If you ever want to cut loose from the summer crowds in Tahoe, drive 17 miles north of Truckee on State Route 89 to Little Truckee Summit and turn left toward Jackson Meadows on Forest Road 07. This paved road offers easy access to pristine mountain lakes, meandering streams, verdant meadows and a dramatic waterfall.
Swimming at serene Webber Lake, gazing at Webber Falls and strolling through nearby Lacey Meadows is the perfect tonic for the hectic and harried schedules many of us deal with — even while on vacation.
Swimming at serene Webber Lake, gazing at Webber Falls and strolling through Lacey Meadows is the perfect tonic for the hectic and harried schedules many of us deal with — even while on vacation.
This triple-crown experience hits several highlights that are close to Forest Road 07. Webber Falls is the first stop, about 6.5 miles in. Keep an eye out for signage to Lake in the Woods; 200 feet past that on the left will be a shoulder pullout with boulders. Park here and follow the fall line down to the steep gorge about 500 feet below.
The final approach to the canyon itself requires extreme caution and children should be kept well back. Webber Falls plunges 76 feet over a ledge of basaltic bedrock. To peer into steep-walled Webber Canyon, follow the trail parallel to the gorge to the top of the falls.
Continue driving west another 1.5 miles on Forest Road 07 and at the Webber Lake sign make a left. A short dirt road will lead to a day parking area, boat launch and campgrounds. Keep alert for eagles, osprey, terns and cranes.
The place has a storied past. Webber Lake Hotel, built by Dr. David G. Webber in 1860, was once a popular stop and watering hole on the historic Henness Pass stagecoach and freight route (now a popular mountain biking route).
Patrick Henness blazed the trail in 1849-50 and it became a primary route from northern California to Nevada’s Comstock Lode. The advantage of this wagon road was its relatively easy grade and accessibility to trade via the navigable Sacramento, Feather and lower Yuba rivers. Despite this convenience for transport, most overland emigrants traveled the Carson City/Placerville route near South Lake Tahoe.
Dr. Webber raised sheep, goats and cattle at a ranch outside of Loyalton and also owned a pharmacy in Sierra Valley. He first saw the unnamed lake in the 1850s while searching for a grove of rare red-silver fir trees in the area. He immediately bought the property, built the hotel/resort and became a pioneer in tourism. This widower who lost his biological son at a young age, adopted a number of children for whom the Webber Lake resort became home.
Webber’s original hostelry still stands today, the last of 30 such waystations on this once-busy, trans-Sierra route. Webber Lake had no natural fish population due to impassable falls that cut it off from the Little Truckee River system, so in 1860 Dr. Webber stocked it with trout establishing the first sportfishing in the Sierra.
Among the many hotel guests at Webber Lake was Lola Montez, an internationally known dancer and stage actress who shocked critics and audiences with risqué personal behavior and seductive performances. In July 1854, Montez explored Donner Lake and the mountains to the north by horseback. On that packing trip, Montez stayed at Doc Webber’s place and maybe never left because over the years housekeepers and guests at the hotel insist that it’s haunted by her ghost. Mount Lola, as well as upper and lower Lola Montez lakes, were named for the provocative entertainer.
The final jewel in this triple play is nearby Lacey Meadows. From Webber Lake backtrack on the dirt road for 50 feet and then follow the Lacey Meadows signs to the parking area with interpretive kiosks and maps of the area. It’s about .6 miles on a slow, bumpy single-lane dirt road that is passable by low clearance passenger cars.
The Lacey Valley Trail is a 6-mile roundtrip sojourn that ends at Meadow Lake Road, through sub-alpine meadows infused with fragrant wildflowers and serenaded by more than 100 species of birds, including rare and endangered species. Lacey Creek can sometimes make for wet conditions and mosquito repellent is a must for this hike.
Lacey Meadows and Webber Lake were privately owned and closed to the public for nearly 100 years until purchased by the Truckee Donner Land Trust and its conservation partners in 2012. Camping is now available by reservation at Webber Lake and the Land Trust offers guided hikes to Lacey Meadows. | http://tdlandtrust.org
Tahoe historian Mark McLaughlin is a nationally published author and professional speaker. His award-winning books are available at local stores or at thestormking.com. Check out his blog at tahoenuggets.com or read more at TheTahoeWeekly.com. Click on History under the Explore Tahoe menu.