Lake Tahoe's Secret Lost Sierra

Lake Tahoe has always been a market with limited inventory. Buyers are beginning to migrate north to an area called the Lost Sierra. The affordable home prices and a similar mountain lifestyle are reminiscent of what Lake Tahoe and Truckee were like in the late 1990’s.

Hiking on the numerous trails within the eastern Sierra, you will find many hidden lakes and waterfalls, but never see another hiker.

When the pandemic opened the gates for Bay Area residents to re-locate to Lake Tahoe in 2020, we saw home prices and sales escalate in 2021.  The First Quarter of 2022 unfolded with less sales. Inventory and sales are beginning to track to Lake Tahoe’s normal 5-year levels.

However, home prices are rising beyond affordability. 31% of all sales in the Tahoe Sierra MLS were over 2 million. Forbes and Moody’s have written about home price corrections expected in 2022, but Lake Tahoe is not one of the areas mentioned.

The median price between 2020 and 2022 rose a whopping 93%. An entry level home is now in the $600K-700K pricepoint. The demand stems from having the Bay Area as a feeder market of 7.7 million people looking for quality of life in the mountains.

It may seem that the Tahoe lifestyle is beyond your reach, but within a one-hour radius of Truckee you will find the Lost Sierra. As Bay Area buyers discover this outdoor wonderland, the Lost Sierra is soon to be found.

Russell Valley Real Estate

If you travel just north of Truckee on 89, you will come to Russell Valley, located just beyond Hobart Mills. For people looking for more space away from the crowds of Lake Tahoe, the acreage and available homes in Russell Valley saw a boom. However, inventory is currently non-existent and the migration has begun to push farther north into Plumas and Sierra Counties.

Plumas and Sierra County Real Estate

If you continue north on 89, you will come to an area called the Lost Sierra. Some of the mountainous towns like Sierra City, have the feel of what Lake Tahoe was like decades ago. Downieville actually holds the charm of California's Gold Rush past.

Sierra City and Downieville are located only one hour north of Truckee. Homes are spread across a tapestry of rivers and trails, tucked beneath the incredible Sierra Buttes.

The majestic cliffs above this area resemble the Grand Tetons and stand as a sentinel over mountain lakes, wildflowers and waterfalls. The foliage includes a mixture of oak trees, deciduous trees like aspen and dogwood, and of course, pine. This gives Sierra City and Downieville a diversity in the breathtaking landscapes that wind along the river.

Many of the towns in the Lost Sierra also retain California's vintage past. The Lost Sierra is located on the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains and includes Sierra and Plumas counties. The real estate is more affordable. Homes often offer acreage, and many buyers, unable to find their retreat at Lake Tahoe, are now looking in this area.

The Lost Sierra Found

The first town you come to on Highway 89 is Sierraville, a charming throwback to California's old farm communities. Some of the homes along the foothills are ranch property with acreage.

From Sierraville, if you go west you will find the foothill communities of the Lost Sierra. If you turn right on Highway 49 and travel east, you will come to Loyalton. The median home price is currently at $359K in Loyalton, and like Lake Tahoe, the area has seen a 39% increase in home values year over year.

Loyalton is located in the Sierra Valley, the largest sub-alpine valley in the western US. The landscape includes conifer aspen forests and woodland forests. The expansive landscape includes farmland, pastures and wildflowers. You will find cattle and deer along meandering streams in a picture perfect setting of the west.

Lost Sierra Foothills

The Lost Sierra also straddles the Sierras at the western intersection of Highway 49 and Highway 89. Turning left at the intersection of Sierraville will take you to the foothill section of the Lost Sierra. Sierra County also includes Calpine and Sattley, where farmhouses and cattle dot the landscape.

Sierra City and Downieville are located deeper within the mountain. Where the two roads split, staying on 49 leads you up a climb over the Yuba Pass, where you will see the Sierra Buttes as you near Bassetts Station. One moment you are following the river in a canopy of trees and suddenly, your windshield is a breathtaking postcard of Matterhorn like black peaks rising from the valley floor.

bike trails downieville
Lost Sierra Bike Trails

Downieville is known as a world class mountain biking area. The Sierra Buttes Trail is a series of trails that connect the many towns of the Lost Sierra. Their stewardship hosts the Downieville Downhill, one of the longest downhill mountain bike races in the country. At the end of a 5,000 foot downhill ride, Downieville becomes a festival. Downtown Downieville retains the feel of the old west.

Sierra City, featured in Reese Witherspoon’s backpacking movie, “Wild” is virtually located right on the Pacific Crest Trail. The town is filled with international hikers, picking up supplies and packages from the Post Office, local restaurants or the charming Country Store. Median home prices in Downieville and Sierra City are currently at $360K.

These towns have the feel of what Lake Tahoe was like in the 70’s and 80’s, with endless trails for hiking. Many homes are zoned forest land with acreage. Both towns are nestled on the north fork of the Yuba River. From here, Highway 49 meanders into Nevada City and Grass Valley.

Plumas County

If you stay on Highway 89, without turning onto Highway 49, you will come to Blairsden, Quincy, Portola, Whitehawk and Graeagle.  Whitehawk and Graeagle have always been popular destinations for golfers. Quincy has been home to the High Sierra Music Festival, conveniently located in between Reno and Truckee, pulling visitors from all over Northern California and Nevada.

High Sierra Music Festival

Plumas County mixes the rural lifestyle with mountain views. It is home to Sardine Lakes, a resort that is virtually booked out many years in advance. Sardine Lakes Resort is the jumping off point for hikes into the Sierra Buttes and the many mountain lake trails.  Real estate is more affordable than Lake Tahoe in these areas, and you are only a short drive from Truckee.

Sierra Buttes

Many people travel to Mammoth Lakes, Lake Tahoe and Yosemite, but few have discovered the equally majestic Sierra Buttes. This mountain range boasts 8,500 foot peaks that are the crowning jewel of the Lost Sierra. The federally protected Lakes Basin Recreation Area boasts glacially carved lakes and sweeping vistas.

Lost Sierra lakes

You could drive in any direction and find numerous outdoor adventures and never hit the same spot twice. It is virtually one of the most breathtaking areas you will ever encounter.

The Gold Rush is still going on in many areas surrounding the Sierra Buttes, and you will see signs that stake claims on many of the rivers and pools along the hiking areas. I see a different type of Gold Rush going on in this area, as more and more buyers are discovering the joys of owning in the Lost Sierra.

Buying a home in Sierra and Plumas County is a wise investment in an undiscovered alpine wonderland. Contact me today for more information on buying or selling your home in Plumas and Sierra County.