Lola Montez lakes offer hiking, biking and history |

Lola Montez lakes offer hiking, biking and history

Mark McLaughlin
Special to Lake Tahoe Action
Inga Beck, left, and Karen Lynaugh chat at Lower Lola Montez Lake this fall.
Courtesy Jason Van Horn / |

Mountain biking to Lola Montez lakes

To read more about mountain biking in the Lola Montez lakes area visit

At Donner Pass, history and scenery combine to provide some of the most inspiring hikes and rides in the United States.

One relatively easy outing by foot or bike is the 6- to 7- mile round-trip excursion to Lower Lola Montez Lake. It is one of those classic small High Sierra lakes, nestled in a forested, shallow granite basin, adorned with boulders perfect for diving or sunbathing, and populated with rainbow trout. To get there, take the Soda Springs exit off of westbound Interstate 80 and make an immediate right onto Sherritt Road on the north side of the freeway. Head east and about a half mile past the fire station is a well-marked trailhead on your left. The route alternates between dirt trail and gravel road as it roams through alpine forest, past streams and ferns, as well as seasonal wild flowers. Hikers ultimately climb more than 700 feet in elevation to the lake, but there is only one steep section at the final approach. It takes about 90 minutes to reach this picturesque pond, named for one of the most provocative women to ever visit the area — a sex siren who called herself Lola Montez.

Lola Montez was without a doubt one of the most famous women to try their luck in the California gold rush. An internationally known, Irish-born dancer and stage actress who had previously shocked critics and audiences in Europe with risqué personal behavior and seductive performances, Lola broke all the rules. She was beautiful, sexy and liberated, and therefore controversial amid the highly conservative social mores of the Victorian Age. One admiring French critic wrote, “The dance of Lola Montez is poetry in motion, sometimes fantastic, often lascivious, but always attractive.” Before the erotic dancer even reached San Francisco in May 1853, her promiscuous reputation had preceded her. Among her many well-publicized romantic conquests in Europe were a dashing Parisian journalist, the famous Hungarian composer and virtuoso pianist Franz Liszt, as well as her stint as the mistress of an aging king.

Born Elizabeth Rosanna Gilbert in Ireland on Feb. 17, 1821, her father Edward Gilbert was an officer in the British army and her mother the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy Irish politician. When “Eliza” turned three years old, the family moved to India where her father died of cholera shortly after their arrival. Within a year her mother remarried and Eliza was sent to live with relatives in Scotland. Eliza was a precocious teenager and, by the time she was 16, blossomed into an attractive young woman. Her dalliances with men ended her childhood dreams of a conventional life and signalled the beginning of a wild career as an internationally known entertainer and seductress extraordinaire.

Mark McLaughlin is a nationally published author and professional speaker. His award-winning books are available at local stores or at Mark can be reached at Check out his blog at

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