Beginning in the 1850s, the mountains and rivers around Plumas-Eureka were rife with activity. Drawn by the promise of gold, thousands of prospectors scrambled across gorgeous but unforgiving terrain, hoping to pan or dig their way to riches. Some of those prospectors found gold in and around Eureka Peak, and a great many buildings - stamp mills, stables, blacksmiths, barracks and more - sprang up to accommodate the miners and their industry. Today, some of those fascinating structures remain; preserved within the park, they offer a glimpse of what life was like in the mountains over a century ago.
But history is not all Plumas-Eureka has to offer. While the gold may be long-gone, the rugged beauty of this wonderful place remains. Groves of thick, tall pines and firs stretch for miles across mountains and valleys, and alpine lakes sparkle like jewels among the snow-capped peaks of the high-country. Hikers and anglers will find ample opportunities here and in the nearby Lakes Basin Recreation Area, a vast wilderness accessible from the park via road and trail.
Plumas-Eureka's Upper Jamison Creek Campground features 60 lovely, wooded sites, 41 of which are RV/trailer suitable. Reservations can be made up to six months in advance - if you're planning on traveling by during the busier summer season, make sure you reserve a prime spot!
Plumas-Eureka is accessible via County Road A-14, which itself can be accessed via CA-89 or CA-70. The country road (also called Graegle-Jonhsville Road) terminates its paved portion at the Upper Jamison Creek Campground, and then continues on as a gravel road after that. Though the surrounding terrain is mountainous, the road itself is relatively flat and is free of mountain hairpin turns. Some of the larger roads used to get to the county road, such as CA-89 or CA-70, do have steep and/or windy portions, but they are large, well-maintained routes and should not prompt any white-knuckle driving. Of course, weather in the high Sierras can be harsh and wildly unpredictable, especially during the winter months, so be extra cautious.
If you're looking for amenities or supplies, you can head to nearby Blairsden, just five miles to the west of the park.
The campground at Plumas-Eureka is easily navigable. Most sites are back-in, but as long as you are driving a small to moderate sized rig (see the listed size limits), you should not have any trouble parking. The mining complex buildings are clustered around the visitor center, and there's ample parking for visitors there. Parking is also available at Eureka Lake and at the Grass/Smith Lake trailheads, though reaching either of these requires driving on gravel roads.
Towering pine and spruce surround the sites at the Upper Jamison Creek Campground, Plumas-Eureka's main camping area. Set in the heart of the park, and divided by the waters of Jamison Creek, the campground offers easy access to fishing, hiking, and the area's many historical buildings. The campground sports 60 sites in total, with 41 of these being suitable for small RVs or trailers (the rest are tent-camping only).
Camping at Plumas-Eureka is primitive, and no water, electric or sewage hookups are available. Water spigots, a sanitary dump station, and modern restrooms with flush toilets are available, however. Each individual site also has a picnic table, fire ring and a bear-proof food storage container (black bears are quite prevalent in the high-Sierras).
The reservation system at the park is mixed; from Memorial Day to Labor Day, reservations are taken (up to six months in advance), while spots are first-come first-served for the rest of the open season.
Plumas-Eureka offers anglers the chance to fulfill their high-Sierra dreams. Numerous mountain lakes dot the areas surrounding the park, many of which are reachable by road or by trail. Crystal clear streams, big and small, criss-cross the landscape too. One of them, Jamison Creek, happens to flow right through Plumas-Eureka's campground; so if you don't feel like traveling far to cast your line, you don't have to! Rainbow trout, which are native, are one of the most common game species, though other several other introduced varieties of trout (e.g. brook, brown) can be encountered as well.
The coniferous forests and jagged mountains in and around Plumas-Eureka provide a spectacular setting for hiking trails. A trail leading straight from the campground at Plumas-Eureka connects into the Lakes Basin Recreation Area's comprehensive trail system. The Lakes Basin Recreation Area, through which the famed Pacific Crest Trail travels, is a mountainous wonderland full of alpine lakes, snow-capped peaks and rushing montane streams. The area is managed by Plumas National Forest, and travelers can head to the ranger station at nearby Blairsden for up-to-date trail advice.
During the summer season, visitors can take advantage of Plumas-Eureka's excellent interpretive programs. Docents and volunteers give tours of the park's historic buildings. Demonstrations of historical activities, such as blacksmithing, help transport visitors back in time to the area's gold-rush heyday. Some programs, focusing on not only the area's mining past but also on its fascinating natural history, are also run out of the park's wonderful visitor-center, an exhibit-filled building that was originally built as a bunkhouse for miners.
The dramatic beauty of the Sierra's provides remarkable opportunities for photographers. Whether you go for a short pleasure-drive or a ten-day hike, you'll be treated to spectacular mountain vistas, complete with snowy peaks and seemingly-endless swaths of deep green forests. Venture out to one of the area's many alpine lakes to capture an image of the mountains reflected in its crystalline waters, or set up at daybreak to snag a shot of the sun imbuing rocky peaks with an ephemeral orange alpenglow.
Ecologically, the high Sierras are surprisingly diverse - montane forests, sub-alpine forests, alpine fields, talus slopes, lakes and more all provide different habitats for the area's native fauna. Black bear, cougars, and deer are among the larger mammalian residents, while martens, minks, foxes and bobcats are also prevalent. American pika reside on the steep, rocky slopes of the tallest peaks, while specialist bird species like Clark's nutcrackers make a living in the high forests. Whether your heading out for a hike, a fishing expedition, or a photography session, you'll almost surely come across some fascinating wildlife.