The Lost Sierra sounds like a mystical place better suited for a J.R.R. Tolkein novel or James Cameron film than the real world. But many will be surprised to hear that this real-life wonderland is not only in California, it’s just three short hours from San Joaquin County. While escaping hasn’t been the easiest thing to do lately considering recent shelter-in-place orders, we know as soon as travel begins to normalize, we’re all going to want to get away at least for a little while, and what better place than somewhere you’ve never been before that doesn’t require extensive planning to get away to? Buckle up for a big adventure heavy with outdoor exploration and dreamy accommodations, not to mention gorgeous scenery capable of transporting you to a land far, far away. Hop in your car, fuel up your tank, and get ready to revel in the simple life with good food, good drinks, and even better people.
Portola is the only incorporated city in Plumas County, located on the Middle Fork of the Feather River, and it’s an ideal place for beer tasting, trail hikes, and lazy mornings in bed. Here, the Chalet View Lodge offers high-end accommodations in the high Sierras. It’s not over-the-top, but with mountainous scenery added to your two-story room, it’s certainly a romantic place to curl up with a loved one any season of the year. On-site there is also a brewery with a game room—including shuffleboard and board games—and a full bar. Whether you’re a guest of the property or not you can visit Eureka Peak Brewing Company with a range of offerings including hoppy IPAs to fruitier style brews. There are ten beers on tap in all, and 20 bottled varieties.
If you’re looking to indulge, take a dip in the on-site hot tub before retiring to your private balcony for a glass of wine. Before you leave, you’ll also want to book a treatment at the spa. The small space allows for single treatments. In summer months, outdoor enthusiasts can cast a line into the fishing pond (some equipment is available to borrow at the front desk) before heading to a tee-time on the nine-hole course.
The activities don’t end there. Chalet View has cornhole, bocce ball, volleyball, horseshoes, a swimming pool, pump track, and hiking trails all on site. And when you’re ready to leave the comfort of your oasis away from home, the surrounding area offers ATV tours, paddle sports, horseback riding, championship golf courses, and more hiking and biking trails throughout Plumas County, where mountain bikes and fat tire bikes are an easy way to get around. 72056 State Route 70, Portola
Golf enthusiasts will also enjoy the Bob Cupp-designed championship Grizzly Ranch Golf Club, rated the no. 1 public golf course in the Sierra Nevada (250 Club House Rd., Portola). If you’re looking to explore the myriad of biking trails in this area but are hesitant to brave them on your own (or don’t have the equipment), book a tour through Eco Bike Adventures, a tour company that utilizes electric bikes for group rides serving 2-12 people on an 1,800-acre private ranch in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, suitable for ages eight and older. 3559 Beckwourth Calpine Rd., Beckwourth
Come for the beer, stay for the ambiance. By far a favorite spot in Blairsden is The Brewing Lair. Located off the beaten path up a dusty dirt road on a tree-covered property, The Brewing Lair is made up of a couple of small buildings including an on-site brewery and tap room and a swag shop. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind place, offering up picnic tables for gathering and BBQs for communal use while you grab beers or complete tastings at the nearby bar. During spring, summer, and fall, musical acts sometimes take the outdoor stage, offering a wide range of musical stylings. And as a plus, it’s completely kid friendly. Cornhole, bocce ball, and slack lines are set up for anyone to use, and nearby you can even partake in a round of frisbee golf, making it an easy place to spend an afternoon. Expert Tip: If you’re a fan of IPAs, grab a pint of the Ambush.
A small town you’ve likely never heard of, Clio is the quintessential basecamp to the Lost Sierra’s rugged outdoor playground. Flanked by the towering Sierra Buttes, hundreds of hiking and mountain bike trails, fly fishing, and alpine lakes for kayaking and swimming, Clio is very much what Lake Tahoe used to be.
Enjoy a level of opulence on your getaway by opting for a stay at Nakoma Resort, the unofficial headquarters of Clio and its surrounding cities. The Lodge at Nakoma offers modern rooms, a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Clubhouse that houses restaurants, a bar, and a spa with pool and fitness facilities, and The Dragon, Nakoma’s 18-hole championship golf course. Plus, you won’t want to pass up the crown jewel of the property, a 12,000 square foot Altitude Recreation Center that features a weight room, sauna, steam showers, climbing wall, lap pools and theater, perfect for a fun-filled date day or a family excursion of rock climbing and movies on demand. As an added bonus, the property keeps fat tire bikes in the recreation center for guests to check out and use if they want to hit some of the nearby trails in a new way.
Those who come here rarely leave without playing a round of golf—the course opens around May 15 (call ahead for exact dates). Adjacent to the WigWam restaurant, the clubhouse offers equipment rentals, golf carts, to-go coolers stocked with beer, and lunch to go. The course has a reputation for being difficult, but the scenery along the way is unmatched, with plenty of small ponds to lose your ball in. After stretching your muscles on the course, it’s time for a little rest and relaxation. The Nakoma Spa offers services including couples massages and facials, as well as a steam room, a hot tub, and a pool. 348 Bear Run, Clio
Where to Hike/Bike
Hit the trails at these great spots. Don’t forget Nakoma offers free fat bikes for guest use!
Plumas National Forest is 2,613 square miles with over a million acres of tree-covered mountains, alpine lakes, and streams.
Where the Sierra Nevada, the Cascades, the Modoc Plateau, and the Great Basin meet, Lassen National Forest has many trails, including one that will take you to the top of Mt. Lassen.
For all of your favorite activities, check out Plumas Eureka State Park for guided tours, picnic spots, and fishing.
Bucks Lake offers over 20,000 acres alive with flora and fauna including photography-worthy plant life, trees, and landscape features.
Lakes Basin Recreation Area includes Frazier Falls Trail, Round Lake Loop Trail, Long Lake Trail, Plumas Eureka State Park, Madora Lake Nature Walk, Little Jamison Creek, Eureka Peak Loop Trail, and the Frenchman Lake area.
Start at the Plumas Eureka Ski Bowl parking lot for an intermediate trek to Eureka Lake.
South of Graeagle off highway 89 on Gold Lake Road, the Lakes Basin Area offers winding trails that are intermediate to advanced in difficulty.
Seven miles north of Portola, Lake Davis is a great spot to cast a line.
Within the Lakes Basin Recreation Area, Gold Lake, Salmon Lake, Long Lake, and Sardine Lake are popular, just a few of the nearly 50 glacial lakes and streams in the area.
Graeagle boasts small town charm. With a population of less than 1,000 people, it’s far from a big city escape. Instead visitors can enjoy the simple life in Plumas County, filling their days with long strolls through town, specialty shopping, and underrated dining.
If romance is the theme of the weekend then Cuccia’s is the place to eat. The pasta, pizza, and wine bar, is cozy, outfitted with white table cloths and unbeatable service. Choose from a long list of available bottles to accompany plates of calamari steak (breaded, grilled, and topped with piccata sauce), surf and turf (scampi prawns over top sirloin), and Tuscan linguine (served with your choice Italian sausage, chicken, grilled prawns, or salmon). The other quixotic dining locale is Firewoods at Gray Eagle Lodge (another great place to stay) where executive chef Lynn Hagan serves nightly specials including roasted duck breast and prime rib finished by homemade s’mores at the campfire.
For a more laidback atmosphere and perhaps best suited for lunch and cocktails, The Coyote Bar & Grill transports you back in time and truly looks like the kind of eatery you’d enjoy in a small town.
In between eateries, you’ll want to stop by some of Graeagle’s more charming specialty shops. Briar patch sells trinkets like jewelry and hand bags while Feather Gifts & Accessories is filled with home décor items. More than 125 artists share their wares at The Gold Rush Gallery, filled with quality, American-made jewelry, and Graeagle Mercantile & Event Flowers is known for its collection of small gifts and souvenirs.