Lakes Basin Recreation Area

Area Status: Open
This area is 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: Beckwourth Ranger District and Lakes Basin Recreation Area remains open. All recreation sites except for trails have been temporarily closed. Local managers are committed to the health and safety of recreational visitors and our staff. We are following the guidelines from our agency and the CDC regarding COVID-19, closely monitoring the situation and responding to current conditions. Please continue to monitor this page for status updates.
  • As of March 27, 2020 Gold Lake Highway remains closed at the staging area. Deep snow covers all trails in the recreation area.
Permit Info: Backpackers in the Little Jamison Creek and Smith Lake area should have a California State Campfire Permit for their camp stove.
Open Season: The recreation area is open year around. Winter conditions result in restricted access.
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



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Camping & Cabins

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Horse Riding & Camping

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Nature Viewing

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OHV Riding & Camping

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Outdoor Learning

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Water Activities

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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 botton. The Gold Lake Boat Launching Facility is also available and includes a two lane concrete ramp and loading dock. 


Recreation areas with activity Swimming:

Winter Sports

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Areas & Activities


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