This is the first in a monthly series highlighting a local trail for hiking, equestrian use, or mountain biking, and for the winter, XC skiing or snowshoeing. The intention is to highlight the trail in its prime season, and to entice you, the reader, to get out on the trail!
Mt. Lola Trail
Mt. Lola has the distinction of being the highest point in both Nevada and Sierra Counties, as well as the highest point in the Tahoe National forest! It offers an amazing 360-degree views and a sense of remoteness that seems to be harder and harder to find. For me personally it holds a special spot as one of my most memorable trail outings ever.
One magical evening my wife and I pedaled to the top, arriving just at nightfall. Since thunderstorms had hit the area recently, the trail was in great shape, with enough rain to knock the dust down, but not so much as to produce mud. We hung out on top under the stars and looked over toward the Sierra Buttes, lit by an almost full moon, and signed in on the register that sits in a lockbox on Mt. Lola’s summit. We also read entries and stories from others, including many friends from Truckee.
What was truly mesmerizing though, was viewing the thunderstorms in both Reno and in the Tahoe Basin – watching the clouds momentarily glow as they sent lightning down toward somewhere unseen. Common sense got the better of us, as an open mountaintop is not the place to be when thunderstorms are around, so we turned on our headlights and headed back down to the trailhead, hooting and hollering all of the way. Just in the nick of time too – we felt a few of those big, fat, ominous raindrops as we loaded the bikes onto the car and as soon as we were in the car, the clouds unleashed a serious downpour. I have ridden Mt. Lola many times, sometimes riding it much better both up and down, but that night will probably always be my favorite ride on this trail.
The trail to Mt. Lola, located in the Tahoe National Forest, runs roughly north-south for about 6 miles, on both National Forest and private property, as often happens in the checkerboard land ownership in our region. The Truckee Donner Land Trust, in partnership with The Trust for Public Land, is currently under contract to purchase nearly 1,200 acres in the area that includes almost 3 miles of the trail and the magnificent Cold Stream Meadow itself. When driving to this trailhead please be courteous the route crosses private residential property.
Once at the trailhead, directions are easy as the trail is an out-and-back, with no turnoffs or spur trails. You just proceed to the top and head back down. But wait, there’s so much more to the trail! Along the way you will climb up in a steep rugged canyon, skirt a pristine meadow loaded with wildflowers, climb through a pine and fir forest, pass by a boisterous waterfall, travel through a forest stunted by snow and wind, usually cross snowfields, and the list goes on from there… Then you reach the top and the 360-degree breathtaking views: Castle Peak from the other side will have the backcountry skiers in the bunch thinking about fresh new turns. Those that have climbed the stairs on the Sierra Buttes will be intrigued by this perspective of the craggy peak. Peak baggers will aspire to name all of the peaks in the viewshed. Fishermen will wonder about the trout below in White Rock Lake. But most of all you will just stare about, taking in the grandeur of the area in which we get to call home.
Mt. Lola Stats
Trip starting Elevation: 6,620 ft.
Mt. Lola summit: 9,148 ft.
Trail length: 5.25 miles
Autumn is the best time to get out and work on trails! There are few, if any mosquitoes, the sun is beginning to drop lower in the southern sky resulting in a less intense sun and often cooler temperatures, and the possibility of a little moisture in the dirt, all add to the pleasantries of tough, but rewarding work. There are many opportunities to construct trail in Truckee including Donner Lake Rim Trail construction days, Truckee Trails Day, which is Sept. 28, and Truckee River Day, which is October 19. Visit tdlandtrust.org, truckeetrails.org, and truckeeriverwc.org, respectively, for more details.
Directions to the Mt. Lola trailhead:
From Truckee take Hwy. 89 N
Turn left after about 15 miles onto Forest Route 07 (Henness Pass Road) to Jackson Meadows Reservoir.
Turn left onto the dirt road to Independence Lake. This left is just under 1.5 miles from the HWY 89N/ Henness Pass Rd. junction.
Proceed down this road which will cross over the Little Truckee River on a one-lane bridge.
Turn right at the first intersection, a four-way intersection occurring about one-half mile from the turnoff at Henness Pass Road. This is Old Henness Pass road.
The trailhead will be on the left in about three miles. Currently it is signed, but the sign has been known to turn up missing. If you cross over more bridges, you went too far.