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The Sierra Buttes is a fantastic hike if you are in the area. It’s also one that I’ve wanted to do for a while now (more on that below).
Due to it being February and the Sierra Foothills having gotten a lot of snow, I wanted to find the trail conditions for this lookout hike.
Since I couldn’t find anything, I’ll share with you my experience.
I made it to the lookout! If you want to also, be sure to bring items that you might need on your hike. A quick list of what I took include:
- Layers (it’s cold and windy at the top)
- Snowshoes (you will need something for traction)
- Trekking poles
- A first aid kit
- Headlamp or flashlight
- Extra battery (to charge my phone)
- Downloaded trial map (I use AllTrails)
Remember, it is still winter in the foothills.
When you start hiking, the trail is clear with patches of snow. But after a few miles, it is fully covered in snow. Another reason to have a map or download map. I was off track a few times without knowing it.
I suggest AllTrails, mainly because I hiked alone and got sick of getting lost.
You might be able to complete this hike without snowshoes, but they will make it a much more enjoyable experience. You should know that the snow turns to ice once you get to the lookout.
And the stairs going to the top were challenging in a few sections.
With all that said, you can do this!
It’s worth it!
Getting to The Hike
Just a quick sidebar, I wanted to go on a hike today and started checking the weather for a few areas.
It looked like Sierra City might get another storm tomorrow, which means today would be the best weather day to go!
So I packed a bag and headed to the Sierra Buttes!
If you haven’t been to this area before, Sierra City is a cool little town along highway 49. You will eventually turn onto Butte Alley, and here is something you should know.
On the left side, just across from the Mason Lodge, you will find the last public bathroom! You’re welcome. And if you need it, there is even free wifi available.
Now, get back in your car, go left up the hill. You want to stay to the left to make it to the trailhead.
You will see a turn-off to the right at the end of the paved road. All vehicles should be able to make it to this point.
I have a Rav4 and could make it up a few extra miles.
I could have gone further, but I decided to play it safe and park where the road splits off. If you are interested: 39.576197, -120.661279 (you should be able to enter the coordinates into a map, like Google, to see a good parking area).
As you can see from the image above, I parked at the two signs due to the Rav not having clearance for the snow and a few rocks.
Two other good parking spots are going up the road another .5 and around 1.5 miles. Just know you need to have a little more clearance than the Rav4 does, four-wheel drive, and recovery gear (just in case).
Important note: two large boulders are blocking the road two miles from where I parked.
The Trail Itself
You will encounter snow on this hike.
Even on the drive to Sierra City, you will still see snow on the side of the road.
Once you are hiking, and somewhere around the 2.5 miles in, it will be when there isn’t any avoiding the snow.
I did use my Lowa hiking boots, mainly because they are warm and work great with my snowshoes. But after slipping and dealing with a few post-holing twists, I decided it was time for the snowshoes.
That was about 3.5 miles into the hike.
Snowshoes made it much easier to get up the mountain. And there were some sketchy areas with giant snowbanks and ice. You can generally go around these sections, but sometimes it’s unavoidable.
You are going up a few thousand feet in elevation. Just remember it’s a pretty steal climb in snow.
Making it to the top – FINALLY!
You will be as happy as I was once you make it to the top. But today, this was even more so.
Mainly because this was my third time trying to see the Sierra Buttes epic views I keep hearing about.
The first attempt was in 2020. You can read about it here, but I sadly didn’t make it to the top due to not having the appropriate gear.
A few months ago, in 2021, I went with friends. We had to plan this hike to make sure we all had the day off, getting to the trailhead, and then the horrible thing happened.
The morning we were to meet, it was raining and foggy. You might think that stopped us, NOPE!
We might be a bit crazy but decided to go anyway. I’m happy to report that after being frozen to the bone, soggy wet, and maybe a bit miserable, this was the first time I made it to the top.
But, as you can probably guess, we couldn’t see anything. There was lots of cloud cover, fog, rain. It was sad.
That is all behind me today! Since I’ve been to the top and couldn’t be happier.
A Few Final Thoughts
Getting up to the lookout took me just under four hours. That includes stopping, taking a few pictures, and taping up my foot (I got a blister).
The trip down was much faster, and the sun was setting, making the temperature drop. Another reason to bring layers and always have a headlamp or flashlight.
I used snowshoes going down the hill for all five minutes. The best way is to ski or surf down. I ended up putting the snowshoes on my hands to help break me.
Part of me didn’t know how this was going to work. But YOLO!
(That’s something my Mum will be happy to hear).
Do you have further questions or want to share your experience hiking the Sierra Buttes?
Let me know in the comments below!
Otherwise, what’s your next hike going to be?