Back to index Donner Peak & Mt. Judah Loop Hike
Trip Date:  10/07/2016

: 9.75 Miles

Vertical Gain: 1000'

Group Size: 3

Hike Rating:  Easy   Moderate    Hard    Strenuous
Donner Summit Mt. Judah Route
See video of this hike   See video of hike   Download GPXGPX for this trip
Donner Summit Mt. Judah Elevation Profile
Start Coordinates:   N 39 18.975  W 120 19.564     End Coordinates:   Same as starting coordinates
Car Shuttle Req'd:   No Parking Directions:   Take Highway 80 to the Soda Springs/Norden exit from the freeway.  Go straight onto Lincoln Highway for 3.7 miles, and turn right into the parking area for Sugar Bowl Academy.  You can park here, or continue a little further down the road to dirt parking across from Lake Mary.
Hazards of Note:   A few miles of this trail, including the first mile are very rocky and present a significant tripping hazard. Crowd Factor:   Moderate.  The first part has many people doing the Mt. Judah peak loop hike, and in the summer there will be a number of PCT through hikers heading north that you will run into.
General Notes:
The trail out of Squaw Valley up to the Pacific Crest Trail intersection is a lot of uphill, and you will have to look carefully for the trail in certain sections.   There is a rocky section about 2/3 of the way to the PCT that had some spots where the trail seemed to disappear, but a few moments and rock cairns could be spotted indicating where the trail was headed.
The climb to the top of Granite Chief is a rocky scramble with a use trail to the south and then western side of the peak which leads all the way to the top up a very steep slope.
During much of the summer you can hike from Granite Chief down to the tram station at the upper section of Squaw Valley and ride the tram down for no charge.  During the fall the tram only operates on weekend days, and only if there are not high winds or lightning.
The Shirley Canyon trail is marked with paint for those heading up from the valley, and not as well for those heading down from the top.  Going this direction the trail is reasonably well defined until a rocky section about halfway through, which lasts for over a mile and can be exceptionally difficult to follow.

Near the trailhead parking area is a plaque which gives the history of the tunnels which are under the mountain in this area, including one which goes directly under the Sugar Bowl ski area. Tunnel Info
At the start of the hike is a board with many of the nearby hikes pictured, but there is also an unsigned trail to the left at this point which takes you about 3/10 of a mile to the old snow sheds in the area which were once used by the trains over the pass. Start of the hike 
Early on the very rocky trail heads up a good distance, with views toward Mt. Rose, Donner Lake and Highway 80 visible in the distance. Heading up the PCT 
Some very nice views to Castle Peak and Donner Ski Ranch in the foreground are visible along the early section of trail looking north. Castle Peak
Mark and Tracey taking a quick break above Lake Mary in the background. Above Lake Mary 
Along the Mt. Judah loop trail are a few original signs from nearly 100 years ago which were original markings for the trails in the area and the old ski routes before lifts were involved. Info sign
On the way up to Donner Summit a look south gives fantastic views to Tinker Know, Mt. Anderson, and then Granite Chief in the far distance from left to right.  Tinker Knob is about 6 miles south from here and Granite Chief is 4 miles past that. South along the PCT
The pancaked granite rock which makes up the top of Donner Peak. Donner summit pancakes
Some clever rock cairns adorned the area near the top of Donner Peak with a great view a couple thousand feet below to Donner Lake. Donner Lake
Mark and Tracey on the way up Donner Peak with Mt. Judah visible in the distance, our next stop on the loop trip. Mt. Judah     
On the east flank near Donner Peak is a rock outcropping which has a pretty spectacular view down   Crevice
A look up at Donner Peak from the east side of the high point. Donner peak
Tracey making her way back up to the top of Donner Peak from an area on the eastern side, with Donner Lake in the background. Heading back up
A view north toward Donner Peak from the trail heading up toward Mt. Judah. Donner Summit from the south
The optional trail along the top of the ridge heading directly to Mt. Judah in the near distance.  Tinker Knob and Mt. Anderson are just visible in the distance. On to Mt. Judah
View of the PCT south from Mt. Judah.  The trail travels right along the brown ridgeline to the right of the picture heading south toward Squaw Valley 10 miles distant. PCT view
Meeting up with some hikers who were looking to get back on the PCT from near the top of Mt. Judah. Meeting up
A look back toward Mt. Judah from along the PCT south of the loop hike area. Along the PCT
Hiking along the ridgeline section of the PCT south of Mt. Lincoln heading toward Mt. Anderson as the high point in the distance.. On the trail
A solo hiker making his way south on the PCT toward Mt. Anderson.  Having spoken with him near Roller Pass he had done the entire PCT 30 years previously and was visiting placed he enjoyed the most this summer and fall. Solo hiker
Mark finding a comfortable rock just off the PCT where we stopped to have lunch and then turn back around to head north and finish up the trek for the day. Rest stop
The Benson Hut at the east end of Mt. Anderson is just visible in this shot from our turn-around point. Benson Hut
Heading back down through the fall colored trees near the end of the trip. Heading back down
Rock work near the start and end of the trip. Rest stop
GPX image of the hike. GPS track of hike