The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) south of Hwy. #80 to Mt. Judah is a difficult 6 mile hike at an elevation of 7,200 feet. From the trailhead follow the PCT access trail 0.5 mile to the PCT. The first leg of the hike (to Donner Pass) is a rather easy 3.5 miles providing several views of Donner Lake and the I-80 area. All along this segment huge boulders of smooth granite bear evidence of the glacial ice which shaped the terrain thousands of years ago. This segment also provides rock climbers easy access to some challenging cliffs.
After the trail crosses Old Highway #40 it follows the road directly opposite the trail for about 200 yards then continues off the road to the southeast. The trail starts a steep climb up a granite headwall then flattens and follows the contour of the mountain, climbing moderately. This portion of the trial provides nice views of Lakes Mary and Angela to the north and Lake Van Norden to the west.
Approximately 1.75 miles from Donner Pass the trail crosses Roller Pass, a significant point on the Overland Emigrant Trail. Signs at the pass tell the story of early California settlers and the difficulties they encountered at this point on their trek west.
From Roller Pass hikers can return via the PCT or via the Mt. Judah Loop Trail. The loop trail offers a rewarding view of Donner Lake, the Truckee and some of the dominant peaks such as Anderson, castle Peaks and the more distant Sierra Buttes.
Directions: From Truckee, Travel west on Hwy. #80 for approximately 8 miles. Take the Castle Peak Area/Boreal Ridge Road exit, which is immediately west of the highway's Donner Summit Roadside Rest Area. On the south side of the highway there is a sign reading: Tahoe National Forest Trailhead Donner Summit Pacific Crest Trail. Follow the directions on the sign, turning east for r0.4 miles to the trailhead. To reduce the hike by 3.5 miles, the PCT can be accessed off Hwy. #40 just beyond Donner Ski Ranch.
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