Donner Lake Rim Trail
Tahoe Donner to Johnson Canyon Overlook
If you like to hike with views (and who doesn’t), the newest section of the Donner Lake Rim Trail (DLRT) is a “can’t miss”! This section, running from Tahoe Donner to the Johnson Canyon overlook was finished last summer and is easily accessible and beautiful. There are two access points for this trail.
The first access is to park on the east side of Northwoods just north of Coyote Moon in the new paved parking lot that accesses the paved trail into town. If you choose to park here, cross Northwoods Blvd, and follow the dirt trail along the fence. When the trail forks, stay left and follow the DLRT sign. You will very quickly arrive at the new dirt trailhead parking lot at Bermgarten.
The second access is off Skislope Way at Bermgarten Rd. As you come up Northwoods, turn left at the 3-way intersection, left onto Skislope Way, and then the first left is Bermgarten Rd. This is a new dirt trailhead parking area with ample parking and great signage. The single track DLRT starts at the Rim Trail Map and travels west.
From here, stay on the single track, and you’ll continue to see DLRT signs keeping you on track. This trail climbs modestly all the way to the top of Tahoe Donner, continuing for approximately 4 miles. You will cross a few fire roads but just stay on the single track. This hike will take you through a beautiful pine forest, past big granite boulders, and eventually you will see glimpses of Donner Lake. Two miles into the hike, the trail opens up, providing unobstructed views of Donner Lake, the Pacific Crest, and beyond.
As the trail meanders up the ridge, you’ll find plenty of spots for photo opps. If you follow the trail all the way to the Johnson Canyon Overlook, you can connect with the Tahoe Donner Trail system, continue following the DLRT to Drifter Hut (1 mile), or retrace your steps.
Because of the high usage, I’ve found it best to go out early morning, or, even better, make this a sunset hike. Just make sure to bring your headlamp (and maybe a bottle of vino)! I didn’t realize how long I was going to be out hiking, chasing photos, and ended up hiking out by the light of my phone!
Additional Notes on the Donner Rim Trail:
With the easy access and beautiful scenery, this trail is becoming increasingly busy. As a multi-use trail, watch for other hikers, dogs, and mountain bikers. Remember that hikers have right of way over bikers, but it is common courtesy for hikers to let mountain bikers, that are approaching from behind, to pass when safe to do so. Another rule to remember is the mountain biker that is going UPHILL has the right of way over the downhill biker. Of course, use common sense and good judgment. Be kind and considerate!
Map and Directions
Courtesy of Truckee Donner Land Trust