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CaliforniaHiking Guides

Hiking Guide: Upper and Lower Lola Montez Lakes

Upper and Lower Lola Montez Lakes

Overview

The hike to Upper and Lower Lola Montez Lakes features a moderate climb to the first lake and a more advanced, technical scramble up to the second. The trailhead for this hike is best found by the number of other vehicles parked along the road near its entrance.

Going earlier will definitely mean less competition for parking. The hike up to the first lake features a combination of single-track trail and dirt roads, so don’t be surprised if you see a 4×4 vehicle or two along these sections of road. It is best used from April to September.

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 8.5 miles, Out and Back
  • Hike Time: 4-5 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1,500 feet
  • Fee: None
  • Dogs: Yes, On-Leash
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Advanced

Hiking the Trail to Upper and Lower Lola Montez Lakes

Despite the large number of cars parked on the road when we arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by how few people we actually encountered.

A Good Mix of Sun and Shade on the Trail. PC Tucker Ballister
A Good Mix of Sun and Shade on the Trail. PC Tucker Ballister

This is a multi-use trail for mountain biking and horseback riding. Many of the cars parked at the trailhead may have been bikers just getting started on a longer section of the Hole In The Ground Trail, of which this trail is the beginning section.

The hike up to Lower Lola Montez Lake starts on a single-track trail through dense forest. It pops out onto a private dirt road within the first mile, so be careful to make this right and stick to the road at this crossing instead of continuing on the single track.

After this, you will encounter two more crossings between the road and the trail. All in all, you’ll go from trail to road, back to trail, and then to the road again before following it all the way to where it turns into trail once more. Fortunately, each of these first three crossings requires that you STAY RIGHT from trail-to-road, road-to-trail, and trail-back-to-road, respectively.

During the spring months, there is a small river crossing within the first mile-and-a-half of the hike in. Some folks prefer to do this hike in Chacos or something like these Earth Runners Cadence Adventure Sandals. There is a rock-hop-crossing on the left side of the trail, and I generally recommend taking shoes off and crossing barefoot as opposed to getting your shoes wet this early into any hike.

You will find running and/or standing water at several spots throughout the hike in during the spring months. This does have the unfortunate blessing of making this a rather mosquito-filled hike during the early part of the year. Bring the bug spray and make sure to reapply after you go swimming in the lake!

The hike up to the lower lake is ideal for dogs, although it is recommended to keep your furry companion on-leash. Don’t be surprised if you run into other hikers or bikers with off-leash dogs.

The Pup Enjoying Some Lakeside Shenanigans. PC Tucker Ballister
The Pup Enjoying Some Lakeside Shenanigans. PC Tucker Ballister

When you reach Lower Lola Montez Lake, there will be a large, open area where many folks have camped in the past. At the shoreline to the west of this spot, there’s a large rock that’s great for sunbathing or jumping into the lake to cool off.

The “trail” that leads up to the upper lake skirts to the right and around the northwest edge of the lake. There are several other potential camping spots along this side of the lake. Once the trail turns away from the lake and begins heading further uphill, you’ll be in for another climb.

At this point, the ‘trail’ peters out and you’ll need to follow the rock cairns that have been respectfully set by those that have come before you. From here, I no longer recommend bringing your dog unless he or she is small enough to be carried up the more technical sections.

Example of Cairns Marking “Trail” Between Lakes. PC Tucker Ballister
Example of Cairns Marking “Trail” Between Lakes. PC Tucker Ballister

The total distance between the two lakes is about 1.5 miles, but don’t be surprised if it takes you longer than expected to make the climb to the upper lake. It’s considerably more technical than the lower section of the hike and you’ll need to take your time to make sure you’re following the rock cairns carefully.

Once you make it to the upper lake, there are many great rocks for jumping off of or sunbathing on. There’s a rough 4×4 road that goes up to the upper lake from the North, so don’t be surprised if you see a couple of car camping groups up there when you arrive.

After lounging and enjoying a swim in the upper lake (perhaps while wearing your Rheos Gear Floating Sunglasses), you’ll simply need to retrace your steps back down to the lower lake and onto the trail home!

Map

Location

The trailhead is located off of I-80 at Exit 174 to Soda Springs/Norden. The closest town is Soda Springs, California. If coming from the east, turn right off the exit and make your first right onto Sherritt Lane. From the west, turn left off the exit and cross over the highway before making your right onto Sherritt.

Go past the fire station on your right and the trailhead will be on the left about 500 yards down the road. If you come to the gate at the end of the road, you’ve gone about 100 yards past the trailhead.

Get Directions

Resources

Guidebooks

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Links

Photos

Meadow Off Right Side of Trail Just Before Reaching the Lower Lake. PC Tucker Ballister
Meadow Off Right Side of Trail Just Before Reaching the Lower Lake. PC Tucker Ballister
Lower Lola Montez Lake. PC Tucker Ballister
Lower Lola Montez Lake. PC Tucker Ballister
Upper Lola Montez Lake. PC Tucker Ballister
Upper Lola Montez Lake. PC Tucker Ballister

More Great Hikes Near Upper and Lower Lola Montez Lakes

There are almost TOO MANY great hikes in the Donner Summit area to name them all. But here are a few great selections within a 20-minute drive of the trail to Upper and Lower Lola Montez Lakes.

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