Back to index Donner Summit to Tinker Knob Hike
Trip Date:  07/24/2014

: 16.6 Miles

Vertical Gain: 3100'

Group Size: 1

Hike Rating:  Easy   Moderate    Hard    Strenuous
Tinker Knob hike Trail Route
Download GPX GPX for this trip
Tinker Knob 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 and a half and around the base of Mt. Anderson are very rocky and present a significant tripping hazard. Crowd Factor:   Moderate.  The first part has many people doing the shorter 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:
From the parking at the trailhead, you need to find the PCT signpost which is just a little bit down the road, past a portable outhouse that is provided by a local business for PCT hikers.  From here the trail initially heads south, then bends to the west after crossing a stream and starting up the first very rocky section of the trail.   Along the first couple miles are two trail junctions, which allow for a loop hike up and around Mt. Judah for those wishing to do a shorter route and still enjoy some views.  Stay on the PCT as it heads south, and then be sure to stop and check out the area at Roller Pass where the emigrants had to pull their carts up a sheer rock face with the help of oxen.  
At the base of Mt. Lincoln, easily identifiable with ski lift equipment at the top, you can follow a dirt road up to the west as it switchbacks all the way to the top of the mountain.  Either head back down the same way, or take the easy cross country way off the south side back down to where you can see the PCT below you.
Just about 2/10 of a mile before reaching the base of Mt. Anderson in another 2 1/2 miles, there is a use trail straight up the small hill in front of you, which leads to the Sierra Club's Benson warming hut.  This can be rented in winter, but it is hard to imagine the effort to get this distance in the snow from any direction.  As you face the cabin, there is a use trail that heads directly west, and you can follow this across the rock piles at the base of Mt. Anderson and pick your way up to the summit, carefully, aiming between the two ridges on either side of the peak.
At the top the peak flattens out, and there is a summit register which can be signed near the tall rock cairns you will find there.
Heading back down the southern side to once again pick up the PCT is a breeze, and much easier than the northern climb up the face.  Tinker Knob is the next peak to the south, and has been visible for much of the hike so far along the PCT.  
Again, about 1/10 of a mile from the peak, you will find another use trail headed off in the direction of the mountain.  Take this, and then follow it up until you have to scramble up the east side of the peak to reach the top.   There are a number of wind shelters built up here, and there is another summit register to sign as well.  After your visit, scramble back down the way you headed up, and then return along the PCT north for about 8 miles until you are back at the trailhead.

This is a sample of the very rocky section that you encounter for a little over the first mile along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT.) Rocky start
There is a marker and a history info board at Roller Pass that gives some very interesting insight into the trials the emigrants in this area had to deal with. Roller Pass info Roller Pass info
The view south toward Mt. Anderson from Roller Pass. South from Roller Pass
Another look to the south, this time from the top of Mt. Lincoln.  Granite Chief, Needle Peak, and Lyon Peak are all in the distance. Mt. Lincoln view
As the PCT continually climbs along the way, you soon find yourself high above Donner Lake to the Northeast. Donner Lake
A quick look at Tinker Knob and the view to the south from Mt. Anderson.  Lake Tahoe is just barely visible in the distance. Mt. Anderson
One of the official Sierra Club registers is still at the top of Mt. Anderson.  Not too many of these left intact any longer. Anderson register
Approaching Tinker Knob after scrambling down from Mt. Anderson. Tinker Knob     
This spot at the base of Tinker Knob is the highest point along the entire Pacific Crest Trail. PCT High Point
Looking back north from the top of Tinker Knob.  Castle Peak is in the distance near the right, as well as the entire area that the hike along the PCT has covered. Tinker Knob view
This is the closest that this hike gets to Lake Tahoe.  Always beautiful, and the Freel Peak area is visible all the way across the lake to the south. Lake Tahoe
More great views await looking directly south, with Granite Chief almost in the center and Needle peak to the right.  Squaw Valley ski resort is just to the left of Granite Chief. Tinker Knob view
A number of wind breaks at the top of Tinker Knob work well with a padded lunch mat to make a great spot for taking it all in while enjoying a quick meal. Lunch spot at the top
Some very interesting rock formations left over from ancient volcanic activity in the area. Basalt formation
The trail gets very rocky again around the base of Mt. Anderson on the way back.  I had missed this part on the way going up and over the peak on the way south. Rocky trail
A closer look at American Canyon to the south.  This area was hard-hit by a large wildfire last summer. American Canyon
GPX image of the hike. GPS track of hike