DONNER PEAK (8,019') AND MT. JUDAH (8,243') CLASS 1-2

Location: Donner Peak is 3/4 mile ESE of Old Donner Summit, and Mt. Judah is 1.5 miles SE of Old Donner Summit.

Drive: Take I-80 to "Soda Springs Norden " Exit (Exit 174), which is 11.5 miles west from the junction with Highway 89 South, just west of Truckee, or 57 miles east from Maple Street Exit in Auburn, CA. Head southeast on the Old U.S. 40 Old Donner Summit Highway 3.7 miles to a large sign, "Sugar Bowl," and "Mt. Judah/Parking." Turn right (south) on the
Sugar Bowl Road here, going about 0.1 mile to the signed, paved, "Old Donner Summit Rd." Turn left (east). Go about another 0.1 mile to marked, head-in, gravel parking on the left (northwest). The right (south) side is designated "no parking." There is room for only about 10-12 cars in the marked parking. There is room on a rough shoulder for a few more cars to park parallel, elsewhere by here. The many "no parking" signs on various spots on this road should be obeyed. They will tow and ticket. As of September 15, 2013, there is a porta potty available for use, a few yards further north, from the gravel spur road leading to the trail, along the road on its right (east) side. The closed gravel spur road right (east), about 25-50 yards further up and east from the marked parking, arrives in several yards to an information board "Donner Summit Backcountry Area Map." Please study or record the map here, as hikers do get lost. The trail heads on, to this board's left.

Possible overflow parking has existed along the Old Donner Pass Highway. You will have to obey the signs, and if parking is impossible, maybe ask a local for advice. Please gain permission to perhaps use the space at the Donner Ski Ranch, which is private property. This is admittedly a poor situation, and limited space and terrain forces these restrictions.

Climb: Take the signed PCT south, climbing and switchbacking up the trail. After about 0.5 mile and several hundred feet gain, come to a trail junction with a sign, "Pacific Crest Trail Mt. Judah Trail.". This point is about where the wide, resort, ski run intersects this trail. The other junction roughly 1 mile further to the south, on the PCT, is signed with a trail adoption notice. Take this trail arrowed "Mt. Judah Trail" left to climb Donner Peak first. Hike this main trail eastward, avoiding the false trails running to the left, then come to a flatter area, the saddle between Mt. Judah and Donner Peak, marked with some signs.
An unsigned use trail heads up left (north) to the rocky, low mass of Donner Peak. Attempting to follow this use trail, you may come to a short, class 3 step, or a rocky dead-end, in a large alcove with a campsite. The easiest summit route, goes back, out of the large rock alcove with campsite, around left (west), vaguely back about a hundred feet. Over a low, brushy, rock ridge, on the west side of the summit rocks, a short, maze-like slot route goes through the wind and water carved rock. To its right, no more than a few, very short, rocky sections, with some class 2 scrambling, lies on the west side, with this route up the peak. You must use good judgement with sure-footedness in picking your route. It is fine Sierra granite with good holds. The entire length of this class 1-2 section is no more than a few hundred feet. Being off-route may easily involve class 3 or higher climbing. Several yards of rocky class 1-2 scrambling leads further northward, and then to the highpoint, with its benchmark and fine view of Donner Lake.
To climb Mt. Judah, continue right (south) from the saddle and flat area, with the various signs, on the official loop trail. It climbs up to the east side of the main ridge, then crosses directly past the summit cairn, to switchback and descend back to the PCT. The southern summit of Mt. Judah is apparently the highpoint, although there is little difference in elevation.

This loop may be taken either from this described way, or in reverse.

WINTER SKI ASCENT: Limited parking is available in winter along the south side of the Old Donner Summit Highway well west of the former ASI lodge, now the Sugar Bowl Academy. Obey the parking signs. Parking is strictly enforced, and the tow truck operators can be quite ruthless.
Follow Route A, although almost any route will do. There are a variety of runs, with respectable angles, off almost any side of these peaks. The north side of the north summit of Mt. Judah, with its snow deflecting structures, often offer great powder, with colder conditions, through a moderately steep tree run. The east sides have been known to avalanche, so it seems best to avoid these areas completely.

TRIP STATS: Route A, 1,200 feet gain, 4.5 miles round trip, with an additional 200 feet gain and several hundred feet one way for the side trip to Donner Peak's summit; winter ski ascent, maybe 50 feet extra gain and an additional .015 mile one way from Old Donner Summit Road by the road bed from about the old ASI lodge, now the Sugarbowl Academy, by the Old Donner Summit.

Notes: This trail loop was built during 1996-97 as a detour of the PCT, agreed upon during the construction of a new ski lift and run for the adjacent Sugarbowl ski resort. The lift towers run high on the west slope of Mt. Judah. The PCT now runs under the lift towers between the two ends of the loop.
During the ski season, the thousands of users will certainly detract from the winter backcountry experience. Please do not interfere with the resort guests, and use extreme caution if crossing through the ski run. It may be thought wiser to not traverse along the PCT and instead ski only along the summit ridge, avoiding the resort completely. Apparently people do some extreme skiing or boarding in this area, but skiers have been killed. Never ski alone, and be advised of the hazards, which may change from hour to hour. Signs atop the north summit of Mt. Judah warn of out-of-bounds travel.

For rock climbers, there are plenty of bouldering routes, amidst the summit rocks of Donner Peak.

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