The hike to the top of Mt. Lola is a great fall hike especially this year! Late snow melt has provided wet habitat that is full of seasonal wildflowers! From the trailhead to the top of Mt. Lola is about 11.5 miles and about 3000 feet of elevation gain, but the trek is worth the 360° view of the northern Sierra Crest, Sierra Buttes and beyond!
From Interstate 80 near Truckee take the hwy 89 north for about 14.5 miles until you see the green forest service sign to Independence lake and turn left on this paved road for about 1.5 mile and then continue on Forest Service Road 07-10. Follow this road over a little bridge and the Little Truckee river. Turn right and proceed on Henness Pass road (301) for abut 3.1 miles and then veer left when you see the Mt. Lola trail sign. There is a parking area, but no faciliti
UPPER MONTANE LIFE ZONE:
The hike to the top of Mt. Lola climbs through the Upper Montane zone which is typically found in the Tahoe area from lake level, 6230 ft. to 8,000 ft. The trail climbs through a mixed forest of Western White pines, Lodgepole pines and White firs as it climbs towards the mouth of Cold Stream canyon.
The trail then ascends up along Cold Steam where it crosses several seasonal streams which still in September support a number of moisture loving plants like Common Monkeyflower, Towering Larkspur and Large-Leaved Lupin. As the trail climbs up to the summit of Mt. Lola the forest floor gives way to granitic & volcanic soils. In these areas lopok for several sub-alpine plants such as spreading Phlox and Dave’s buckwheat.
THIS FLOWER HIKE only covers the trail to the top of Mt Lola. A few of the still blooming plants as of September 8th, 2019 are included but to experience more of a floral display, hike this in August if it has not been a huge snow year
TRY ADDING YOUR OWN OBSERVATIONS FROM THIS TRAIL TO THE TAHOE BIG FLOWER project ON iNATURALIST.
The hike to the summit of Mt. Lola begins at the trailhead and begins as a single track trail surrounded by a mix of White Fir understory including Sierra Current, Wavy Aster and a few Crest Lupin which have finished blooming.
The trail climbs towards cold stream Canyon and eventually follows Cold Stream through several late blooming “gardens” of Big-leaved Lupin, Corn Lilies, Soft arnica and Common Monkey Flower.
Common Name: Common Monkey Flower
Scientific Name: Erythranthe guttatus
Notes: This flower has a hinged stigma which may close if the pollen received is not compatible
Common Name: Large-leaved Lupin
Scientific Name: Lupinus polyphyllus
Notes: This lupin like others has symbiotic bacteria in its root nodules which help fix nitrogen from the air into nitrates that the plant can use.
Farther up the canyon the trail intersects a 4 W drive road. Hike along this road until you come to a fork..take the left fork and the continuation of a single track trail until you reach Cold Stream meadow.
The trail continues along the north end of the meadow which is full of mule ears and several herbs that have finished blooming but look for late blooming Yarrow, Coulter’s daisy, Ranger buttons and
Common Name: Yarrow
Scientific Name: Achillea millefolium
Notes: Yarrow is an astringent and will cause blood to clot by constricting blood vessels.
Common Name: Coulter’s Daisy (Coulter’s Fleabane)
Scientific Name: Erigeron coulteri
Notes: This plant will grow up to 2 feet tall!
Common Name: Ranger buttons
Scientific Name: Angelica capitellata
Notes: Ranger buttons often host several different kinds of insects.
Check out the yellow faced bumble bee!
Common Name: Nettle-leaf Giant Hyssop
Scientific Name: Agasatache urticifolia
Notes; Check out the pinkish lavender rosy purple calyx with 4 white stamens, purple anthers and triangular leaves. The native Americans would seep leaves for tea! Also Monarch & Western tiger swallowtails feed on the leaves.
At the far end of the meadow there is a campsite nestled in a grove of trees and beyond the campsite the route to the summit crosses Cold Stream where several moisture loving plants can still be seen blooming this late. Look for Giant Red Paintbrush, Arrow-leaved Groundsel and Mountain Blue bells which have reached the end of their blooming season.
Common Name: Giant Red paintbrush
Scientific Name: Castilleja miniata
Notes: This paintbrush like others in its family is a root parasite on various host plants.
Scientific Name: Senecio triangularis
Notes: Check out Bombus bee feeding on the nectar of this flower.
Common Name: Mountain Blue Bells
Scientific Name: Mertensia ciliate
Notes: Flowers hang down in panicles and are also known as “lungworts” for their use in treatment of lung diseases.
There is a campsite at the far end of meadow. Beyond the campsite the route crosses Cold Stream where several moisture loving plants can still be seen blooming such as. Look for a few Lewis Monkey flowers, Sierra Yampah and Corn Lilies still blooming!
Common Name: Lewis Monkey flower
Scientific Name: Erythranthe lewisii
Notes: This monkey flower has a disxerning stigma which when touched will close against the upper petals thus preventing pollination by incompatible pollen!
Common Name: Sierra Yampah
Scientific Name: Prideridia parishii
Notes: This flower is also known as Sierra Queen Anne’s lace.
Common Name: Corn Lilies
Scientific Name: Veratum californicum
Notes: The leaves of this plant are toxic and should not be eaten! Native Americans used the boiled liquid from the leaves as a contraceptive.
After the trail crosses the small stream and flower garden it starts to climb and reaches a junction with a faint trail to the right…this spur leads to a small waterfall which tumbles down a slanted rock face
Once back on the main trail it will veer away from Cold stream and start a climb that will leave the white firs and start to pick up the Mountain Hemlocks and a few views of snow on the sides of the summit of Mt. Lola.
As the trail accends though the Hemlocks it looks as if the winter snows just recently melted. Look for Dave’s Knotweed, Pine lupin and a few Spreading Phlox still in bloom!
Common Name: Dave’s knotweed
Scientific Name: Koenigia davisiae
Notes: This knotweed is typically found above 7,000 ft and is often characterized by its early red/pink leaves.
Common Name: Pine Lupin
Scientific Name: Lupinus alibcaulis
Notes: This Lupin can be identified by its purple to white flowers and its leaflets which have 5-10 leaflets and After the flower is pollinated it turns brown!
Common Name: Spreading Phlox
Scientific Name: Phlox diffusa
Notes: Once the phlox flower is pollinated it changes from whitish to pink/lavender.
The trail continues towards the summit of Mt. Lola. Look for a few other late blooming flowers amongst the granitic soil such as Scarlet Gilia, Mountain Pennyroyal and an occasional Fritillary butterfly on Mountain Pennyroyal.
Common Name: Scarlet Gilia (Skyrocket)
Scientific Name: Ipomopsis aggregata
Notes: The long flower tubes of this flower attract hummingbirds which insert their long tongues and obtain the nectar within the tubes.
Common Name: Fritillary
Notes: This Fritillary is feeding on a Mountain Pennyroyal flower
As the trail winds up to the summit look for recent blooming Alpine paintbrush
Common Name: Alpine Paintbrush
Scientific Name: Castilleja nana
Notes: This paintbrush has very hairy leaves and like other paintbrushes is a hemiparasite on the roots of nearby plants.
A the trail reaches the summit spectacular 360 views await the hiker!
All photographs were taken by Lynn Hori. Plant information was gathered from: Plants of the Tahoe Basin by Michael Graft, Tahoe’s Spectacular Wildflower trails by Julie S. Carville, the Jepson Manual 2012 and The Laws field guide to the Sierra Nevada by John Muir Laws. Trail information was gathered from Afoot & A field Reno Tahoe by Mike White.
Trail description: The Rock Creek/Little lakes Valley is a classic glacier carved valley situated at about 10,000 feet in elevation. Surrounded by the John Muir Wilderness with views of 13,000 foot peaks from anywhere in the canyon, this area offers a unique glimpse into the Eastern Sierra bioregions (Jepson SNH & SNE) where the Great Basin floristic region meets the Sierra Nevada. The best time to see and hike this area is Late May until September (except 2017 where many of the trails still had snow patches and lots of water.)
Hiking along the Little Lakes Valley trail, Ruby lake and Mono pass trails feature some endemic alpine plants adapted to survive in the higher elevations of the Rock creek area (9,000 ft -10,000ft.) Plants such as Inyo Beardstongue, Penstemon papillatus and Inyo tonestus, Tonestus piersonii , Alpine Coloumbine, and Quillworts may also be seen.
August is still a great time to visit Little Lakes Valley. Beautiful floral display still adorn the trail and lake areas.
Look for White columbine (Aquiligia pubescens) amongst Subalpine Larkspur ( Delphinium polycladon) as well as an occasional Sierra Gentian (Gentianopsis holopetala).
Take the Mono Pass trail and enjoy the great views back to Marsh, Heart and box lakes. Climb up to Ruby Lake and go for a swim before heading up to Morgan Pass
Ruby Lake View Marsh, Heart & Box lakes
Rock Creek/Little Lakes Valley is 31 miles south of Mammoth lakes off of Hwy 395 and about 8.5 miles west from Tom’s Place on Rock Creek Road.
The Rock Creek canyon area offers 8 National forest campground opportunities. The Rock Creek campground is located next to Rock Creek Lake and is the closest to the Mosquito Flat trail head. The Rock creek resort has cabins that can be rented during the summer season. (http://www.rockcreeklakesresort.com/4)
Sub-Alpine and Alpine Life Zones:
The hike along the Little Lakes Valley and Ruby Lakes trail are in a region above 10,000 feet characterized by Lodgepole and Whitebark pines or the Alpine regions above tree line. The native plants/trees are well adapted to survive these higher elevations where winters can provide 30-40 inches of precipitation mostly in the form of snow. These plants are almost all perennial with adaptations that include deep taproots and small reflective, light colored leaves. Many of these use some form of vegetative reproduction to enable them to reproduce in a very limited growing season.
THE FLOWERS FEATURED IN THIS TRAIL BLOG ARE ORGANIZED BY THEIR OCCURANCE ALONG THE TRAIL THROUGH THE DIFFERENT BIOTIC ZONES. (All plants listed were seen between in August 2016 & July 2017.)
Mosquito Flat Trail head: This trail head is one of the highest in the Sierras at about 10,200 feet in elevation. The Lakes Valley trail meanders along Rock Creek and skirts around Mack, Marsh, Heart, Box, Long and Chicken Foot lakes which is an easy climb with gorgeous views of the many 13,000ft peak. The trail continues its climb and eventually reaches Morgan Pass at about 11.000 ft. The hike from the trail head to Morgan pass is about 8 miles round trip
John Muir Wilderness:
The trail enters the John Muir Wilderness a few 100 yards pass the Mosquito Trailhead sign.
The Exposed granitic soil along the trail into the John Muir Wilderness is dotted with plants adapted to long sun exposure and dry soils such as the Nuttall’s Phlox, Prickly phlox, Singlehead Goldenbush, Sulfur Buckwheat and an occasional Wax Current
Common Name: Singlehead Goldenbush
Scientific Name: Ericameria suffruticosa
Notes: This Aster has ray heads only and is characterized by undulating leaves and petals that are seem to be in disarray. It is grows sporadically on dry granitic slopes.
Common Name: Prickly phlox (Granite Phlox)
Common Name: Applegate’s Paintbrush
Scientific Name: Castilleja applegatei
Notes: This plant like other paintbrushes is a root parasite on neighboring plants. It can be identified from other reddish paintbrushes by its wavy leaves
Common Name: Squirrel tail grass
Scientific Name: Elymus elymoides
Notes: This grass is related to other California bunch grasses. Notice that the flowers branch from a clump of stems.
Notes: This plant is usually found in gravely slopes. It is a great entomologist plant because the large flower heads attract lots of bugs and beetles!
After Crankcase grade the trail levels out for a while and in this open sub-alpine terrain look for Little Elephant heads, a few Anderson’s Asters and a distinguished looking Mt. Timonthy in the grass family.
The Common Name: Little Elephant Heads
As the trail ascends towards the junction for Morgan/Mono pass a few moist areas left over from the late snow melt provide the moist habitat needed for the Giant Red Paintbrush and Swamp onion with its characteristic onion odor along with several Willows, the Sierra Willow and the Red/Mono willow (Sierra yellow stem, Red stems), Alaska Rush and Lushy Lupin.
Check out the cool caterpiller along the trail!
The trail then comes to a junction, the left fork continues along the Lakes Valley trail to Morgan Pass and the right leads up to Ruby lake and Mono pass. (In some years like 2017, the trails may still have quite a bit of swow!)
Trail to Morgan pass levels off to give great views of the Lakes valley 13,000 + peaks.
From “Crankcase grade”. This blog is first going to follow the left junction to Mack, Marsh, Box and Long lakes
Look for the first siting of a Sierra Juniper (some of the oldest in the Sierras, up to 10,00ft) mixed in amongst the Lodgepole pines
As the trail climbs up Little Lakes Valley more views of the 13,000 foot peaks come into view. From left to right: Mt. Morgan, Rosy Finch Peak, Pyramid peak, Bear Spire, Mt Dade, Mt Abbot
The trail passes through several moist areas which support sub-alpine plants that require more water such as Shooting stars (fields of them in 2017) and many Few Flowered Meadow Rues and a few Stellaria dotted in between the Alpine Gentian.
Scientific Name: Stellaria longipines
Notes: These plants are often found in moist marshy areas.
Scientific Name: Genetiana newberryi
Notes: Check out the flower of the Genetian with its long tubular throat marked with green dots and green nectar lines. These flowers will close when it rains.
Up the trail before Marsh Lake there are some large patches of Kalmia (Alpine Laurel) which are still blooming in July 2107 as a late snow melt resulted in later blooming .
The trail then reaches the east end of Marsh Lake. Look along the moist areas near the lake for plants that depend on this wetter environment like, Slender cinquefoil and Primrose Monkeyflower.
Later in the season (or a dryer year like 2017) the edges of Marsh Lake dry out and support Rosy Pussy Toes and Alpine Golden rod, Sierra Whorled Penstemon as well as Dwarf Billberry which is related to Blueberries
Common Name: Rosy Everlasting
Scientific Name: Antennaria rosea
Notes: This plant is a member of the aster family but is missing ray flowers. The ray flowers are covered with bracts so that the heads are small and inconspicuous. These plants tend to form mats among grasses and sedges. Anntenaria are related to the swiss Edelweiss
Common Name: Alpine Golden rod
Scientific Name: Solidago multiradiata
Notes: Several of the Paiute Indians use this plant in solution to treat cuts, sores and burns.
Common Name: Sierra Whorled Penstemon
Scientific Name: Penstemon heterodoxus var heteroduoxus
Notes: This penstemon is a high elevation species (9,000ft) and is the only penstemon with blue flowers arranged in whorls. These clusters are sticky and glandular.
Along the edge of Marsh Lake there are large patches of sedges including Showy Sedge
Common Name: Showy Sedge
Scientific Name: Carex spectabilis
Notes:This sedge is definitely the most abundant one in the Rock Creek area. It is particularly noticiable due to the terminal male anthers bursting with pollen.
As the trail leads to Heart Lake look for Monks Hood with its characteristic folded petalsOn the west side of Heart lake check out the Western Rosewort, a member of the Stonecrop family and a few Mt.Spirea along the trail.
As the trail ascends towards Box lake check out the afternoon skies!
On the right side of the trail look for a Vernal pool which provides the prefect habitat for another
FEATURED FLOWER: Quillworts
Vernal pools offer a good habitat for the Yosemite Toad to lay its eggs…check out all the tadpoles of the Yosemite Frog!
Look in the drying mud puddles around the vernal pool for butterflies such as the Coppers and Painted Ladies which often seek out these areas for salt deposits
Also look for native bees such as this Megachile bee feeding in the dried mud of this vernal pool
As the trail continues to climb towards Long Lake look along a granitic talus slope look for Fireweed which often blooms later in the summer and Leitchlin’s Mariposa Lily sticking up between Cream bush amongst the granite rocks
Common Name: Fireweed
Scientific Name: Chamerion angustifolium
Notes: This plant often grows in disturbed areas and is a favorite of Rufus Hummingbirds.
Common Name: Leitchlin’s Mariposa Lily
Scientific Name: Calochortus leitchtlinii
Notes: These plants collect moisture and store it is their deep root system and therefore can grow in dryish granitic slopes in between other plants such as Cream bush
ommon Name: Cream bush
Scientific Name: Holodiscus discolor
Notes: The leaves of this plant are distinct in the way they have serrated edges with prominant views.
FEATURED FLOWER: hiking from Box to Long lake look for Alpine Columbine nestled amongst the granite talus slopes
Common Name: Alpine Columbine
Scientific Name: Aquilegia pubescent
Notes: This columbine shares its habitat with the Pika which will dry leaves and flowers from this plant to eat in the winter
As the trail climbs up to Long lake there are usually several creek crossings. In July 22, 2016 the crossing Rock Creek was definitely doable, but in July , 2017 (photo on right) it was rather a challenge.
Growing out of the Talus slopes surrounding the south side of Long Lake look for an occasional Alpine Speedwell recognized by their purplish/lavender colored petals. Mixed alongside of the Speedwells might be some Alpine Catchfly with their glabrous hairs and nestled amongst these flowers might also be Carpet clover and an occasional Sibbaldia
Common Name: Alpine Speedwell
Scientific Name: Veronica wormskjolii
Notes: This colorful plant is often found under Sierra Willow and unlike others of its family it only has 2 stamens and barely an irregularity in its petals.
Common Name: Alpine Catchfly
Scientific Name: Silene sargentii
Notes: The name “catchfly” refers to the sticky glandular secretions which probably do not catch a lot of flies but many grains of sand! The inflated calyx is a characteristic of many plants in this family.
Common Name: Carpet clover
Scientific Name: Trifolium monanthum
Notes: This member of the pea family has root nodules which carry a symbiotic bacteria, rhizobia which fixes nitrogen and helps this plant survive in nitrogen poor soils
Common Name: Sibbaldia
Scientific Name: Sibbaldia procumbens
Notes: This plant is ground hugging and charactrized by 5 bracelets between the sepals and small petals with only 5 stamen.
As the trial continues around the west end of Long lake many more plants can be found that love the moist snow melt edges of the lake especially members of the Ericaceae family, Mt. Heather and Labrador Tea.
Common Name: Mt. Heather
Scientific Name: Phyllodoce breweri
Notes: These heather like others in their family have a mutualistic relationship with mycorrihizal bacteria in the soil that help it to absorb essential nutrients from the soils in which it grows.
Common Name: Labrador Tea
Scientific Name: Rhododendron columbian
Nos: The name is misleading since the leaves smell like turpentine!
Along the moist areas at the west end also Look for Toad Flax which is in its own family: Tofieldaceae
Common Name: Toad Flax
Scientific Name: Triantha occidentals
Notes: This plant is not in the lily family but has been moved to its own family.
FEATURED flower: Check out the tucked up in the crevices of the talus rocks along the trail look for the endemic Inyo Tonestus (Cushion plants)
Common Name: Inyo Tonestus
Scientific Name: Tonestus piersonii
Notes:The place where this California endemic was first described is the Upper Rock Creek Lake basin and it maybe actually seen where it was originally found! It is characterized by leaves which are toothed and round daisy like heads with short yellow rays.
In the granitic soils along the trail is also a good habitat for Mt. Sorrel and Oval-leaved Buckwheat.
Common Name: Mt. Sorrel
Scientific Name: Oxyria digyna
Notes: Mt. Sorrel is considered an “indicator plant” for the Alpine Zone (elevation is around 9,000-10,000 ft) and refers to the region above timberline. Look for this plant’s kidney shaped leaves and reddish clusters of tiny flowers. Check out the taste of the leaves which can be used to fulfill ones thirst on a hot day!
Common Name: Oval-leaved Buckwheat
Scientific Name: Erigonum ovalifolium
Notes: This buckwheat is a typical alpine “cushion plant” with its pale color, dense hairy leaves and long tab root.
At the west end of Long Lake in the moist meadow area near the shore is another
Common Name: Piersens Paintbrush
Scientific Name: Castilleja peirsonii
Notes: This paintbrush like others in its family is a root parasite on nearby plants,
Also look for Clubmoss Ivesia and another cool Paintbrush, Castilleja lemmonii as well more showy Sedge
Common Name: Clubmoss Ivesia
Scientific Name: Ivesia lycopodioides
Notes: This member of the rose family has small leaves that are often mistaken for fern leaves and is sometimes referred to as “Mousetails”.
Common Name: Lemmon’s Paintbrush
Scientific Name: Castilleja lemmonii
Notes: This paintbrush is often found along with Piersens Paintbrush.
The trail continues up towards Chickenfoot lake and eventually Morgan pass and Gem Lake which is one of the passes leading to more of the John Muir Wilderness.
TRAIL TO RUBY LAKE AND MONO PASS:
About .5 miles from the beginning of the Mesquite Trail head is the turn off to Ruby lake and Mono pass. The hike to Ruby is about 2 + miles from the trail split. The round trip hike to Mono Pass is about 8 miles.
The trail ascends up from the Little Lakes Valley towards Mono pass. More sub-alpine plants dot the trail side preferring these dry granitic soils.
Common Dandelion dot the beginning parts of this trail, although it is not native, it does provide habitat for this Bee Fly. Also scattered along the trail is Sierra Wallflower, which seems to prefer these open granitic soils.
Common Name: Bee Fly
Scientific Name: Bombyliidae
Common Name: Sierra Wallflower
Scientific Name: Erysimum perenne
Notes: This plant is often an early bloomer in the rocky sandy soil along the trail.
The trail climbs through seeps that have recently melted providing great habitat for more early blooming Mt Heather (check out the exerted stamen and pistil) and patches of Alpine Laurel, Kalima.
As the trail climbs upwards towards Mono pass, great views of Little Lakes Valley can be seen (Mt Morgan) and the 13,000 feet peaks of the Sierra Crest (and Mack Lake)
Along the trail look for Mt.Snowberry and a few Wild Oats scattered along the way
Common Name: Mt. Snowberry
Scientific Name: Symphoricarpos rotundifolius
Notes: Cassin’s finches relish the bitter whitish berries that appear towards the end of the summer.
Common Name: Mountain Wild Oats
Scientific Name: Danthonia intermedia
Notes: The short growing season of the higher elevation Little Lakes valley keeps out many of the non-native lower elevation species so most of the grasses you see are natives such as Mt Wild Oats.
Early in the season ( July 11, 2017 ) the trail may be a small creek and covered with snow!
This trail may not offer the diversity of flowers that the Little Lakes Valley trail does but it does give great views of the Box and Heart lakes.
The trail up to Ruby lake (July 2017) was still covered in snow and a rushing Ruby creek provided extra challenges to the hike
Ruby Lake was still covered with ice and the surrounding shore line, not yet able to support many flowering plants except for a few Alpine Laurel (Kalima)
The trail continues to Mono Pass and another entrance into the John Muir Wilderness (the pass was closed due to snow in middle July 2017)
HILTON LAKES TRAILHEAD
The trail all the way to Hilton Lakes is about 10 miles round trip. The trailhead can be accessed about a 1/3 of a mile from Rock Creek lake.
The trail climbs quickly up to a forested bench offering a view across the southern rock creek area. The more south facing slopes of this trail support a variety of chaparral type vegetation which are more adapted to drier conditions.
Look for plants adapted to this drier environment and granitic soil such as Silver Lupin, Squirrel tail grass, Curl-leaved Mt Mahagony, Sulfur Buckwheat and Scarlet gilia. These plants are characteristic by reduced leaves and shorter growing seasons
Common Name: Silver Lupin
Scientific Name: Lupinus argenteus
Notes: Note the silvery leaves and dull blue flowers.
Common Name: Squirrel Tail grass
Scientific Name: Elymus elymoides
Notes: This grass is characterized by seed-containers that bear awnes 5-15 inches long
Common Name: Curl-leaved Mahagony
Scientific Name: Cercocarpus ledifolius
Notes: This plant is characteristically an Eastern side of the Sierras plant. the small flower lacks petals but produces showy displays of its feathery fruit.
Common Name: Sulfur Buckwheat
Scientific Name: Eroigonum umbellatum
Notes: The flowers of this plant turn from yellow to a burnt orange as the summer progresses.
Common Name: Scarlet Gilia (Skyrocket)
Scientific Name: Ipopomsis aggregata
Notes: The red color of this plant’s flower attracts hummingbirds.
Growing amongst the Scarlet gilia and Silver Lupin is another
FEATRUED FLOWER: Pine Genetian
Common Name: Pine Genetian
Scientific Name: Fraser’s puberlenta
The trail leads up to a heavely forested area and skirts a creek and provides a moist habitat for moisture loving plants like Coulter’s Daisy, Alpine Lily, Arrow-leaved groundsel and Corn lily
Common Name: Coulter’s Daisy
Scientific Name: Erigeron coulteri
Notes: Coulter’s daisy is characterized by its pure white color and intricate multi-rayed ray flowers.
Common Name: Alpine Lily
Scientific Name: Lilium parvum
Common Name: Arrow-leaved groundsel
Scientific Name: Senecio triangularis
Notes: This groundsel is often found along side stream beds and is characterized by it s large triangular leaves. It is also known as Butterweed.
Common Name: Corn Lily
Scientific Name: Veratum californicum
Notes: This plant is also known as False Hellebore. The leaves actually form the stalk.
Continuing along the creek trail look for other shade/moister dependent plants such as Sidebells and a patch of basidio fungus
Common Name: Sidebells
Scientific Name: Orthilia seconda
Notes: This plant is related to the wintergreens and is also known as one-sided wintergreen because the flower cluster only grows on one side.
After about a mile + the trail intersects at a junction to Hilton Lakes or back to Rock creek. (On this hike we looped back to Rock Creek)
The climb back down gives good views across the lower valley. The trail decends through habitat that has a southern exposure and is made up mostly of dry granitic type soils.
Look for other examples of the oldest trees on the Eastern Side, Sierra Juniper.
Common Name: Sierra Juniper
Scientific Name: Juniperus occidentalis
Notes: Sierra Juniper are some of the oldest plants in the Sierras with many trees over 1,000 years old.
In the habitat around the Sierra Juniper also look for Hoary Aster and Stephanomeria
Common Name: Hoary Aster
Scientific Name: Dieteria canescens
Notes: This aster is often found around Great Basin Sagebrush and Sulfur buckwheat. It is different than other daisy like flowers because each flower is surrounded by rows of pointed green bracts and it has pointed lobed leaves
Common Name: Stephanomeria
Scientific Name: Stephanomeria tenuifolia
FEATURED FLOWER: Further down the trail, keep your eyes out for Inyo Beardstongue
Common Name: Inyo Beardstongue
Scientific Name: Penstemon papillatus
Notes: This penstemon is found on this eastern side of the sierras in this open granite lodge-pole pine habitat.
The trail continues back to Rock Creek Resort and lake.
All photographs were taken by Lynn Hori. Plant information was gathered from: Plants of the Tahoe Basin by Michael Graft, Rock Creek Wildflowers by Cathy Rose, the Jepson Manual 2012. Trail information was gathered from Trails of the Rock Creek Canyon area published by Rock Creek Lakes resort.
Trail description: The trail to Granite, Azure and Dick’s Lakes begins at Bayview Trail head which is one of the starting points for hikes into the Desolation Wilderness. This trailhead will also continue on to Upper, Middle and Lower Velma lakes as well as many other spectacular cirque lakes and alpine granitic landscape along this trail head. This trailhead is very popular with backpackers hiking into some of the most picturesque areas in the Sierras. The hike to Granite Lake is about 1 mile from the trailhead while Azure Lake is a little under 4 miles from the trailhead and Dick’s Lake about 5 miles.
The Bay view trailhead is off Highway 89 just as the road loops around Emerald bay. From Tahoe city it is about 19 ½ miles and about 7 ½ from the junction of Highway 50 and 89. There is not much parking at this trailhead so make sure to start early!
The hike from Donner Pass/Sugar bowl to Squaw valley is a 15-16 mile trek across the crest of the Donner range and follows the Pacific Crest Trail with outstanding views of the North Folk of the American river canyon, Coldstream Valley and Cedar Creek Canyon. The PCT passes by Mt. Judah and Mt. Lincoln of the Sugar Bowl ski area and Anderson Peak and Tinker’s knob as it winds south. At about 8.4 miles the trail junction to the Granite Chief trial and heads east from the PCT. There is an option to break up the hike and backpack into the Benson Hut. (more info to follow.)
UPPER MONTANE ZONE: The first part of the hike ascends through the Upper Montane zone which is typically found in the Tahoe area from lake level, 6230 ft. to 8,000 ft. The average summer temperature is between 73°-85°F and the winter between 16°-26°F . This zone usually receives between 35-65 inches of snow and provides well drained soil for a variety of flora.
August is still a great time to head out on the Pacific Crest Trail along Donner crest whether it be all way to Squaw Valley or an “out and back’ to Sierra Club’s Benson’s Hut ( 10 + miles round trip) or to Tinker’s knob (12+ miles round trip).
This is a great time to enjoy the buckwheats especially Lobb’s Buckwheat, Eriogonum lobii and Alpine Knotweed, Aconogonon phytoalacifolium and Brewer’s Aster, Eucephalus breweri.
Lobb’s Buckwheat can often be found in outcroppings of granitic soil beginning about mid to even higher elevations. The whitish-yellow flowers change to deeper reddish colors the summer progresses. Why the change in color?
One hypothesis is that the reddish color may act to help cool the plant down so that more of its energy can be directed towards seed production.
UPDATE: JULY 2022
There is still great flower viewing on the trail loop from the Relay Peak trail to Galena Falls to the summit. Check out the white Lupin which line each side of the trail. There seem to be many more white lupin than lavender. After you pass Galena Falls and cross Galena Creek, look for Monkshood, Brewer’s Angelica, Corn Lilies and Large leaved lupin.
DOG’S are allowed:
This is a great hike to do with dogs since there is Galena falls and several creek crossings along the way.
DIRECTIONS: From Lake Tahoe take the Highway 28/431 junction .Keep following 431 pass Tahoe meadows until it reaches the summit of Mt. Rose summit at 8911 feet. Look for the Forest service parking lot and TRTA signs left of the summit. From Reno take highway 395/431 junction and follow this windy road to the summit of Mr. Rose
Mt. Rose trailhead bathroom facilities are temporarily closed but there are 2 portapotties. Several informational signs explaining the Tahoe Rim Trail Association and description of the hike and natural history. The Trailhead sign indicates 2 routes to the Mt .Rose summit. The TRTA hikers only trail heads to the right and does not allow bikes. The Relay connecter trail heads to the left and it will eventually have a sign indicating the way to the Relay peak as well as the summit of Mt. Rose. This trail can be used by bikers as well as hikers.
The Relay Peak alternate trail to Frog Pond, Galena Falls and the summit of Mt. Rose will be included later in this blog.
UPPER MONTANE ZONE: The first 2.5 miles of the hike to the summit of Mt. Rose climbs through the Upper Montane zone which is typically found in the Tahoe area from lake level, 6230 ft, to 8,000 ft. The average summer temperature is between 73°-85°F and the winter between 16°-26°F . This zone usually receives between 35-65 inches of snow and provides well drained soil for a variety of flora.
The PLANTS and fauna that are listed below may be seen as you walk along the trail to Galena Falls and on to Mt. Rose summit (The flora and fuana listed below were seen during several seasons from 2009 to 2019!)
DESCRIPTION: The Plumas-Eureka/Lake Basin area is only about an hour north of Truckee along highway 89. This area offers hikes to many small lakes all within a 10 + radius with excellent views, great fishing, camping, hiking as well as an opportunities to hike to the top of Mt. Washington and Mt. Elwall.
The series of hikes to Grass, Rock, Jamison, Wade and Smith lakes are best accessed by starting at Plumas Eureka State Park which offers excellent camping in addition to access to the trailhead to these series of lakes mentioned above.. (Reserve your Plumas Eureka campground early….# 18 and #19 even have a stream flowing through them!).
DIRECTIONS: From Truckee head north on highway 89 towards Sierraville and Grayeagle. Outside of Grayeagle, turn left (west) on County Road 506 and follow the signs to Plumas Eureka State Park. The trailhead can be accessed from upper Jamison Campground within Plumas Eureka State Park or look for a dirt road 4.6 miles from highway 89 marked Jamison Mine, Grass lake trail
The trails in the Plumas-Eureka Lakes basin have begun to melt out earlier this year so this is a great time to get out and hike some of the trails and look for early flowers! Besides the Grass, Rock and Jamison lakes areas this is a good time to visit the Sardine Lakes area and take the trail from Lower Sardine Lake to the Upper Sardine’s lake overlook. If you have time, the trail continues pass the Sardine lakes views and heads up towards the Sierra Buttes fire outlook.
The trail to Grass lake is a gradual uphill climb for about 1 ¼ miles with Rock and Jamison about another mile pass Grass Lake. At the Smith Trail junctions there is also opportunity to hike another 2 and half miles to Smith Lake.
DESCRIPTION: The hike to the top of Castle peak follows part of the PCT along Castle Creek and through White and Red fir forest until you reach Castle Pass. Views of Donner lake and glimpse of some of the peaks in Desolation valley are to your south while views to east give you views of Warren and Paradise lakes. A steep zigzagging ascent heads up the Carson pass saddle through flowered filled rock gardens to the volcanic formations looking like “Castles” at the summit. Great views from this 9,103 foot peak give you great 360° views of Tahoe basin and beyond. Round-trip from the Castle Valley road trailhead is about 8 miles and the elevation gain about 1980 feet!
WINTER SNOWSHOE HIKING AND CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING: The trail to Castle pass and over to Peter Grubb hut are great for Snowshoe hiking and back country cross-country skiing.
To get to the Castle Peak trailhead, head to Donner Summit. When you reach Boreal Ski Area take the Castle Peak/Boreal ridge exit and drive to the Pacific Crest Trail head. This option directs you North on the PCT under large culverts that go under Interstate 80. Follow the sign to Castle Pass. This route makes the hike to the top and back about 9.6 miles round trip.
An alternate route is to take the north exit to Castle Valley road and park at the trail head or head up the Castle Valley dirt road and at about the ¼ mile park in the Castle Valley meadow. This route cuts off about 1¼ miles from the round trip to the top.
UPPER MONTANE LIFE ZONE
The hike to Castle Peak climbs through the Upper Montane zone which is typically found in the Tahoe area from lake level, 6230 ft, to 8,00ft. The trail first follows Castle creek where beautiful displays of riparian plants flowering earlier in the summer can be seen. The trail then ascends through a forest of White Firs, Western White pines and Red Firs as it climbs up to the Carson Pass saddle. The trail then ascends up along the Castle pass saddle through sub-alpine open granitic & volcanic areas dotted with plants that can tolerate drier and more exposed environments. A few knarled Lodgepole pines can tolerate these environmental conditions along with a variety of Buckwheats flowers.
DESCRIPTION: The hike to Dardanelles Lake is about an 8 mile round trip hike starting at the TRTA Big Meadow trail head. The trail first passes uphill through a mixed fir forest opening up to Big Meadow after about 1/2 mile. The trial continues up along Big Meadow creek crossing several streams lined with beautiful wildflowers. The trail ends at a scenic lake surrounded by Granite cliffs which provide a great place to swim and hang out. This is a great hike for dogs…lots of creeks and a lake!
DIRECTIONS: From Tahoe City take highway 89 approximately 2 miles to Pineland drive and turn right. After about .4 miles veer left on to Twin Peaks Road. Continue on and look out for the Tahoe Rim Trail info sign to Ward Canyon on the west side of the road AND ACROSS FROM THAT SIGN IS A SMALL TRTA SIGN TO PAIGE MEADOWS. The trail can also be accessed from a metal gate 20 yards down the road on Forest service road 15N60.
Another alternate route to reach the meadows is to take Silver tip road up to a dead end dirt road which will connect to a small not well marked trail to 1st and 2nd meadow.
June 20 update:
The large 6th meadow still has quite a lot of water and the areas around the board walk are moist. There is still quite a display of Camus lilies, Bistort and Sierra Lewisia along the board walk.
Look for Sierra lewisia and Water plantain buttercup in the moist areas along the boardwalk in 6th meadow.
Later this July as you walk along the board walk from the Big meadow towards the other meadows notice the small but colorful Porterella flowers growing between trail bric
TRAIL DESCRIPTION: Hikers can access the Tahoe-Yosemite Trail (TYT) from the Meeks Bay Trail Head by following Meeks Creek upstream into Desolation Wilderness to Phipps Pass. At about 4.6 miles Genevieve Lake, the first of 7 lakes can be found. Continuing on for another ½ mile hikers are treated to Crag Lake backdropped by the Granitic slopes of Crag Peak standing about 9054 feet. Continuing along the trail hikers will find Hidden Lake, Shadow Lake, Cliff Lake, Stony Ridge Lake and at 8 miles out is Rubicon Lake the 7th and probably the prettiest of all the 7 Tallant Lakes. Round trip to all lakes is about 16 miles.
WINTER SNOWSHOE HIKING: The first part of this trail is great for Cross country skiing and Snowshoe hiking.
Stoney ridge Lake-
This is a great time to visit Stoney Ridge Lake which is about another 1 + miles from Crag Lake. Follow along the East shore of Crag lake through thick forest until you see Hidden and Shadow lakes. Continue up the trail until you reach the North Shore of Stoney Ridge Lake, the largest of the Tallant lakes. There are a number of great campsites on the east shore and the lake makes for excellent swimming!
Bring bikes and ride the first part of the trail from the parking area (1.2m) to the actual trailhead. This will allow more time to make the hike to Stoney ridge lake.
Look for: One flowered Wintergreen and Sidebells along the forest floor as you near Stoney ridge lake
DIRECTIONS: From Tahoe City, take Highway 89 south towards Emerald Bay for about 11 miles. Park on the west side of the road opposite Meeks Bay Campground. From South Shore’s intersection of Highway 50/89 travel north for about 16.5 miles.
The Tallant Lakes lie WITHIN DESOLATION WILDERNESS AND REQUIRE A PERMIT BOTH FOR DAY HIKERS AND CAMPERS. DAYHIKERS MAY SELF-REGISTER AT THE TRAILHEAD. |