At 8,587 feet, Sierra Buttes is the tallest peak in the Lakes Basin region, the northernmost section of the Sierra. The peak is a commanding geologic feature, rising 4,500 feet above the North Yuba River Canyon on one side and 2,800 feet above Lakes Basin on the other.
The multiple craggy pinnacles of Sierra Buttes rise dramatically from it's summit ridge, and one is home to a precariously perched fire lookout tower that has some hair-raising exposure. Originally constructed in 1915, the former lookout tower was operated by the Forest Service and remains accessible to hikers exploring the area. Here you can test your appetite for heights by climbing the steep metal stairs 150 feet above the access trail and by taking in the views from the grated platform that surrounds the structure.
Being the highest point in the region, vistas from the top of Sierra Buttes are hard to beat. Views stretch from Lassen Peak 100 miles to the north down to Castle Peak near Donner Pass to the south. The south side drop toward Sierra City and the North Yuba River Canyon is impressive.
A handful of scenic lakes lie below the northeast aspect of Sierra Buttes, including Tamarack, Young American, and Sardine Lakes. If heights are not your thing, stay clear of the corner of the viewing platform facing Sardine Lakes, which drops 300 feet to the rocky slopes below.
Hikers can reach the lookout tower from the Sierra Buttes Trailhead, which climbs roughly 1,600 feet over 2.5 miles and shares a short section of the Pacific Crest Trail. The hike is best done between June through October, when roads are open and snow-free.