I always prefer hiking uphill first to get to the destination. It means downhill on the way out. This is true of this 5-mile round trip in-and-out trail. The last 150 feet to the tower is easily managed by climbing a sturdy metal staircase. At the top is the locked up lookout tower. You can look inside at the basic accommodations the lookouts had when this tower was in use. After taking in the 360-degree view and all the pictures and video you want, it is time to make your descent. On the way out the tower gets smaller. You may be amazed that you were all the way up at the very top in that tiny square building once back at the parking area.
To get there from Auburn take Highway 49 north toward Grass Valley/Nevada City. Stay on 49 to Sierra City. From Sierra City head northeast on Highway 49 for about 5 miles. Turn left on Gold Lake Highway. After 1.3 miles turn left again on Packer Lake Road. Follow signs for Packer Lake, turning right at the split. Shortly before reaching Packer Lake turn left on County Route 621 (marked with a sign reading: Sierra Buttes). Follow this road up a steep grade until you reach a wide junction with many parking spots (Packer Saddle). Turn left on Butcher Ranch Road and follow it south for 0.6 more miles. The trailhead has a wide dirt area for parking and is marked with trail signs for both the Sierra Buttes Lookout and the PCT. Start your hike around the green gate and you are on your way.
Mary West is the author of the book series “Day Hiker — Gold Country Trail Guide.” The books are a collection of Day Hiker columns where West shares her longtime love of the outdoors and favorite hikes in Northern California’s Gold Country and beyond (available on Amazon). West was the recipient of the CRAFT Award in 2017 and 2019 for Best Outdoor Newspaper Column by the Outdoor Writers Association of California. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.