This was a group hike on the Pacific Crest Trail from Packer Saddle to Lavezzola Creek, near the A-Tree Spring in the Lakes Basin area of the Plumas National Forest. Because of the driving distance between the trailheads, the group did the hike as a key exchange, meeting up and exchanging keys around the middle. It turned out that our lunch stop was possibly the most spectacular view of the day, a very nice serendipity. A key exchange can work well when covering a fairly long trail distance, especially when the drive between trailheads is lengthy, as it can be for remote trail sections. Highlights of the hike included numerous lakes and views of the Sierras.
The route was in both the Plumas and Tahoe National Forests. The Packer Saddle trailhead is north of CA-49 and Sierra Buttes just past Packer Lake. The Lavezzola Creek (A-Tree Spring) access point is accessed from CA-89 via Plumas-Eureka State Park.
The group I was with hiked from south to north. As it turned out, our ending elevation was about 400 feet lower than our starting elevation, but we still experienced nearly 1500 feet of elevation gain. As noted by one of the other hikers, “It’s the PCT. It goes up and down.” Indeed it does! The grade in this section is very reasonable.
During the first part of the hike we were treated to views of the Sierra Buttes, if we turned around to take a look. Here the Buttes form a backdrop over Packer Lake, about 0.8 miles from the trailhead. Behind Packer Lake row after row of hills fade into the distance.
Most of the PCT (at least what I have hiked so far) is good-quality single-track trail. Here we were approaching an interesting-looking ridge. Somehow the trail got from one side to the other without actually seeming to go over the top.
Shortly we had a nice view down a canyon, which I think is the Butcher Ranch Creek canyon.
About 3.2 miles from the trailhead we had a clear view of Upper Salmon Lake and Horse Lake. This view illustrates that the Lakes Basin area really is a basin within the Sierras.
Looking west from roughly the same location, we had a lovely view across rows of hills.
About 4.6 miles from the trailhead we got our first look at Gold Lake, the largest lake we would pass. It was simply beautiful, nestled in its own little basin and surrounded by forest.
About 6 miles from the trailhead the trail passed among some unusual-looking rocks. I’m sure there is an interesting geological story behind the layering.
Shortly thereafter, we passed to the north side of a small ridge, reached the highest elevation of the day (approx. 7450 feet) – and found a little bit of snow on the trail. It was easy to navigate, but it was also prudent to be careful, as the downhill side was fairly steep and the “bottom” was several hundred feet below.
Right at the end of the snow section and almost exactly half the mileage between trailheads, we met our group coming the other way and stopped for lunch. This was the fantastic view from our lunch stop. From left to right the lakes are Long Lake, Silver Lake, and Round Lake. Long and Silver Lakes are at about 6600 feet elevation. Big Bear Lake is peeking out from behind the rock outcropping at the right. We couldn’t have planned a better meeting place if we’d tried!
After the lunch stop the terrain changed a bit, and the trail passed through more forested areas.
About 10 miles from the trailhead, after beginning the last longish descent, we had a wonderful view of the Spencer Lakes. The maps do not label then as Upper and Lower Spencer Lakes, but surely they are! The elevation difference was striking. Though it doesn’t show as well in the picture, the two lakes also seemed to be different colors, perhaps due to being different depths and reflecting the sky differently.
The lakes were south of the trail, which has a bend to the west. Looking more toward the west, there was yet another beautiful view of the Sierras. The map shows Craycroft and McRae Ridges followed by Morristown and Blue Nose Ridges, with Gibsonville Ridge after that.
The northern access point, and the end of the hike, was near the A-Tree Springs. The road condition makes a 4-wheel drive, high-clearance vehicle necessary. The road passes through Plumas-Eureka State Park, which has a remote feel to it, as well as beautiful and rugged canyon sides along the Jamison Creek. Since I often hike solo, I appreciated this opportunity to experience a section of the PCT that I would not have been able to manage on my own.