We’ve all done the day’s drive to Donner, and walked around the rusty iron at Empire Mine. We’ve spent countless open weekends in the same ways; lying on a river rock, and moseying around town half-buzzed. When you’ve lived here long enough, you can easily start to tread on old ground. But by luck or providence, you can easily change up your routine this summer. Here are four ideas for your next overnighter .
Located in the Tahoe National Forest, this high-elevation lake is ringed by waterfalls and private inlets. The water is still and clear and nobody is blasting Kenny Chesney, making Faucherie an ideal place to read, paddle board, and kayak. Explore around the waterfalls feeding into the lake via a small network of trails leading from the main parking area, or just paddle across and hang out directly under the water. Lake Faucherie is also stocked with salmon and brown trout so bring a pole if you feel like working for your meal. While you can pitch a tent anywhere around the lake, there are two large group 25-person campsites available to rent through the Nevada Irrigation District (NID) campground website. These campsites have amenities such as bear boxes and ringed fire pits.
The access road to get to Faucherie is rough, and not recommended for cars without a high clearance or four-wheel drive. You can find detailed directions on the Forest Service’s website.
Back Roads to Downieville
Nothing beats a warm afternoon on the St. Charles Place patio in Downieville, watching the throngs of mountain biker bros get their ride on. But rather than take the usual winding drive up Highway 49, opt for a road less traveled. For a little added time in the car, you can visit remote areas of Sierra County you’ve probably never seen before. After passing the Oregon Creek Recreation Area near Camptonville, take a right on Ridge Rd. The drive offers expansive views of Malakoff Diggins and the river valley below, as it winds up the Pliocene Ridge to the sparsely-populated mining-era towns of Pike, Forest, and Allegheny. Call ahead to schedule a tour of the still-operating Sixteen to One Mine in Allegheny, or put your brand new Tacoma to good use and drive the Lafayette Ridge OHV Trail, which leads to a gorgeous view of the Yuba River. Each little town on the Pliocene ridge is a museum unto itself, with many standing structures well over a hundred years old, don’t skip them. From Allegheny, it’s a thirty minutes drive into Downieville, and back to civilization.
Salmon Lake Trail
Interested in making sure your ten year-old doesn’t grow up to be a mountain wimp? A brief backpacking excursion to Salmon Lake might be a good place to start building character. Located near Norden, the 2.5 mile trail to Salmon Lake is beautiful, easy, and accessible, while offering a variety of terrain change and views. As with most Tahoe National Forest land, dispersed camping around Salmon Lake is allowed, and there are multiple sites in which to stake down. Above the lake, a large slab of granite offers a blissful sunset perch. Salmon Lake is stocked with trout and the water is warmer by mid July, surrounded by multiple jumping rocks. Looking for more of a challenge? The Salmon Lake Trail continues for five more miles, eventually reaching Loch Leven Lakes, another secluded camping spot. Details on how to get to the Salmon Lake Trailhead can be found here.
Crooked Lake Trail to Penner Lake
Located Near Grouse Ridge off the Bowman Rd exit, the Crooked Lake Trail to Penner Lake is a solid choice for a stunning day hike. It includes multiple secluded lakes, alpine views, and a trail that won’t leave you drained of energy to swim. Beginning at Carr and Feely Lakes, on the Round Lake Trail, the Crooked Lake trail splinters off near Island lake, and stays at around 7000 feet elevation until you reach Penner Lake. Every fifteen minutes on the trail you’ll be passing a different lake or pond, with multiple dispersed camping opportunities at each. There’s plenty of secluded space to take a quick freedom swim and explore off the trail. Early in the summer there are fields of wildflowers. Caveat: If you want to get away from humans, Penner Lake might not be the best choice. You’ll see overnight campers and backpackers scattered throughout, given the easy access to the trailhead. Visit Alltrails for more detailed information on how to get to the Crooked Lake trailhead.