Tamarack Lakes Trail takes you to small lakes north of the Sierra Buttes in the Tahoe National Forest in Sierra County. The first half of this trail ascends through mostly open forest and along a manzanita-covered moraine slope with great vistas of the two fjord-like Sardine Lakes (reservoirs) far down to your left. Straight ahead you view the pinnacled Sierra Buttes. You are looking towards the northeast-facing walls and scree slopes of this mountain massif, on which you may spot several snow fields—even during summer months.
Lower Sardine Lake (partly seen in picture above, hikers returning to trailhead) is typically alive with fishing and kayaking activity, while Upper Sardine Lake at the Sierra Buttes bottom appears more remote. Leaving the scenic vista points behind, your climb continues over a forested ridge, from where the single-track trail switchbacks downhill into the Tamarack and Packer Lake Basin. After leaving the forest, the trail merges with a rocky road. It passes some seasonal streams and ponds, until it meets the T-junction with the route to Packer Lake. You'll find the first Tamarack Lake—shallow, brownish, conifer-rimmed (top picture)—to the south of this junction. Trails continue to the second Tamarack Lake, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Sierra Buttes Lookout. Note that while you were hiking downhill the ridge, you certainly spotted Packer Lake in the north. But you were not able to see the Tamarack Lakes prior to your arrival at the lake shores.
Getting to the Tamarack Lake/Sardine Overlook Trailhead
The trailhead is located near the Sardine Lake Resort (990 Sardine Lake Rd., Sierra City, CA 96125), just west of the Gold Lake Highway in the northern Sierra Nevada, California. Turn onto this highway from Highway 49 near Bassetts. Drive uphill for a little more than a mile and turn left onto County Road S621 at the sign directing to the Sardine and Packer Lakes. Proceed on S621 and take Sardine Lakes Road at the next junction. Locate the trailhead sign reading “Tamarack Connection Trail 12E30” on the right side of this road and find parking space—most likely on the left-hand shoulder after turning around. A few steps away from the first trailhead sign you'll see the shown sign at a tree to your left, indicating hiking distances of two miles to the Sardine Overlook, three and a half miles to Tamarack Lake and four miles to Packer Lake.