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Paul Hamill Photography - Donner Peak

Best hike in Truckee California – Donner Peak

Donner Peak Hike near Truckee, California: A Stunning Alpine Adventure

Located in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, Truckee is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts seeking adventure, particularly during the summer months. Hiking is one of the most popular activities in the area, and there are a multitude of trails that offer breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. One such trail is the Donner Peak hike, a moderate to difficult 3.5-mile trek that takes hikers through alpine forests and up to the summit of Donner Peak, offering stunning views of the surrounding area and Donner Lake below.

Donner Peak - Paul Hamill Photography

The trailhead for the Donner Peak hike is located at the Donner Summit parking lot, which is easily accessible from Interstate 80. From there, hikers will need to follow the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) for about a mile before turning onto the Donner Peak Trail. The first short section of the trail is relatively flat and shaded, making it a pleasant warm-up for the more strenuous sections that lie ahead. As hikers continue along the trail, they will gradually gain elevation and eventually emerge above the treeline, offering stunning views surrounding peaks.

One of the highlights of the Donner Peak hike is the stunning panoramic view from the summit rock cliffs. From the top of the peak, hikers can see miles of rugged mountain landscape, including Donner Lake, Mount Rose, and the surrounding peaks of the Sierra Nevada range. The view is particularly stunning during sunset, when the warm colors of the setting sun illuminate the surrounding peaks and valleys.

Paul Hamill Photography - Donner peak

The trail itself is well maintained and relatively easy to follow, although hikers should be prepared for some steep and rocky sections, particularly as they near the summit. Proper hiking shoes and trekking poles are recommended, as the rocky terrain can be slippery and unstable in places. Hikers should also bring plenty of water and snacks, as the trail can be quite strenuous and take several hours to complete.

One thing that makes the Donner Peak hike particularly unique is its historical significance. The Donner Party, a group of pioneers who were stranded in the area during the harsh winter of 1846-47, passed through the area on their ill-fated journey to California. Many members of the party perished due to starvation and exposure, and their tragic story has become a part of California folklore.

Overall, the Donner Peak hike is an excellent choice for hikers seeking a challenging but rewarding adventure in the Truckee area. The stunning views and historical significance of the trail make it a must-do for outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs alike. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just starting out, the Donner Peak hike is sure to be a memorable experience that you’ll never forget.

Local’s Tip:

  • Go early and on a weekday as this hike is one of the most popular in the area and parking is limited.
  • Bring your camera as the views do not disappoint.
  • Hiking poles are a good idea as the trail can be steep with loose gravel.


Photos courtesy of Truckee Photography – Paul Hamill Photography

Donner Peak - Paul Hamill Photography