerful monoliths of rock burst from the sylvan terrain of the North Fork Yuba River. Atop their highest peak a tower perches—a lookout for wildfire with commanding views."
Hiking The Sierra Nevada (Falcon Guides)
Barry Parr
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"With vast views and a spectacularly exposed stairway climb to the very pinnacle of this jagged 8, 857-foot summit, the lookout tower on Sierra Buttes is a popular destination for hikers. There are many routes to the top of the Sierra Buttes. The hardest trails climb from near Lower Sardine Lake (elevation 5, 750 feet) or from Highway 49 at the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) crossing (elevation 4, 580 feet). The easiest starts from the four-wheel-drive parking area on the mountain’s shoulder, at just under 8, 000 feet."

Sierra Buttes Trail Trip Reports

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The hike was exactly how it had been described in the trail guide! There was no way our group would have been able to find the trail as easily without the guide. We completed the 5 mile round trip hike in just under 3 hours and none of us are experienced hikers. We thought the trail was difficult due to the steep slope almost the entire way, but the views at the top are MORE than worth the hike!!! I would make sure you take a jacket or long sleeves for up at the lookout.
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Terrific scenery, excellent directions! Because of heat, would suggest carry LOTS of water and consider travel in fall (spring travel probably involves a lot of snow and mud). Encountered more bicyclists than SUV's. Would suggest travel with vehicle with more ground clearance than a Subaru wagon. Well worth the trip!

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Trail Information

Nearby City
Trail Type
Moderate to Difficult
Skill Level
1.75 hours
July to November, best in dry weather
4,200 feet
Trailhead Elevation
7,700 feet
Top Elevation
Tahoe National Forest
Local Contacts
USGS Sierra City, Portola
Local Maps

Trail Log