Hiking Mt. Judah Trail Overlooking Donner Lake
  • editor, 11:33am, 9/19/2011


    Bring the family, bring the kids, bring the dog!

    Gunner woke me up around 6:30 in the morning, which is the normal routine. He demanded I feed him by patting my face with his paw like a cat, but with less elegance. So I got up, promptly fed him and made myself a cup of coffee. I sat down at my computer, read some emails, but couldn’t help notice that Gunner, now a 6-month-old German Wirehaired Pointer, is the perfect age for his first long hike. His energy demanded some adventure. So I closed Outlook opened Tahoe.com, searched our regions map and set my crosshairs for Donner Lake, but more specifically, the Mt. Judah Trail that overlooks this beautiful lake.

    Getting There

    After packing some lunch, dog food and plenty of water for the both of us, we hopped in the truck and drove West on Interstate 80, from Reno, toward Truckee. Driving through Truckee we stopped at Truckee Bagel, got some breakfast and then got back onto I80 West drove a few more miles past Boreal Ski Resort, over Donner Summit, and finally got off at the Soda Springs Exit. Turning left on Highway 40, we drove a few miles until passing the Sugar Bowl Ski Resort’s two entrances. Shortly after the second entrance (Mt. Judah parking area) we turned right at the Pacific Crest Trail head parking area. A short walk from the parking area will take you down to the Pacific Crest trail head, marked by a sign. Take this trail to get to the Pacific Crest/Mt. Judah Trail junction.

    Great for Families and Pets

    Gunner is my 6-month-old German Wirehaired Pointer. He’s a bird dog by nature, so I’m never surprised when he retrieves bark, sticks and just about anything else he can fit in his mouth. He’s also a very friendly pup. Early in the hike we passed a local Boy Scout Troop. Gunner greeted each scout with a dust-covered nose and continued to climb. The trail was full of families and dogs that day. We took many breaks to talk so Gunner could great those on the trail.

    The Mt. Judah trail begins with a series of switch backs. It’s a bit of a climb, but children 10 and up should have no problem keeping up with mom and dad. The trail itself is well maintained, but a rocky section demands attention to avoid sprained ankles. Further up the trail, open areas offer shade and refuge for water breaks.

    About a mile or so in, take a left, continuing on the Mt. Judah trail at the Pacific Crest Trail junction. Follow this trail up and you’ll soon see some spectacular views of Donner Lake to your left. Continue on until you come to a large open area full of shade, with a rocky outcrop to your left. Take the trail to the right and up Mt. Judah. Once at the top of Mt. Judah, we ate lunch, drank some water and enjoyed the view. After lunch, we continued on the trail and traversed the ridge southward until arriving at another Pacific Crest Trail Junction. Continue right at this junction and you’ll descend back down the other side of the ridge toward the parking area.

    Trail Summary

    Distance: About 5 Miles
    Elevation: 8,234 ft.
    Elevation Gained: 1,700 ft.
    Time: Half Day


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