Forest, meadow and lake all get their due on Tahoe’s Dolder Nature Trail
Ryan Summerlin July 9, 2014
Looking for a gentle stroll through pine-dominated forests that give way to expansive views of the largest alpine lake in North America in all its pristine glory?
Well, look no further.
The Dolder Nature Trail is a 2.1-mile loop on mostly flat terrain on Lake Tahoe’s West Shore. The trail meanders through the mixed-conifer forest that predominates the western flank of the Lake Tahoe Basin.
Emerging from the pine, fir, aspen and juniper forest, hikers will catch the view of the Edwin L. Z’Berg Natural Preserve.
Named after a former California Assemblyman, the preserve is a distinctive example of a subalpine meadow, a characteristic and particularly scenic feature of the Sierra Nevada.
Proceeding on along the route, hikers will soon be afforded generous views of Lake Tahoe and the Carson Range as it ascends from the East Shore, serving as a jagged backdrop.
Those who undertake the trail will pass the Sugar Pine Point Navigational Light, which is the highest — in terms of elevation — operational maritime navigational light in the world.
While visitors are not allowed to climb the tower to the observational deck, the sandy beaches on either side of the structure give all the views one could want.
The trail is one of several easily accessible, and very doable, routes that wind through various portions of the 2,000-acre state park, located about 10 miles south of Tahoe City on State Route 89.
Once the Dolder Nature Trail loop is complete plenty of recreational options remain.
The Pine Lodge, also known as the Ehrman Mansion, looms large on the shore, with large swaths of grassy lawns sloping down to the sandy edge of the lake.
At the end of the 19th century a prominent western banker by the name of Isaias Hellman visited Lake Tahoe on a business trip and was struck by the mountainous terrain’s similarity to the Bavarian Mountains of his childhood.
Enamored of the area, Hellman purchased a large portion of land known as Sugar Pine Point and enlisted Walter Danforth Bliss, a well-reputed architect, to construct a three-story summer lodge, which was completed in 1903.
Epitomizing the California Craftsman style, the house is built of native materials. Florence Hellman, the youngest of Isaias’ daughters inherited the place and; along with her attorney husband, Sidney Ehrman; rendered the house a center of bustling activity in the summers. The state acquired the property in 1965. Tours are available through September.
Camping is available at the state park, with 175 sites open throughout the year, conditions permitting.
For information of summer camping reservations, call Reserve America at 1-800-444-PARK. Be aware that bear activity is present and on the rise throughout the summer, and campers and hikers are asked to secure food that can serve as an attractant to the animals.
Bears are not the only wildlife one can expect to encounter, as coyotes, raccoons, ground squirrels, beavers, pine martens, porcupines and deer make the park their home.
Bird enthusiasts also have plenty of species to view, including ospreys, Steller’s jays, juncos, nuthatches, mountain chickadees, flycatchers, goshawks, woodpeckers and western tanagers.