A hike on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) between Roller Pass and Mt. Anderson, south of the Donner Pass in California, offers amazing views of the Sierra Nevada including the Carson Range to the east, Castle Peak to the north, and peaks of the Granite Chief Wilderness in the south. The trail passes old volcanic terrain between Cedar Creek and Coldstream Valley. Endless meadows of mule ears are spreading out over the volcanic slopes. Forest patches of pines, firs and mountain hemlocks are found in-between. A small section of the PCT along the slope of Mt. Lincoln was still covered by snow during this year's Labor Day week-end.
Getting to Roller Pass and beyond
The Roller Pass is located about two miles south from the PCT trailhead near the Alpine Skills International (ASI) Rock Climbing Center at Donner Pass (www.alpineskills.com) south of the old Donner Pass Road. Cross the ASI parking lot and continue on a dirt road until you see the trailhead (a short distance away to your left) with a board displaying a trail map. Along the PCT, pass both left-side junctions of the Mt. Judah Loop trail and continue southward. You know when you have arrived at Roller Pass by finding a metal post with a historical marker plaque (T-39), saying Truckee Trail - Roller Pass and quoting Nicholas Carriger (September 22, 1846) of the ill-fated Donner Party: “We made a roller and fasened chans to gether and pulled the wagons up white 12 yoke oxen on the top and the same at the bottom.”
You may want to follow the directions and detailed descriptions of Trip 16 Mt. Judah Loop Trail and Trip 17 PCT: Donner Pass to Squaw Valley in chapter 2 of Mike White's hiking guide A foot & A field. The 3.5-miles-long Roller Pass - Anderson Peak section of the PCT provides for an easy-going, pleasant hike (no climbing skills are required here) and scenic picnicking, assuming that most of the snow is gone (usually after mid-July) and the breeze over the crest is tolerable or even refreshing on a hot and sunny day.