Top Trails Lake Tahoe
by Mike White (Wilderness Press)
© 2015 Mike White/Wilderness Press. All Rights Reserved.
All the lakes and the views are gorgeous (including Salmon Lake, which is smaller, more secluded and near the Loch Leven lakes). If you are lucky enough to snag a campsite it is perfect for a few nights of backcountry camping.
What a great little hike! We knocked out Donner peak then continued on the loop to mount judah. Great views. After you hit Mount Judah it is a nice down hill hike all the way down the pct! So pretty on the pct side. I would do this trail again for sure!!
You’ll start out with a heart pumping walk up the rock head-wall just after the trail head. The climb continues with many switchbacks. There are several shady rest stops along the way. And the views continually get better as you ascend. When you come out into a clearing under one of the ski runs, you make a decision to head straight (on the PCT) and go around Mt. Judah counter-clockwise, or take a left and go clockwise. Either way is great, just a personal choice.
So this time we went left and this way you’ll see wild flowers through mid August in some areas. You’ll even have a chance to make a snowman in August in a snow pond along the trail. As you crest Mt. Judah the views are spectacular in all directions Donner Lake to the East. It’s a good place to rest and have a snack. Once you’ve crested you now use the other set of muscles (it’s all down hill now). There’s a nice little detour to see a famous historical site called Wheeler Pass. This is one spot where wagon trains (yes like the Donner party) came through the Sierra-Nevada mountain range. You’ll be amazed at the ravine they had to get all their supplies through and up the side of a cliff.
Now back on the trail you’ve rejoined the PCT and begin to get some much needed shade. Along the way there are many spots where you’ll see geological features including volcanic rocks and sedimentary rocks from the bottom of an ancient sea.
Allow yourself 3 hours, more if want to take detours or tend to snap a lot of pictures. You see several fellow hikers on the weekend, but it’s not crowded. We always do this trail during the heat of summer because it’s typically cooler at that altitude, plus the wild flowers last well into August most years. There is always plenty of parking, either just of Old Hwy 40 or you can drive down the gravel road a few 100 feet and park on the side just across the trail-head.
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