I went on this hike during Labor Day weekend – on Labor Day, specifically. I’d been hoping to do some more high-country hiking before Fall. It’s been an unusual hiking season in the Sierras this year, due to the amount of snow last winter which lasted well into the normal summer hiking season. Mount Lola is an interesting destination because, at 9100 feet elevation, it’s the highest peak in the area just north of Truckee and the main Lake Tahoe basin, with a reputation for awesome views including Lassen Peak, Sierra Buttes, Mt. Rose, and Freel Peak.
The Mount Lola Trail approaches Mt. Lola from the north (there is another trail from White Rock Lake to the southwest). This trail is within the Tahoe National Forest.
The trail climbs nearly monotonically: no descents during the ascent and vice versa.
The trailhead area is accessed from CA-89, 17 miles north of Truckee via about 5.5 miles of unimproved roads from Little Truckee Summit. I was able to drive the roads safely in my Prius, though the trip was a bit slow. The trailhead sign before reaching the Cold Stream crossing is a bit dilapidated, but nevertheless (barely) recognizable.
The trailhead is perhaps ¼ mile from Cold Stream, but the trail follows the canyon uphill, and after a mile or so the trail follows the stream for about 3 miles. Soon I was struck by the observation that, although the trail climbed steadily (nearly 10% average grade), so did the streambed. On the way back I paid attention differently and realized that the stream was almost continuously going down a semi-waterfall. The sight and sound were quite pleasant.
About 3 miles up the trail, after climbing through forested areas, is Coldstream Meadow with a pretty tributary stream winding through.
There were quite a few wildflowers along the trail; this Applegate’s paintbrush is just one example.
Somewhere along the trail I met a returning hiker and asked about snow. His reply: yes there’s some, but just stay to the left and you’ll have no trouble getting to the top. In this year of abundant snowfall, even in September there was still some snow above 8500 feet elevation on north-facing slopes!
Between the snowmelt track and footprints on the snow, I was able to skirt the edge of the snow field without losing the trail. The rewards – expansive, open views of the high country – were worth the climb. (This was still about 500 feet lower than the top of Mt. Lola.)
From the summit the 360-degree panorama was wonderful. I particularly looked for Lassen Peak to the north, and may have seen it, but I’m not confident about my ability to identify specific peaks. To the east lies Independence Lake, with Stampede Reservoir in the distance.
A little ways, 100 feet or so, from the official Mt. Lola sign there is a small structure made of rocks. Inside this I found what appeared to be a geocache, including a colorful flag marker. The 2 unhidden metal boxes also present may be a summit register. I don’t think I’m giving anything away by mentioning the location. It’s a great location for a geocache – no need to hide it, really, because the finding operation is the hike to get there!