DescriptionCovering land north and west of Lake Tahoe, Tahoe National Forest—despite its name—has little to do with the lake. Much of this 797,205-acre national forest lies in the Yuba River drainage. Here miners employed the placer pan, pick and hydraulic cannon, which utilized tons of pressurized water to blast away the hillsides, in their frantic pursuit of gold. The lake and its immediate environs are part of the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.
Where pack trains and stagecoaches once traveled, SR 49 winds past remnants of former mining camps reclaimed by forest. Steep-walled canyons line the twisting course of the North Yuba River. The dramatic Sierra Buttes are riddled with old quartz mines.
The 170-mile-long Yuba Donner Scenic Byway, named for the unlucky 19th-century exploration party, is a loop route through alternating mountain and valley terrain. It incorporates portions of I-80 and SRs 20, 49 and 89 as it winds through the national forest and the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Miners weren't the only ones to leave their mark on the landscape. Touring the region as an entertainer in 1853, famed femme fatale Lola Montez christened Independence Lake during a Fourth of July picnic. Just north of the site is Mount Lola, named for the adventuress.
Independence Lake is but one of many lakes within the forest boundaries. Popular recreational areas include French Meadows Reservoir, in the upper reaches of the American River watershed; a cluster of glacial lakes north of Sierra City; and Bullards Bar Reservoir, on the edge of the Sacramento Valley.
Alpine and Nordic skiing and snowmobiling are popular winter diversions, while hiking, camping, boating, horseback riding and fishing take over the rest of the year. Hikers can explore 400 miles of trails. Water recreation includes sailing, water skiing, swimming, rafting, kayaking and canoeing. Reservations for Logger Campground can be made through the National Recreation Reservation System; phone (877) 444-6777 or TTY (877) 833-6777.
Publications about recreational opportunities and maps are available at most forest service stations and the forest headquarters in Nevada City. For more information contact the Forest Supervisor, Tahoe National Forest, 631 Coyote St., Nevada City, CA 95959; phone (530) 265-4531.