In 2011 the Truckee Donner Land Trust acquired 260 acres of the lower part of “Summit Canyon” below Donner Pass and just above Donner Lake’s West End. This opened up a whole new recreation area for hiking, biking and picnicking. Especially interesting for it’s history as the original Dutch Flat Donner Lake Wagon Road in 1864, the main route continues over this part of the Sierra.
Last weekend I took the family to explore this new area. We ended up doing a 3 mile round trip up to the Donner Lake lookout. This is the perfect afternoon activity with everything from river crossings, history lessons, and breathtaking views.
There are many trails to explore but we decided to follow the well marked path and signs pointing us to the viewpoint. This is a mellow hike that starts off forested and and quickly crosses a river, winds through a marshy meadow, and gradually climbs upwards. You are thoroughly rewarded as you finally emerge through the trees and peak out over the landscape down to Donner Lake. Waiting for you at the top is your very own picnic table! Remember to bring a lunch and enjoy some PB&J’s as you gaze at the breathtaking view.
If you still have more energy in store, you can get back on the main trail and head even further up the canyon to see the original 1867 railroad tunnel, China Wall, petroglyphs, and old advertisements painted on rocks while you walk the actual route of the old highway with continuous views of Donner Lake. If you do reach the top of the summit, you can then connect to the Pacific Crest Trail and in the future this will be a connector to the Donner Rim Trail.
This is an amazing new addition to the Truckee hiking trails. I recommend getting outside and exploring for yourself!
Click here for a trail map.