Friday, August 31, 2012

Mt. Judah Loop Trail

On a clear, calm day the Mt. Judah Loop Trail is always good for a pleasant hike south of Donner Pass to scenic vista points and—for history buffs—to historical Roller Pass by adding a short extra walk to this saddle reminding of emigrant fates. A round-trip hike including the peak of Mt. Judah consists of somewhat more than two miles on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) plus a semiloop of  2.2 miles with trail sections over Judah slopes and ridges.

Most sections of the loop trail lead through forest of red firs and mountain hemlocks. Mariposa lilies and other wildflowers may be found. Around the top and along Judah ridge the trail passes by lichen-covered rocks and crosses carpets of mule ears. Great views of  Donner Lake, Castle Peak and the Carson Range can be enjoyed from the ridge section. The ridge trail is shown in the picture above.

Getting to the Mt. Judah Loop/PCT junctions
The trailhead is just south of the Sugar Bowl Academy at the old Donner Pass Road. See the description Getting to Roller Pass and beyond in my post On the Sierra Nevada Crest between Roller Pass and Mt. Andersen. Your hike begins with a mile-long section of the PCT: a few switchbacks across granite formations (upper left in the trail sketch) followed by an easy walk through pine and fir forests with westside views of Lake Mary. Shortly afterwards, the PCT crosses a sky slope, while the first branch of the Mt. Judah Loop Trail turns left and leads up to Donner Peak and then southbound to the Judah Ridge.

In case your are not taking the first branch, which is marked by the signpost shown to the left, you'll continue on the PCT for about another mile. Make sure you don't miss the second junctions. On my last hike in August this year, I didn't see a signpost at this junction. Once you arrive at the historical marker for the Truckee Trail and Roller Pass, you'll know, you missed the Judah junction. However, unless you are on a tight schedule, this short extra distance to the Roller Pass saddle, which early pioneers crossed with their wagons (or failed to do so), is always worth it.

Places of interest and trails nearby
Donner Party Memorial
Donner Lake
Donner Lake Rim Trail
Summit Lake
Frog Lake Overlook

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Various trails lead to Frog Lake Overlook

There are different ways to get to the Frog Lake Overlook north of Donner Pass in the Sierra Nevada, California. My favorite options include hikes starting with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) Access Trail and the Wendin Way Access Trail. Either way you will be headed to access the Warren Lake Trail, which winds up—through forest, shrubs and carpets of mule ears—to the Castle Peak area. The Frog Lake Overlook is located on top of a cliff above the west shore of the toponymous lake. The map inserted into the Frog Lake picture roughly sketched the area, while the Donner Lake Rim Trail Area Map ( Map.pdf) is much more detailed; although it doesn't contain Frog Lake itself.

Hiking option 1 via PCT. This hike begins at the PCT/Boreal Trailhead (0.3 mile east of I-80's PCT exit). After walking the 3/4 mile PCT access trail, a short northbound PCT section underpasses the split highway (I-80) through two culverts. From there, a short climb gets you to the beginning of the Warren Lake Trail. The latter intersects with the Donner Lake Rim Trail (DLRT) after less than two miles. Here, the sign (shown above) posts a 0.5-mile-distance to Summit Lake and 5.5 miles to Warren Lake. Half this way, Warren Lake Trail crosses a mule-ear-covered saddle, where a short use trail branches eastward to the Frog Lake Overlook. 

Hiking option 2 via Wendin Way Access Trail. This much longer hike begins at the Gregory Creek Trailhead just north of I-80's Donner Lake exit. Climbing up Wendin Way Access Trail along Gregory Creek, one arrives at a DLRT three-way junction. Turning left, Summit Lake is about 2.5 miles away. From Summit Lake it take about half a mile to get the Warren-Lake-Trail/DLRT intersection, which is also accessible via option 1.

Which ever trail sequence you are going to chose to get to the overlook, I am sure you will enjoy the bird's-eye view of the small and beautiful, glacier-carved Frog Lake—and also views of the Verdi Range and Carson Range to the east.