Jamison Lake the Lakes Basin

Lakes Basin Recreation Area

Photo by Mark Kidder

With over 20 small lakes, impressive peaks, 30+ miles of trails, waterfalls, and picturesque campgrounds and historic lodges, the Lakes Basin Recreation Area is a crown jewel in the Plumas National Forest. While only nine miles away from Graeagle, the Lakes Basin Recreation Area truly gives you that “Lost Sierra” feel with world class trails and high mountain views without the crowds. 

The Lakes Basin is a unique geologic area along the Sierra Crest–glacially carved lakes give the region its name. The Sierra Buttes to the south of the Recreation Area are a dramatic fortress-like mountain formation reaching nearly 9,000’ in elevation.

When to Visit the Lakes Basin

Summer in the Lakes Basin is perfect for hiking, wildflower viewing, swimming, boating, camping, backpacking, and more. Winter offers a whole other world of mountain sports with snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, and snowmobile tours. Typically, Lakes Basin campgrounds are open from late May through October.

Day Hikes

If you love hiking, the Lakes Basin Recreation Area is the place to be! From short loops to crystal clear lakes to long hikes and overnight trips on the Pacific Crest Trail, this area has a trail for every type of hiker.

Mountain Biking in the Lakes Basin

The Lakes Basin is becoming increasingly popular for Mountain Biking with technical trails for intrepid riders. Expect rocky conditions, granite steps, steep climbs, narrow trails and epic terrain. Some of the more popular mountain biking trails are: Gray Eagle Creek Trail, Jamison Creek Trail, Long Lake Trail, Mt. Elwell Loop and the Round Lake Loop.

Explore more in the Lakes Basin

Gold Lake is the largest of the lakes in the Lakes Basin Recreation Area and is an excellent destination for fishing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and swimming. 

Rainbow Trout, Cutthroat Trout, Brown Trout, Lake Trout and Kokanee Salmon are regularly caught in the lake.  Motorized and non-motorized boats are allowed on Gold Lake and there are two boat launches. Learn more on Plumas National Forest’s Gold Lake website.

Paddle boarding and kayaking are also popular activities in the Lakes Basin. Goose Lake, in addition to Gold Lake, has easy water access. 

There are four developed campgrounds in the Lakes Basin Recreation Area and three historic lodges with cabins and visitor amenities. Please visit the Plumas National Forest Lakes Basin Recreation Area website to learn more.

Dispersed camping and backpacking is allowed north of Mt. Elwell including along Smith Lake Trail and Jamison Creek Trail corridors.

Looking for glamping options, vacation homes, or a resort experience? View our lodging options to plan your mountain retreat today.

In the winter, the Gold Lake highway is plowed a few miles up the road from Graeagle to the Gold Lake Winter Staging Area. A groomed snowmobile trail uses the highway and connects to a variety of locations in Lakes Basin. Cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiles are allowed.  For designated snowmobile routes and regulations please see the Plumas National Forest Lakes Basin Recreation website and the snowmobile trail map.

Learn more about the Lakes Basin of Plumas County

Know Before You Go

  • The Gold Lake Highway is closed in the winter.
  • Safety first! Always check weather and road conditions before an outing.
  • Leave no trace–take all trash with you, do not trample vegetation, and stay on designated roads and trails.
  • Observe wildlife from a distance and do not feed
  • Know your route and plan ahead. Cell phones do not always work in remote areas of Plumas County.
  • Mountain Bikes are not allowed on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

Did you Know?

  • The Gold Lakes Highway is 15 miles of scenic mountain road between Graeagle on Highway 89 and Basset on Highway 49.
  • The Lakes Basin is named after the 20+ glacially carved lakes, almost all of which are accessible by trails.
  • The mountains in the Lakes Basin divide the Feather River watershed to the north and the Yuba watershed to the south.

Regions of Plumas

The Lakes Basin Recreation Area is located in the Southeast Region of Plumas County near Graeagle. Each region of Plumas County has unique features, hikes, communities, and interesting events.

map of plumas county showing the 4 regions
Discover more of Plumas County
Places to stay nearby Lakes Basin Recreation Area
Lake Almanor

Whether you are planning a weekend getaway or a two week vacation, Knotty Pine Resort and Marina offers you an opportunity to leave the city behind!


Located in the heart of downtown Quincy. Walk to shops, restaurants, brewery, and live entertainment. Daily and extended stay rates.

Lake Almanor

Lake View Condominium in Peninsula Village with dock & boat slip. Sleeps 6.