Mount Judah and Donner Peak Loop


Summary

Difficulty 4 Intermediate-advanced
Length 4.5 miles round trip or
3.8 miles one-way to alternate end point
Starting
Elevation
7100 feet
Cumulative
Elevation
Change
+1450, -1500 round trip or
+1350, -1450 one-way to alternate end point
Navigation Road and map
Time Half day
Season Late December through early April
Snowmobiles Low
USGS Topo 7.5' series, Norden
Start Sugar Bowl Academy (formerly the home of Alpine Skills Institute), 3.9 miles east of Interstate 80 and 0.2 mile east of Donner Ski Ranch on Donner Pass Road. Park at Donner Ski Ranch and walk east on Donner Pass Road to the start of the tour at the Academy.
End Donner Ski Ranch, 0.2 mile west of the starting point.

An alternative end point is 0.9 mile south of Donner Ski Ranch at the Mount Judah Lodge at Sugar Bowl Ski Resort.


Description

This loop offers all the features of the Mount Judah and Donner Peak tour, superb views and opportunities to carve turns in the backcountry, plus a descent that includes groomed runs at Sugar Bowl Ski Resort. The views include nearby Donner Lake, Mount Lincoln, Crows Nest and Anderson Peak, as well as Castle Peak and much more to the north — even Sierra Buttes on a clear day .

Nearby to the north is Lake Angela and the gentle terrain that is crisscrossed by the following tours:

The loop tour described here actually ends where you park at Donner Ski Ranch, which is located 0.2 mile west of the trailhead. An alternative end point is the Mount Judah Lodge at Sugar Bowl Ski Resort. You may prefer this end because it eliminates skiing "across" the ski resort. But it requires a shuttle vehicle or walking back to Donner Ski Ranch.

Some will remember this area as "wild" before the Mount Judah Lodge and associated ski lifts were built. Many people and organizations, including Snowlands Network's predecessor the Nordic Voice, fought against the ski area expansion because of the visual and social impact it would have on this area through which the Pacific Crest Trail, the Emigrant Trail and the route to Benson Hut passes. In the end development prevailed and now skiers and snowshoers co-exist with the amenities of the ski resort.

Interestingly, Sugar Bowl Ski Resort hated cross-country skiers in the 1970s and early 1980s when cross-country skiing was in its infancy in California. The route under the aerial tramway from Donner Pass Road to the main lodge was marked with signs stating that cross-country skiers were not welcome although this was the most direct route to Benson Hut. Today Sugar Bowl Ski Resort at least accepts cross-country skiers passing through, and is even one of the more popular resorts for telemark skiing.

Mileage Log
Numbers in parentheses
correspond to mileage points on map

Miles: 0.0 - 0.2
Elevation change: -50 feet

Locate the snow-covered road 50 feet west of the Sugar Bowl Academy parking lot (1) and follow it south for 0.2 mile until you reach the location where the road turns west (right) (2).

Miles: 0.2 - 0.7
Elevation change: +600 feet

Leave the road and climb southeast for a total of 0.5 mile until you reach more level terrain (3).

Miles: 0.7 - 1.1
Elevation change: +150 feet

Climb gradually as you loop to the southeast for 0.4 mile until you reach the saddle (4) to the southwest of Donner Peak.

Miles: 1.1 - 1.3
Elevation change: +150 feet

Climb northeast for 0.2 mile until you reach the summit of Donner Peak (5).

Miles: 1.3 - 1.5
Elevation change: -150 feet

Descend southwest, retracing your tracks, for 0.2 mile until you reach the saddle (4) between Donner Peak and the ridge of which Mount Judah is a part.

Miles: 1.5 - 1.8
Elevation change: +300 feet

Ascend the spur to the southwest for 0.3 mile until you reach the north end of the ridge of which Mount Judah is the high point (6).

Miles: 1.8 - 2.2
Elevation change: +150, -50 feet

Ski south along the ridge for 0.4 mile until you reach the summit of Mount Judah (7).

Miles: 2.2 - 2.6
Elevation change: -350 feet

Descend southwest along the ridge for 0.4 mile until you reach a saddle (8), often referred to as Rolling Pass, and intersect a ski area groomed trail. This section contains open, lightly forested, and densely wooded areas. At one point you will encounter a rock outcropping. Unless cornices prevent you, ski around the outcropping on its east (left) side.

Miles: 2.6 - 3.4
Elevation change: -500 feet

Descend on the groomed ski run to the northwest for 0.8 mile until you reach a broad ridge (9). On this ridge the ski runs divide with those to the west leading to the Sugar Bowl Village and those to the northwest leading to the Mount Judah Lodge. Of course the easiest way to navigate through the ski resort is to simply follow the trail signs.

The following continues on the loop tour
to Donner Ski Ranch

Miles: 3.4 - 4.0
Elevation change: -350 feet

Cross the broad ridge and descend gradually to the north for 0.6 mile until you reach the south end of Lake Mary (11). In this section you must cross several ski runs; watch out for downhill skiers traveling fast.

Miles: 4.0 - 4.5
Elevation change: +100, -50 feet

Ski north across Lake Mary and then continue north for a total of 0.5 mile until you reach Donner Ski Ranch (12).

To reach the alternate end point
at the Mount Judah Lodge

Miles: 3.4 - 3.8
Elevation change: -350 feet

From the broad ridge (9) descend on the groomed ski run to the northwest for 0.4 mile until you reach the Mount Judah Lodge (10). In this section you cross the broad ridge. You will end up at the Village if you don't!

 

Loop Tour
Elevation profile
Alternate End at Mount Judah Lodge
Elevation profile
Link to elevation profile
Link to waypoint data
Link to full page map
Link to see and submit reviews and corrections about tour