Ever since the Wild West days of Kit Carson and the Comstock Lode, visitors have been drawn to Tahoe-Reno in search of adventure. Today, the best adventures are found outdoors, where hikers can take lakeside strolls, mountain ascents, or simple walks with the dog and kids. Afoot & Afield Tahoe-Reno, by local expert Mike White, features more than 200 trips in a diverse range of terrain around Lake Tahoe and the communities of Reno, Sparks, Carson City, and Minden-Gardnerville.
These trips are tailored for every type of hiker, and many are suited for mountain bikers. Routes range from less than a mile to an 18-mile point-to-point challenge from Tahoe Meadows to Brockway Summit.
Each trip includes the following:
- At-a-glance essential information, including distance, hiking time, elevation gain/loss, and difficulty rating
- Highlights summarizing the best features of the trips
- An easy-to-read map
- Complete trip description and hiking directions
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About the Author
After leaving his last “real” job, Mike began a full-time writing career. He is the author or coauthor of 19 outdoor guides, including award-winning books “Top Trails Lake Tahoe” and “50 Classic Hikes in Nevada.” Mike also has contributed to “Sunset and Backpacker” magazines and the “Reno Gazette Journal” newspaper. A former community college instructor, Mike is also a popular featured speaker for outdoor groups.
Read an Excerpt
PCT: Donner Summit to Donner Pass
- Distance 3.5 miles (point-to-point)
- Hiking Time 2–3 hours
- Elevation +525/-625 feet
- Difficulty Moderate
- Trail Use Dogs OK
- Best Times July through October
- Agency Tahoe National Forest at 530-587-3558, www.fs.usda.gov/tahoe
- Recommended Map USGS 7.5-minute Norden
The 3.5-mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) between Donner Summit (I-80) and Donner Pass (Old Highway 40) isn’t the most stupendous stretch of the famous trail, but hikers looking for a nice picnic spot with decent views won’t be disappointed with the scenery. Wildflowers lift the spirits of passersby until midseason, and rock climbers will find plenty of challenging bouldering routes all summer long.
Start: West of Donner Summit, take the Castle Peak/Boreal Ridge Road exit from I-80. Drive to the frontage road on the south side of the freeway and proceed east 0.3 mile to the Pacific Crest Trail parking area.
End: From I-80, take the Soda Springs/Norden exit and travel 3.7 miles east on the old Donner Pass Road to Donner Pass; make a right-hand turn onto a narrow paved road. Travel south 0.2 mile to a dirt road branching west, which is the start of the trail. Park your vehicle along the side of the road as space allows, paying close attention to the signed no-parking areas in the vicinity.
Start: The large PCT–Donner Summit parking lot has trailer parking, pit toilets, picnic tables, and running water in season. The well-marked trail begins on the northwest side of the parking lot.
End: In recent years, there has been a portable toilet near the trailhead. Parking is extremely limited. If space is not available in the vicinity, you may have to park closer to the highway. The trail begins at the start of the dirt road near a series of trail signs.
From the parking lot, follow a well-signed gravel path to a stone bridge over a seasonal stream and continue on dirt track through lodgepole pines, western white pines, and white firs. You’ll soon encounter a junction with the Glacier Meadow Loop, where you veer right and continue eastbound toward the Pacific Crest Trail. After a short distance, you come to a second junction with the Glacier Meadow Loop, where you veer to the right again. Pass by a shallow pond, where mountain hemlocks join the mixed forest, and then make a short descent to the Pacific Crest Trail junction near the edge of a grassy, willow-filled meadow, a half mile from the trailhead.
Turn right and proceed southbound on the PCT, on a mild climb through mixed forest. You’ll pass a low, open knoll to the left and then a small pond to the right before emerging from the forest to cross an open area filled with granite humps and pinemat manzanita. After a moderate descent through light forest, the trail passes below some power lines and then begins a half-mile, switchbacking climb that leads to gentler terrain across the crest of a knoll harboring a small pond. Past the pond, a short, winding ascent leads to the trail’s high point and a good, open view of Donner Peak and the surrounding terrain.
A moderately steep, zigzagging descent leads down shrub-covered slopes with good views of the Donner Pass region. Along the way, you pass by a couple of boot-beaten paths that lead to popular rock-climbing areas. The trail wanders around a bit, passes below more power lines, and then follows just above Donner Pass Road to the edge of the highway at Donner Pass.
Table of ContentsOverview Map
Introducing the Tahoe-Reno Area
Comfort, Safety, & Etiquette
Using this Book
Overview of Hikes
The Hikes by Area
- Graeagle and Sierra City
- Truckee, Donner City, and Vicinity
- North Tahoe
- West Tahoe
- Southwest Tahoe
- South Tahoe
- East Tahoe
- Echo Summit and South Fork American River
- Mt. Rose and the Carson Range
- Kit Carson Country
- Reno-Sparks and Carson City
Best Trips by Theme
Agencies and Information Sources
Local Trails and Conservation Organizations
About the Author