Midway between Lake Tahoe and Mount Lassen, the lofty Sierra Nevada Mountains and volcanic Cascade Range meet up in sparsely populated Plumas County in Upstate California. Ditch your cell phone and go play outdoors—more than 75 percent of this county's land is designated national forest. You'll find endless recreation in a mosaic of conifer-clad ridges, fertile meadows, sparkling lakes, and deep river canyons, plus idyllic towns that celebrate the region's heritage.
Explore Plumas-Eureka State Park
Learn about the Feather River area's mining legacy at Plumas-Eureka State Park near the small community of Graeagle. Tour the museum housed in a miners' boarding house that exhibits the tools and wares of 1850s gold miners, then visit the stamp mill, bunkhouse, and blacksmith shop. Beyond the museum area, the state park is a quiet mountain wilderness with miles of trails leading to lakes and peaks.
Kick Back in Quincy
Plumas County shows off its small-town charm in Quincy. Among Main Street's preserved Victorian buildings, you'll find an imposing 1921 courthouse with four stories, a marble staircase, and a bronze and plate-glass chandelier weighing in at one ton. Stop in at the Plumas County Museum to see a restored gold miner's log cabin, a horse-drawn hearse, and Maidu Indian baskets. Take a scenic drive on the Barn Quilt Trail to view country-style public art—colorful "quilts" hung on weathered barns. Wooden squares are painted in traditional patterns that quilters have used for centuries.
From May through July, grab your wildflower book and head to Butterfly Valley Botanical Area north of Quincy. Tread carefully as you explore boggy meadows where 12 species of orchids plus a bounty of lilies and ferns flourish. A highlight is the carnivorous California pitcher plant, which captures and digests insects with its leaves.
Choose Your Mountain Lake
West of Quincy, Bucks Lake is the locals' favorite for lakefront camping under tall pines. Anglers know this clear mountain lake as a top trout destination filled with trophy-sized rainbows, browns, and mackinaw. Nearby are several entry points for the Bucks Lake Wilderness, where the Pacific Crest Trail passes through on its long haul from Mexico to Canada.
To super-size your lake vacation, head north to Lake Almanor, which boasts a whopping 50-plus miles of shoreline plus splendid views of majestic Lassen Peak. Summer water temperatures reach the mid-70s Fahrenheit, ideal conditions for water-skiing, wakeboarding, and revved-up boating. Quiet coves provide tranquil paddling for kayakers and paddle-boarders and trout fishing for anglers. An 11-mile-long paved bike trail lets riders pedal while gazing at the lake.
On Almanor's northwestern edge, the town of Chester has several great eateries, including the brunch spot Cravings Cafe at Stover Landing (order the soy chorizo hash). Chester also serves as a convenient jumping-off point for Lassen Volcanic National Park and the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway.