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Donner Summit Canyon snowshoe

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Photo ofDonner Summit Canyon snowshoe Photo ofDonner Summit Canyon snowshoe Photo ofDonner Summit Canyon snowshoe

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Trail stats

Distance
3.26 mi
Elevation gain
889 ft
Technical difficulty
Moderate
Elevation loss
889 ft
Max elevation
6,914 ft
TrailRank 
32
Min elevation
5,991 ft
Trail type
Loop
Time
4 hours 48 minutes
Coordinates
688
Uploaded
February 26, 2023
Recorded
February 2023
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6,914 ft
5,991 ft
3.26 mi

near Weeks Tract, California (United States)

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Trail photos

Photo ofDonner Summit Canyon snowshoe Photo ofDonner Summit Canyon snowshoe Photo ofDonner Summit Canyon snowshoe

Itinerary description

Great views with parking!

On a Saturday before a holiday we could not find parking at the Boreal/castle peak exit including the snow park or the Billy Mack exit or the official Donner Summit Canyon parking but there was plowed off road parking just before the gate used to close Donner Pass Road when it isn’t passible. The moral of that story is this is a good place to try when parking is scarce and it turned out to be an excellent choice that had not been on my radar. There might be an easier way down from the parking but we just went down a small cliff. We backtracked to a bridge across Donner Creek and decided to visit the snowsheds. The journey was as good as the destination and this was one of the prettier snowshoes I’ve done due to lots of snow covered boulders with cornices, creeks with interesting snow formations, hills with open areas giving great distant views of peaks and ridges and Donner Lake. There were some well beaten trails on the valley floor but we mostly made our own because the snow was an easy consistency. And deep enough to provide plenty of places to cross the smaller creeks. I expect you could follow the official Donner Summit Canyon trail system if conditions were less favorable to going cross country. Our exact route is probably irrelevant under any other conditions, but this is a good location for snowshoeing.

My final ascent to the snowsheds up a steep treeless slope was the most direct, though dicey near the top because of the slope and powdery snow that sometimes didn’t hold. I didn’t realize how steep it was at the top until I had gone too far to want to try a different approach. Your results may vary with conditions but the return path we took was not as steep and a lot safer if you slip because it was in the trees. Also safer if the snow might avalanche.

There was no trail signage, fees or facilities but there weren’t any no parking signs either. The road getting there is paved and usually plowed soon after storms, but I don’t know how often or quickly they plow the dirt parking we used. It would be about the same distance and opportunities if we had found room at the official and signed Donner Summit Canyon parking, but we’d not have known to follow Donner Creek for some of the prettier creek views.

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