Monday, October 15, 2012

From Gregory Creek Trailhead to Tahoe Donner trail network

The Gregory Creek Trailhead (GCTH) is a popular gateway to the Donner Lake Rim Trail (DLRT). This trailhead is located just north of the Donner Lake exit of Interstate 80 between Donner Summit and Truckee, California. From here, Summit Lake is 3.5 miles away. About the same distance applies to the trail that connects the GCTH with its toponymic overlook and the end (or beginning) of Gregory Creek Overlook Trail. The straight distance between GCTH and Gregory Overlook at the steep southern edge of the Donner Ridge is less than a mile. You do not want to climb up directly. Instead, the trail, used by mountain bikers and hikers, follows Gregory Creek northward to the Drifter Hut plateau. It then U-turns southward and continues along the slope below Donner Ridge.

The whole trail is single-track. At the Gregory Creek Trail/DLRT junction (about one mile from GCTH), you will take the right DLRT branch—the direction given as Drifter Hut and Glacier Way on the signpost. On this DLRT section you are going to leave the riparian habitat and climb up the forested slope until you get to the outcrops shown in the picture above. A few more switchbacks and you'll reach a plateau, which belongs to a patch of the Tahoe National Forest next to the area with the Tahoe Donner trail network. Watch out for the DLRT post signaling the almost-180-degree turn. Now comes an easy-going mile with magnificent views. At the vista site (posted as Negro Canyon Overlook), DLRT currently ends; but you are at another Tahoe Donner entry point, connecting with the Glacier Way Trailhead and further ridge, overlook and loop trails—actually, well-marked fire road trails.

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