The path to the Lost Sierra fits the region's moniker, with the winding highway into the area quiet at dusk save for some startled wildlife and the rustling of the towering conifers that flank the road.
Located roughly an hour northwest of Truckee, the Lost Sierra beckons as a welcome respite both from city life and the increasingly popular draw of its snow-resort neighbors, offering a slice of slope-adjacent life that feels worlds—and decades—apart from the madding Tahoe crowds.
Think hidden resorts and cabins that have yet to be overrun after every snow dump, a tiny main street still dominated by locally owned businesses and devoid of crowds, and a relaxed approach to life that's difficult to replicate anywhere outside the region's collection of tiny towns across eastern Plumas county, ranging from Portola and Clio to Graeagle and Blairsden.
And while golfers and vacationing families may have caught on to the appeal of the Lost Sierra in summer, winter still serves as the best time to discover the appeal of getting a little, dare we day, lost in the mountains.
Where to Stay in the Lost Sierra
Modern meets rustic at Nakoma Resort.
(Photo by Vance Fox, courtesy of Nakoma Resort)
If you're making the trip to the Lost Sierra, there are a few lodging options, but the clear standout remains Nakoma Resort (348 Bear Run, Clio). With the only Frank Lloyd Wright–designed clubhouse as its centerpiece and a 42-room lodge that shares the same aesthetic (clean lines, striking angles), Nakoma stands out as an architectural gem shrouded by the forest, with modern amenities that rival its looks. Beg for a forest-facing room so you can enjoy a morning cup of joe with outdoor serenity, and keep the zen-like feeling flowing with a visit to the spa for a back flip facial, a less-intense-than-it-sounds combination of fascia releasing back massage followed by an Osmosis facial.
In the winter, the property takes pride in its groomed fat-tire biking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing trails (rent equipment onsite), plus a sculpted sledding hill that makes any DIY attempts look like mere mounds. If the weather turns foul, you can escape the elements inside the lodge's new Altitude Recreation Center, which features a self-belay climbing wall (especially fun after a glass of wine from the bar, an approach not officially endorsed by Nakoma); a 24-seat theater you can steal for a private screening if it's not booked for an event; and a two-story wellness and workout center that pairs well with the menu full of organic, gluten-free options for health nuts.
Where to Eat and Drink in the Lost Sierra
Dine in the circular Wigwam Room for a Frank Lloyd Wright–approved meal.
(Courtesy of Nakoma Resort)
The best way to experience the one-of-a-kind Frank Lloyd Wright clubhouse at Nakoma is with a meal in the Wigwam Room, savoring fine dining situated around the centerpiece fireplace with light filtering in through the stained-glass windows. But if you decide to stray off property, you'll find a range of food and drink options to appeal to everyone from craft beer buffs to chocolate fiends and dive bar aficionados—with a handful of high-quality restaurants to boot.
Sip your suds alfresco at The Brewing Lair (67007 CA-70, Blairsden), where the "taste of trails" gets you a five-beer sampler for $8. Hiking trails traversing the hillside property let you choose your own adventure, if you will, and park in overflow and hike up to the brewery. Since the tasting experience is largely outdoors, swing by the swag shack for a beer koozie-mitten hybrid to keep your hands toasty. // If you'd like something even more off the beaten path, Eureka Peak Brewing Company (72056 CA-70, Portola) hides a handy brewing operation inside Portola's Chalet View Lodge, with 10 taps, a pool table, and a small seasonal menu. // Whether you want food to soak up those pints or you're more vino focused, carve out time to visit Cuccia's Pasta, Pizza, and Wine Bar (545 Mohawk Hwy., Graeagle). The family-run restaurant highlights recipes passed down from the owner's Sicilian grandma, crafting pizzas with a daily-made dough from a 200-year-old sourdough starter sourced from the Italian island of Ischia.
Do not, we repeat, do NOT leave town without sampling a made-in-house confection from Millie's Ice Cream and Coffee Co. (7512 Hwy. 89, Ste. 121, Graeagle). While the quaint shop draws crowds in the summer for its ice cream, winter is the time to stock up on chocolate-dipped caramel turtles, rich milk and dark chocolate truffles, and whatever seasonal creations the owners are dreaming up. // To round out your night with a real slice of local life, hit Mohawk Tavern (999 Johnsonville Rd., Graeagle), where you can chat up the locals about the game on TV, the weather, or the townie perspective on what makes the Lost Sierra a superior winter destination. Make sure to graffiti a dollar bill and attach it to the ceiling for a lasting memento of your visit.
What to Do in the Lost Sierra
The hike is worth it for the views from the Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout.
The Lost Sierra falls largely within the federally protected Lakes Basin Recreation Area, and you'd be remiss to leave without experiencing one of the region's 50-plus lakes. The 15-mile Gold Lake Highway delivers drivers to the glacially carved lakes, whether you choose to get out on the water with a boat rental at the largest of the bunch, Gold Lake (try ice-fishing if it freezes over) or simply marvel at the clear blue waters. // For a different water-based adventure, embark on the short hike up Frazier Falls Trail (Old Gold Lake Rd.,) to its namesake cascading waterfall, which should reward with an impressive show after winter rains. // Still looking for more outdoor activity? Hike a five-mile out-and-back trail and then drag your butt up 178 steps to Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout, and your burning glutes will be rewarded with 360-degree views as far as Mt. Lassen and Castle Peak near Donner Pass. // Howling Dogs Bike and Ski (7540 Hwy. 89, Graeagle) not only provides tricked out rigs for novice and experienced mountain bikers alike in warmer weather, but also provides cross-country ski rentals and recommendations for conquering the backcountry.
For a truly unique slice of the Lost Sierra, time your visit for Plumas Ski Club's Historic Longboard Revival Series (Johnsonvile Rd., Johnsonville), when the ski club does historical re-enactments of 1860s-era ski racing at Johnsonville Ski Bowl. During the longboard races (planned for February 17 and March 17, 2019), you'll get to watch skilled skiers navigate nine- to 16-foot wooden skis in historic garb and leather boots, with a bluegrass band waiting on at the finish line.
Where to Shop in the Lost Sierra
Try not to snap up all of the fragrant, all-natural soaps from Undercover Botanicals.
(Courtesy of Undercover Botanicals)
A stroll along the blink-and-you'll-miss-it shopping stretch in Graegle reveals locally owned shops teeming with one-of-a-kind treasures. Our favorite of the bunch? Undercover Botanicals (7580 Hwy. 89, Graeagle), where the made-in-house soaps and lotions perfume the air and well-stocked shelves entice with candles, loofahs, body brushes, and everything you need to feel polished (naturally). // The Briar Patch (114 Hwy. 89, Graeagle) is where you'll find plush robes, cozy slippers, and Tokyo Milk perfumes, along with other fun giftables and loungewear. Check the Facebook page before visiting, as the store does go dormant in the winter. // Eco Centric (112 Hwy. 89, Graeagle) has—you guessed it—eco-friendly gifts, from origami earrings to locally made pottery to uber-soft T-shirts. // Outfit your kitchen and home at Feathers (7467 Hwy. 89, Graeagle), which will add a rustic touch with reclaimed wood–framed flags and art, geometric dish towels, and throw pillows emblazoned with woodland creatures or cheeky outdoorsy sayings like "campers have s'more fun."