Donner Pass, CA: Great Views, Cannibalism Not Included

Donner Pass, California: Home to the ill-fated “Donner Party” who resorted to cannibalism in order to survive their covered-wagon trek to California back in 1847.

Yeesh. Sometimes history can be bleak.

So you’re telling me, that people in a *covered wagon* were trying to climb through this terrain at 7,000 feet elevation?

IMG_4458Let me tell you — the hike I did — Mt. Judah summit trail loop — was STEEP. Obviously, now, there’s an actual trail there, but it’s still not the easiest climb and it’s easy to take the wrong trail.

The trails are obvious. Like, you know you’re on *a* trail (where to walk), but there’s little signage telling you WHICH trail you’re on.

I originally planned on doing some branch of the Pacific Crest Trail. But somehow I ended up on the Mt. Judah Loop…  Half the time I thought I was on the *Donner Death Trail* because I had no idea where I was going.


But that’s hiking around this area. *shrugs* At Lake Tahoe, a lot of the trails don’t have signs telling you *which* trail you’re on. So you just kind of hope for the best…

First bit of advice:

Download the AllTrails App. It’s extremely helpful if you’re trying to do a specific trail.

The Mt. Judah Loop, which in my opinion, had fantastic views and was a good workout (5.0 miles total with a steep incline) without taking all day.


Plus — I saw kids and dogs on the trail, which means it couldn’t be too hard.

Take Donner Pass from the bottom of the lake, all the way up until you see a ski resort. There will be a parking lot that’s divided. Park in the area that IS NOT designated for the ski resort.

Follow the paved road until you see the start of the trailhead.

If you want to see the abandoned railroad tunnels, take the far left fork of the trail.

(I took this trail by accident at first. I didn’t go through the tunnels. They were PITCH BLACK and creepy to me!)

If you want to see the top of the mountain — take the far right fork of the trail.

Then, after walking for a while up the mountain, there’s a sign — take the Mt. Judah loop.

There’s several forks in the trail – so REMEMBER where you came from if you go off the trail.

Towards the top — to your left — venture until there’s a view of a small alpine lake.


There’s also several interesting looking trees and rock formations.


When you venture to your right — there’s a great view of Donner Lake.


But one thing about the Donner Pass area — there’s PLENTY of great views right off the road. You don’t even have to hike to them! If you’re ever in the area — simply driving on that road is extremely scenic!

Snapseed 6DSC_0079

I know Lake Tahoe is usually the go-to spot for scenic views — but Truckee is worth stopping by, as well!

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