Boreal Ridge to Donner Pass Old Highway 40
One way distance: 3.7 miles
Altitude: ~7200 feet
Features: Quiet forest, meadows, granite, ponds, vistas, wildflowers
Best Time of Year: Late spring to early summer; after the snowmelt and before it gets too hot
Take: Water, picnic, hat
Trailhead: Pacific Crest Trail trailhead at Boreal Ridge exit of I80 or Old Highway 40 parking near Donner Pass; park a vehicle at both ends for the full hike or start at either end with one vehicle.
We like to do this hike from I80 south since there are switchbacks near the Old Highway 40 end. Going south, we can walk down the switchbacks, which makes the hike a little easier for us. Since we had two cars with us for this hike, we exited I80 at the Soda Springs exit and drove past the Sugar Bowl ski area to Donner Pass. We left one car at the Pacific Crest Trail trailhead near the pass. We drove back to I80 and went in the eastbound direction up to the Boreal Ridge exit near Summit. Following the signs to the Pacific Crest Trail trailhead parking, we found a shaded parking place, grabbed our knapsacks, walking sticks, and camera and then headed down the trail. I didnít notice whether there were bathroom facilities at the trailhead. However, the Donner Summit I80 rest stop is just down the trail if you follow the signs for the Glacier Loop Trail, which takes you right through the rest stop if you take a left at the signpost.
The section of the Pacific Crest Trail between I80 and Old Highway 40 runs fairly level and makes an easy hike. We walked through a variety of vegetation and boulder areas. We crossed one stream using the large rocks that spanned it. Although I had my walking stick, I have to use it on this hike. There were plenty of wildflowers and some fantastic views. You can find even more views if you leave the trail and walk over the granite areas near the cliff side of the trail. We stayed on the trail but plan to explore a bit more another time.
There were many good places to picnic along the trail. We choose a large, flat rock at a point that had great vistas. After lunch, we descended the switchbacks and ambled to our car parked at the trailhead on Old Highway 40.