Lakes Basin Recreation Area

Area Status: Open

Located nine miles southwest of Graeagle, California, this recreation area has special geological features. There is breathtaking scenery and over 20 small lakes nearby, most of which are accessible by hiking trails. This area provides a multitude of recreational activities including camping, fishing, boating, hunting, mountain biking, horseback riding, picnicking, hiking, backpacking, swimming, windsurfing and nature study. In the winter visitors can snowmobile, cross-country ski and snowshoe.

For Lakes Basin Recreation Guide Click Here

At a Glance

Current Conditions: Visitors should always check Alerts and Notices on the Plumas National Forest website.
Permit Info: Backpackers in the Little Jamison Creek and Smith Lake area should have a California State Campfire Permit for their camp stove.
Busiest Season: Summer
Restrictions: Collecting camp wood is allowed. However, cutting fuelwood in the Recreation Area is not allowed. Backpacking in Lakes Basin Recreation Area is allowed only to the north of Mt. Elwell. This area includes Smith Lake and the Little Jamison Creek area.
Closest Towns: Graeagle, Blairsden and Bassetts.
Water: Yes, at Bear Lakes Loop Trailhead and at Lakes Basin Campground
Restroom: Vault toilets at most trailheads, day use areas and campgrounds
Information Center: Beckwourth Ranger District Office P.O. Box 7 23 Mohawk Rd Blairsden, CA 96103 open 8 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday (530) 836-2575

General Information

General Notes:

Many glacially carved crystal clear alpine lakes await exploration along more than 30 miles of trails. Boat launching facilities are available at Gold Lake. Five campgrounds, and three rustic Sierra Style lodges are ready to serve your needs.


Lakes Basin Recreation Area is located 1.5 miles south of the town of Graeagle on Highway 89. Then 1.5 miles west on Gold Lake Highway.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Mountain Biking

Recreation areas with activity Mountain Biking:

All trails except the Frazier Falls Trail Accessible Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail are open to foot, bike and equestrian traffic.

Bicycle traffic must yield to equestrian and foot traffic, foot traffic must yield to equestrian traffic. All should pay attention and share the trails.

Campground Camping

Recreation areas with activity Campground Camping:

Additional nearby camping is available in the Tahoe National Forest in Lakes Basin and outside the Recreation Area. 

RV Camping

Recreation areas with activity RV Camping:

Group Camping

Recreation areas with activity Group Camping:

Lakes Basin Campground has one tent only Group Campsite for up to 25 people. Available only by reservation at


Fees: $80.00 per night.
Reservation required?: Y
Reservation info: Sites can be reserved online at or by calling 1-877-444-6777. The campground has about half reservation and half first come first served sites.

Dispersed Camping

Recreation areas with activity Dispersed Camping:

Camping in the Lakes Basin Recreation Area is limited to designated developed campgrounds, with the exception for the areas north of Mt. Elwell including Smith Lake Trail and Jamison Creek Trail corridors. Dispersed camping similar to backpacking and horse camping is allowed. 

Cabin Rentals

Recreation areas with activity Cabin Rentals:

These four lodges operated under special use permit are available;

In Lakes Basin Recreation Area;

Outside Lakes Basin Recreation Area;

  • Camp Layman is next to the Middle Fork of the Feather River off of Hwy 89/70

Lake and Pond Fishing

Recreation areas with activity Lake and Pond Fishing:

For safety purposes fishing and/or swimming are not allowed within 100 feet of the boat ramp and dock.

Click Here for information about fishing


River and Stream Fishing

Recreation areas with activity River and Stream Fishing:

Click Here for fishing information

Day Hiking

Recreation areas with activity Day Hiking:

Over thirty miles of hiking, trails meander next to crystal clear glacially carved lakes. When planning your hike consider taking an interconnecting trail that offers a loop back to the trailhead.


Recreation areas with activity Backpacking:

Backpacking in Lakes Basin Recreation Area is restricted to the areas north of Mt. Elwell and the Pacific Crest Trail. This includes Smith Lake area and the Little Jamison Creek corridor.

When entering these areas through Plumas Eureka State Park, dogs must be on leash. Outside the State Park in the National Forest pets must be under control at all times.

All backpackers must have a current California State Campfire Permit. This is not just for wood campfires. It is also required to operate your backpacker stove. These permits are available at the Beckwourth Ranger District Office in Blairsden, CA. They are also available online.


Permit required?: Y

Horse Riding

Recreation areas with activity Horse Riding:

All trails are open to equestrian, foot and bicycle traffic with the exception of Frazier Falls Trail (open only to foot and accessible vehicles) and the Pacific Crest trail (closed to all wheeled vehicles)

Click Here for a 2018 list of Outfitters and Guides

Big Game Hunting

Recreation areas with activity Big Game Hunting:

Viewing Wildlife

Recreation areas with activity Viewing Wildlife:

Early mornings and late evenings are the best times to view wildlife in the Lakes Basin Recreation Area. A big part of survival in the wild depends upon stealth and not being seen. If you are small and seen you may become a meal. If your large and seen you may not get a meal. Scats and tracks can tell the story of what you can expect to see but may not have seen.

Viewing Plants

Recreation areas with activity Viewing Plants:

From early summer to late fall visitors to Lakes Basin Recreation Area can expect so see wildflowers. Sometimes the diverse displays stop hikers in their tracks to get photos. The conifer forest here is made up of lush stands of fir and weathered individual trees with barely a foothold in the rocks.

Click Here for information about Beckwourth Ranger District trees

Viewing Scenery

Recreation areas with activity Viewing Scenery:

Glacial activity was very active in the Northern Sierra Nevada Mountains. And, Lakes Basin Recreation holds the evidence with its glacially carved crystal clear alpine lakes. Every bend in the trail or curve in the road offers new scenery.

OHV Camping

Recreation areas with activity OHV Camping:

Interpretive Areas

Recreation areas with activity Interpretive Areas:

Several interpretive areas are available in the Lakes Basin Recreation Area.

  • Red Fir Interpretive Trail is a short walk with interpretive signs in a Red Fir Forest
  • Lakes Basin Petroglyph Trail has interpretive signs describing activities of native people in this area.
  • Frazier Falls Trail is just outside the Lakes Basin Recreation Area. It is a paved accessible trail with interpretive signs, resting benches and a viewing area. There is a day use area at the trailhead that includes picnic tables, parking area and vault toilets.

Boating - Motorized

Recreation areas with activity Boating - Motorized:

The Gold Lake Boat Launch Facility has recently been repaired and upgraded. It has a two lane boat ramp with floating dock, expanded parking, day use area, solar lighting, vault toilets and trash pickup.

  • This facility will have a new management company for the 2020 season and will be a fee area.

Boating - Non-Motorized

Recreation areas with activity Boating - Non-Motorized:

Small craft may be launched at the Lakes Basin Day Use Area near the dam. This facility has a gently sloping gravel bottom. The Gold Lake Boat Launching Facility is also available and includes a two lane concrete ramp and loading dock. 


Recreation areas with activity Swimming:

XC Skiing/Snowshoeing

Recreation areas with activity XC Skiing/Snowshoeing:

In the winter, Gold Lake highway closes at the Gold Lake Staging Area. A groomed snowmobile trail uses the highway and connects to a variety of locations in Lakes Basin. A short ski and snowshoe trail is also available from the staging area ending near Long Lake, Smith Lake and Graeagle Creek Trails. The staging area has a large parking area and two vault toilets. When weather and conditions allow, Plumas County plows the parking area and Gold Lake Highway to the staging area.

Status: Open


Recreation areas with activity Snowmobiling:

Groomed snowmobile trails are available in the winter. This is provided by agreement between the Forest Service and California Department of Parks and Recreation. It is funded through State OHV funds. All snowmobiles must display the "Green Sticker".

Click Here for a snowmobile trail map

Related Information

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


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