As you drive along the desolate highway to the Lost Sierra, winding past towering conifers and rushing streams, it’s easy to feel as though you’re worlds away from the East Bay. With its crisp air, glaciated lake basins, snow-dusted mountain peaks, and quiet solitude, the alpine wonderland is the perfect place for both peaceful contemplation and high adventure. Indeed, the Northern California region lives up to its namesake, serving as a welcome respite for those wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and avoid the crowds of the big ski resorts.
Situated about an hour away from Truckee near the edge of the California-Nevada border, the Lost Sierra does require a longer journey, but it’s well worth it: You’ll find a string of charming, laid-back towns—including Clio, Blairsden, Graeagle, and Portola—shimmering lakes, soaring mountains, miles of trails, and breathtaking scenery. (Think Lake Tahoe, but without the crowds.) So roll down your car windows, feel the invigorating breeze on your face, and revel in the natural splendor surrounding you as you begin your exploration of the largely undiscovered Lost Sierra.
Where to Stay in the Lost Sierra
There are a handful of lodging options in the Lost Sierra, but Nakoma is the clear standout. Encircled by mountain peaks and the Plumas National Forest, the resort is home to a rustic-chic, 42-room lodge as well as the only Frank Lloyd Wright–designed clubhouse in the world.
The architectural gem also boasts modern amenities in every room, an 18-hole championship golf course, and a 12,000-square-foot recreation center—complete with a heated pool, climbing wall, game room, fitness studio, movie theater, and gourmet eatery. Guests can traverse the property’s trails through the fragrant forest and, in the winter months, cross-country ski across the grounds and whip down the tubing hill.
Check into your sumptuous accommodations (request a forest-facing room so you can admire the natural serenity directly from your patio) and prepare for your upcoming adventures.
What to Do in the Lost Sierra
Outdoor explorers will find plenty to keep them occupied in the stunning expanse, dotted with 50-plus turquoise lakes and a sprawling network of trails. If you want to get out on the water, look no further than the gorgeous Gold Lake—the largest lake in the Lost Sierra—which is equipped with a public boat launch and rental boats. Swim, fish, or water-ski in the morning, then sail or windsurf when the breezes pick up in the afternoon.
If a relaxed-yet-scenic hike if what you seek, head to the Sardine Lakes. The 1.8-mile loop from Lower Sardine Lake to Upper Sardine Lake is suitable for hikers of all ages and skill levels (and welcomes well-behaved dogs). Traverse the rocky path leading past trickling streams and giant conifers and admire the breathtaking vistas of the lake and craggy mountains around you. On this trail, you’ll also take in one of the most majestic sights in the Lost Sierra: the Sierra Buttes, an eroded volcanic lava dome that towers above the landscape.
For even more majestic views (and a more challenging hike), walk another four miles from Upper Sardine Lake to the Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout, where you will need to climb 178 steps to reach the incredible vista point at the top. Your glutes may scream, but the final push is worth it. Atop the tallest point of the glacier-carved Buttes, you’ll find sweeping views of the Tahoe National Forest and—on a clear day—Lassen Peak.
Reward your efforts with an ice-cold craft beer at The Brewing Lair in Blairsden. Tucked away in the woods, this hidden brewery is a wonderful spot to sit back and savor a pint. (You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the "Beer here now" sign.) Choose from a rotating list of small-batch brews on tap, or go for the "Trail of Tastes" to get a five-beer sampler for $8. As you imbibe, challenge your friends to a game of cornhole or disc golf, test your balance on the slackline, play fetch with your pup, or simply lounge in an Adirondack chair as you soak up the scenery. Since outside food is welcome, feel free to bring some snacks to pair with your brew.
If you’re in need of a pick-me-up, get your fix at Millie’s Ice Cream and Coffee Co. in Graeagle. This bright-red shack nestled among the trees offers delicious scoops of house-made ice cream alongside specialty coffee drinks and an assortment of decadent truffles. (Trust us, you’ll want to take a box of these sweet treats for the road.) Afterward, peruse downtown Graeagle, a small stretch lined with locally owned shops offering a treasure trove of unique, artisanal goods. Grab handcrafted soaps and lotions at Undercover Botanicals, a stylish tote and loungewear from Briar Patch, quirky gifts and home decor at Feathers, and eco-friendly accessories and clothing at Eco Centric.
Where to Dine in the Lost Sierra
End your day with a memorable dinner inside a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece. Nakoma’s Wigwam Room not only boasts intriguing architecture, but also delectable, fresh California cuisine. Start off with the mixed green salad tossed with shaved fennel, roasted shiitake mushrooms, goat cheese brûlée, and a vibrant lemon-zest vinaigrette. Then choose between the rich short ribs—featuring melt-in-your-mouth, Burgundy-braised beef atop creamy mashed potatoes—and the succulent, Asian-inspired mahi-mahi served alongside tamago fried quinoa. Conclude the meal on a sweet note by ordering the crème brûlée trio. As you savor every bite next to the roaring fireplace, don’t forget to look up and admire the stained glass windows and soaring wooden ceiling above you.
Then, mosey over to The Wigwam Bar for artisanal cocktails, craft beers, or a glass of wine. If it’s a sublime summer night, step out onto the Sky Deck to take in panoramic views of the verdant landscape punctuated by jagged mountaintops. Sip your libation and linger until the sun goes down on your weekend of exploration and discovery in the Lost Sierra.