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

1 comment:

Krystle Taylor said...

Hello, I am not sure if this post is still being monitored but I hope it is! I would really like to do this trail this summer, but I have a two year old whom I carry on my back in a Kelty Tour 1.0 Hiking Backpack child carrier. It distributes his weight evenly as a regular hiking backpack would, but my balance is still slightly off while he is on my back. Would this trail be dangerous for me to hike with him on my back? Would you recommend for or against hiking this trail with a toddler on your back? My concerns are loose and/or slippery rock that could send us over the edge of a ridge/cliff/etc, or sending us sliding headfirst down a steep incline. Thank you in advance!