The Donner Summit area is home to a series of alpine lakes that are readily accessible off the Interstate 80 corridor. With Elizabeth’s mom in town, we were looking for a short, summer hike to get us away from the Reno heat. The flat 1.5-mile trip to Azalea and Flora Lakes was exactly the type of outing we wanted.
The trail starts from a parking area right off of the Interstate. Quickly though, the sound of traffic faded away as we were led through a dense stand of lodgepole pines. Forty-five minutes earlier, the July sun was scorching us in Reno, but here the forest was damp and storm clouds were threatening with rain. The ability to choose from a wide variety of microclimates within a short driving radius is one of our favorite aspects of having Reno as our hiking base camp. In Base Camp Reno: 101 Hikes From Sage to Snow, we discuss how as a result of these microclimates, there is always an excellent hiking opportunity, regardless of the time of year.
We weaved around two scenic ponds before the trail followed a broad ridge with views of Castle Peak and the surrounding mountains on the other side of Interstate 80. The kids (ages 2 and 3) were able to make it all of the way to the lakes on foot. Although the pace was slow because of them, it gave us the opportunity to enjoy some of the finer points of our surroundings. A variety of fungi grew from downed trees, and wildflowers added spruces of color to the path. Some clumps of penstemons attractively clung to pockets of dirt in otherwise sheer granite walls.
At scenic Flora Lake, we decided to stop and eat our lunch. We had more planned than just hiking though. We also had carried along all of the supplies we would need to go out on the water- an inflatable raft, life jackets, and a small oar. The added weight in our packs made the otherwise easy hike a bit more challenging. It was well worth it though. Paddling across Flora Lake in light rain was unforgettable.
Back on land, we packed up our things, and took a different trail back to our car. On our return, we passed Azaela Lake, which is slightly smaller than Flora Lake, but equally as scenic. What an enjoyable and fulfilling way to spend a summer afternoon!