Donner Pass to Squaw Valley via the Pacific Crest Trail

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Onion Creek Experimental Forest

Donner Pass to Squaw Valley via the Pacific Crest Trail is a 13.9 mile moderately trafficked point-to-point trail located near Norden, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 13.9 miles Elevation Gain: 2,732 feet Route Type: Point to Point

dogs on leash

backpacking

hiking

nature trips

rock climbing

walking

bird watching

running

forest

views

wild flowers

wildlife

Classic North Tahoe hike along the crest of the Sierra Nevada. Because much of the hike is pretty high elevation you have to wait until the summer to allow the snow to melt. There are a few sidetracks along the way if, such as Anderson Peak, and Ticker's Knob. There is no real trail to the peak or Anderson Peak, just some rock scrambling. The same with Ticker's Knob. After leaving Ticker's Knob you drop down to the westside of the crest to the headwaters of the American River. Then back up to the crest and down the Granite Chief Trail to Squaw Valley.

Summit Haus to Tinker Knob

Dodge Ridge resort to top of Mt Lincoln (Sugar Bowl)

hiking
8 months ago

Beautiful trail! Tough on the knees going downhill into Squaw! Catch a beer at the end!

hiking
9 months ago

Five of us began at Donner Summit at 6am with the goal of reaching the Squaw Valley tram by 5:30pm (last run down of the day). We thought the trip would take 8-9 hours. Several of us (ages 50-74) were not as fast as others so when we reached the Granite Chief Trail late in the day, we determined we would not arrive in time so took Granite Chief down to the parking lot and our awaiting vehicle. The hike from Donner to Granite Chief cutoff was everything we could hope for and a fantastic hike. We encountered fantastic vistas, rock formations, and flowers. A good part of the trail is on the ridge-line in direct sun so make sure your sun protections and water needs are taken care of. The trail was easy to navigate, but probably closer to 16-18 miles from Donner trailhead to the parking lot area at Squaw. The last 2.8 or so miles, down the Granite Chief trail, is the toughest part of the day - rocky footing and slow-going at the point where you really want to be done . The entire hike took us 12 hours. If you can catch the gondola ride down that would be a nice option.

We started at Sugar Bowl around 6am and had perfect hiking weather for the majority of the hike. There is a lot of exposure, so pack water and sunscreen accordingly. This isn’t the trail to be caught unprepared. Make sure you know your limitations, this is also a challenging and long hike. We met some PCTers which was awesome and the wildflowers were beautiful. Overall, an amazing experience!

hiking
9 months ago

A truly great hike, fantastic vistas, flowers, easy to navigate with Alltrails, but probably closer to 16 miles from the Sugar Bowl trail head to the lodge area at Squaw. The last 3 or so miles, down the Granite Chief trail, is the toughest part of the day - rocky footing and slow-going at the point where you really want to be done . Took us (3 late 50s guys in reasonable shape) 8+ hours +/- (had to figure out some detouring to avoid a boulder removal project near the outset). If you can figure out, plan for, and execute the gondola ride down that would be a nice option, but you would miss the final “put your tired feet into a cold stream option). Carry plenty of food, water, and sun protection (it’s mostly ridge and exposed and the western sun has you as you descend from the summit at Tinker knob). If you want places to cool your feet in a stream, there’s a good one after you descend from Tinker Knob and before you start back up to the ridge to the Granite Chief junction; another about 0.2 miles above Squaw Village (we foolish skipped the first but did the latter - soooooo refreshing - perfect place to wash the dust and salt/grime off and break out clean socks and a dry shirt).

hiking
11 months ago

Hiked in July 2018 during fires that closed Yosemite. We caught a great day with limited smoke on that portion of PCT. Only a few filterable stream flows on trail at that late date. Overnighted at PG&E reservoir near trails’ end. Bears frolicked around in pond but stayed away from campsite. Would definitely hike this one again and again and again!

Sat Oct 06 2018

Oops!....I did it again......awesome day....

Wed Sep 19 2018

Amazing hike! Not easy but worth every step! Was a perfect day!

Mon Sep 17 2018

Beautiful, good workout, but it does end up being around 15.8 miles. The last 4 miles is a steep incline which isn’t the best if you’re fatigued from the first 11 or so miles.

hiking
Thu Sep 13 2018

Beautiful. Loved the variety of plants, trees, and wildflowers. Doing it again soon before the winter.

hiking
Mon Sep 10 2018

Went with some friends who are training for a Whitney Hike. We did this hike in reverse. Started at the Granite Chief trail and finished at the sugar Bowl. They needed the elevation gain. If you do it that way, your elevation change is double. The added bonus is the flatter exit back to the parking lot (we ended at the spot nearest the train tunnels) Please be aware, Sugar Bowl academy is in the lower parking lot, in Sugar Bowl, not the upper lot directly across from the ski ranch. Also if you end early enough here is s snack shack, with frosty malted beverages, in the parking lot.

hiking
Fri Sep 07 2018

Solo hike, started around 7am. Saw a bear about a mile in. Saw my first hiker (a PCT hiker) at 3.5 miles. Dropped down to Squaw Valley on the Granite Chief trail. Took six hours. Great views. The trip down Granite Chief was the most difficult on my knees being downhill and steep. Highly recommend.

hiking
Mon Aug 27 2018

It's Tinker Knob, not ticker's Knob. Check the top map.

Tue Jul 17 2018

Great day today. Started off just after 8am. Nice time to start the day , never got too warm. Trail starts at the Sugar Bowl academy, very easy to find the PCT Trail head. Lots of shaded spots to have some lunch or a cat nap. Cross 3 streams for water fillups but those might be dry by the end of the month. Instead of following Granite Chief trail that leads down to Squaw Valley Village, we followed the PCT around 2 more miles , ended up bush wacking a mile or so until we found ourselves at Squaw Valley High Camp. Here you can take a nice dip in the pool or free ride down in the Tram which is a great way to end a perfect day around. All and all with breaks and inclined, hikes around 2 miles per hr.

hiking
Thu Jul 05 2018

Hiked this on Saturday, June 30! This is a perfect time to hike this trail. Passed a lot of through-hikers, say hello! The wildflowers are perfect as well, lots are popping, and should be good for at least another week or two - so beautiful. Make sure to tag Tinkers Nob at the half way point. Only one snow patch while leaving Sugar Bowl, but you can easily walk around - and should be melted out this week is my guess.

hiking
Mon Sep 04 2017

Beautiful! Want to go again!

Sun Sep 03 2017

Absolutely gorgeous! Labor Day weekend - Due to late snowmelt all varieties of wild flowers were visible along the trail at all stages. 3rd time hiking this trail and it never disappoints. It's long, a full day activity and the downhill always feels like it lasts forever

Wed Jul 05 2017

Hiked this July 3rd. Still quite a lot of snow. Bring ice picks or metal spikes, and good hiking shoes. Took us longer than previous time we hiked because of the snow.

Fri Sep 23 2016

Not much water along the way, especially late in the season. We did it with 2 dogs and 1 inexperienced hiker in a little over 7 hours. Shuttling cars can be a pain, but worth it.

Sun Jul 24 2016

Was blown away by the windflowers. This is the longest hike I've complete in one day. Felt great all day but the last climb to the top of emigrant peak kicked my butt. Views were amazing throughout the hike. Next time I will choose the granite chief cutoff the the base of Squaw valley.

Fri Jul 08 2016

Incredible views, wildflowers were abundant!

hiking
7 months ago

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