Plumas National Forest in Northern California

Plumas National Forest

Photo by Jake Edwards/Scenescapery

The Plumas National Forest is situated where the northern Sierra Nevada meets the southern Cascade Range and near the western edge of the Basin and Range to the east. This diverse landscape is the homeland of the Mountain Maidu people. The Plumas National Forest is a large national forest with 1,146,000 acres of mountain lands known for high elevation lakes, dramatic and deep river canyons, big mountain valleys, and miles of rural backroads and scenic trails.

Rivers and Lakes of Plumas National Forest

The Plumas National Forest was named after the prominent river of the region, the Feather River (Rio de las Plumas). The three main branches of the Feather River run through the Forest and are the West Branch, the North Fork, and the Wild and Scenic Middle Fork. 

Plumas National Forest is an important part of the headwaters to the Feather River which provides drinking water for millions of Californians, hydroelectric power, and water for Central Valley agriculture, in addition to other important ecosystem services. 

The Forest is also known for many beautiful cold water lakes perfect for public recreation and camping including Lake Davis, Gold Lake, Little Grass Valley Reservoir, Frenchman Lake, and Antelope Lake

Special Places in the Plumas National Forest

The Bucks Lake Wilderness is 21,000 acres of granite peaks, small lakes, impressive red fir forests, snowcovered ridges and steep canyonlands near Quincy and Bucks Lake.

Elevations in the Bucks Lake Wilderness range from 2,000 ft. in the Feather River Canyon to 7,017 ft. at Spanish Peak. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) crosses the Bucks Lake Wilderness at the top of an escarpment making for dramatic views to the north and east.   

The PCT to Spanish Peak is a popular day hike in the Wilderness and the “Three Lakes Loop” makes for a fun backpacking trip.  In the winter, the Bucks Lake Wilderness is a great place to backcountry ski. 

Located 3.5 miles north of Quincy on Hw 70 off of Blackhawk Road, this area has several unusual plant species including the California Pitcher Plant and a rare insect-eating plant that only grows in scattered boggy areas from southern Oregon down through northern California. There are also 4 other species of insectivorous plants; 12 species of orchids, 24 species of plants in the Lily family, 9 species of ferns, as well as poppy, buttercup, wild rose and lady slipper. Peak blooming season is May through July. Portions of Butterfly Valley burned in the 2021 Dixie Fire. While you will see the fire scar, the botanical area is still beautiful as California native plants are adapted to fire. You may even see more wildflowers than usual!

Need directions? Stop at the Ranger District office in Quincy on Lawrence street or follow the detailed directions on the Plumas National Forest page.

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.

If you are a mountain biker or moto rider, you have likely heard of the dirt trails near Quincy, including the fast and flowy Mt Hough Trail. The Mt. Hough Trail is a single track-motorized route that connects Oakland Camp Road to the top of Mt. Hough. There are incredible views at the top looking north over Crystal Lake and Indian Valley and south towards American Valley.

75 miles of the 2,650 Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) crosses the Plumas National Forest through two major river canyons (the Middle Fork and North Fork Feather River) and across granite ridges of the Lakes Basin Recreation Area  and the Bucks Lake Wilderness. Due to snow, most portions of the PCT in the Plumas National Forest are not hikeable until mid-June.

If you have a high clearance AWD or 4WD vehicle, hundreds of miles of Plumas National Forest backcountry roads are available for you to explore in spring, summer, and fall. The Backcountry Discovery Trail is a 150 mile Route that can be broken up over many days or driven in sections starting near Butt Valley Reservoir to the north and ending in La Porte near Little Grass Valley Reservoir. With a little planning and preparation, this is a wonderful way to explore Plumas County.

Summer Activities

Summer in the Plumas National Forest is perfect for hiking, wildflower viewing, swimming, boating, biking, camping, backpacking, and more. Even for longtime locals, there is always a corner of this big national forest left to explore.

Winter Activities

Winter offers a whole other world of mountain sports with snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, and snowmobile tours. Typically, the higher elevations of Plumas National Forest are covered in snow from December-March.

Know Before You Go

  • Several campgrounds and trails within the Plumas National Forest were impacted by the North Complex and Dixie Fires. Check current conditions before you head out.
  • 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 and motorized vehicles are not allowed on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

Fun Facts!

While Plumas National Forest is known for towering Ponderosa and Jeffery Pines, the forest has many tree species including Red Fir, Sugar Pine, Sierra Lodgepole Pine, Incense Cedar, Black Oak, Chinquapin, Big Leaf Maple, Pacific Dogwood, and many others. 

In addition to wooded forest, Plumas National Forest is also home to mountain meadows, wetlands and fens, manzanita chaparral, and even sagebrush scrub in the east.

The highest peak in the Plumas National Forest is Mount Ingalls at 8,376′.

Feather Falls

Feather Falls Recreation Area is Currently CLOSED

Due to extensive impacts from the 2020 North Complex Fire, Feather Falls Trail and campground is closed until further notice. 

  • To learn about closures on the Forest visit the PNF website

Resources

  • OHV Recreation is popular on the Plumas. Learn more about OHV riding and trails.
  • Planning on camping or having a BBQ? Get a campfire permit!
  • PNF has three Ranger Districts:
    • Beckwourth Ranger District, (530) 836-2575
    • Feather River Ranger District, (530) 534-6500
    • Mt. Hough Ranger District, (530) 283-0555

 

See information that needs to be updated? Please let us know!

Discover more of Plumas County
Places to stay nearby Plumas National Forest
Greenville

Experience glamping in the Lost Sierra! Our spacious sites and safari-style tents offer the perfect place to rest, renew, and reconnect!

Quincy

Has a small-town atmosphere that will refresh your spirit. Enjoy watching the sunset over Spanish Peak from your own porch.

Lake Almanor

Lake Almanor Country Club Log Cabin near Recreation Area 2 & Golf Course.