Monday, June 27, 2016

Plumas Backcountry Adventure Trail is Sierra Gold

Plumas Backcountry Discovery Trail

The Plumas Backcountry Discovery Trail (BDT) offers adventure seekers a rare glimpse into California’s rich history.  This 150 mile long route has numerous discovery points (DP) where you can see breathtaking views, spectacular geological features, old mines, gold rush towns, mountain meadows, rare plants, abundant wildlife, and old logging mills.

Plumas BDT Starts in La Porte

In addition to the main route, there are several four-wheel drive alternate trails that provide more of a driving challenge to key DPs and local history.

Mountain View

This region of the Sierra is also home to many Native American cultural sites.   The Mountain Maidu people lived throughout the Plumas National Forest.  They still use natural materials for basket weaving and other activities.

High Elevation Mountain Meadow

Before starting your Plumas BDT trip, QWR suggests that you acquire a hardcopy or online version of the BDT route.  The Plumas National Forest has a visitor center located just before you arrive at the town of La Porte where your journey begins.  Also, be sure and pick up a Plumas National Forest Map as it will help you navigate the course and highlight additional non-BDT trail opportunities.


After leaving La Porte, DP 1 on Map 1 is Gibsonville where the pavement ends.  This is a great place to step from your vehicle and check out the area.  It also has a wide spot where local users unload their non-street legal OHVs.

Info Sign at Gibsonville DP

Along this conifer lined route you will see waterfalls, mountain meadows, rugged mountains, and streams.  You will also pass by a snowmobile warming hut and the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

Bean Hill DP

Maps 5 and 6 take you past old mining operations and lumber mills.  DP 18 overlooks the Bean Hill Mine.  This stop invites the traveler to hike some of the area where the evidence of mining is still visible today.

California Pitcher Plant

QWR suggests you set aside some quality time at DP 19 to explore the Butterfly Valley Botanical Area.  It is home to hundreds of plant species including the carnivorous California pitcher plant.   Thanks to the wet spring this year, there were a lot of pitcher plants to photograph and enjoy.

California Black Bear
Photo Credit: Ellen Amador

There is also abundant wildlife along this route which includes bear, deer, and many birds.

Wild Lily

The route on Map 7 starts at the old logging town of Twain.  The Twain General Store and RV Park is a great place to stop for food and/or to stay overnight.   Just across from the store, the BDT crosses Highway 70 where you ascend several thousand feet to the top of the ridge.  

Twain General Store

SxS recreationists may want to consider camping at Twain and spend a day or two riding on Map 7’s BDT and other legal Forest roads that stem off of the main trail.  Plumas County has also designated County Road 306 for OHV use which adds important connectivity for non-street legal OHVs.

Wildfire History on the Plumas NF

If you only have a couple of days to tour the BDT there are numerous motel options in Yuba City, Quincy, Lake Almanor, and Chico.  There are also designated campgrounds and many dispersed camping areas along the BDT.  The Gold Pan Lodge in Quincy now offers BDT travelers the same discount they afford PCT hikers – just ask for the BDT discount when booking a room.
However, the best way to explore all of the sights and sounds of the Plumas BDT is to plan a 3-4 day vacation so you have time to fully appreciate this remote part of California.

QWR hopes the growing number of adventurists that use the various segments of the BDT will create momentum for the completion of a programmatic state/federal planning effort that will formalize a network of non-paved backcountry routes that connect many of the Golden State’s scenic areas.

Gold Pan Inn – Quincy, CA – (530) 283-3686
Twain General Store and RV Park – (530) 283-2130


  1. Very interesting! Would like to explore the area.

  2. Living vicariously through you, Don! Thanks for the write-up and nod to the statewide programmatic trail opportunity.

  3. Jared, as you know... when I was on the OHV commission in the 1990s, I spent a lot of time supporting efforts to designate a statewide system of motorized routes... I want to see the dream realized before I retire from OHV advocacy.

  4. Don, I would like to see that as well. I need to catch up on the OHV Division's progress.

  5. Has any part of the route been closed since the fires last summer? I might do a big ADV bike ride through the easy sections late spring or summer.