Trails in Northern California

Trails in Northern California

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August 19, 2012

Donner Area Hike for Families to Backpackers

Old Donner Pass to Azalea Lake Loop

(or you can park at the Sno Park parking near Boreal
and hike from that direction for a shorter, easier hike. 
*GPS links are at the bottom of this page.)
Suitable for beginners, families, and backpackers to PCTers!  Hike this 6 mile semi-loop with views of Donner Lake and the covered train tracks running across the range to the south.  Visit George S Stewart Peak to scramble sunny boulders, then retreat to the shady forest trail that will have numerous runoff creeks earlier in the season.  On the return you'll pass ponds and small lakes including Azalea and Flora, and finally Angela Lake.  For a 6 mile loop you get fantastic views, and a family friendly hike!  I met a 5 year old and 7 year old happily making the trek.
The bonus is arriving at Azalea and Flora Lakes with plenty of campsites for backpackers
But back to the beginning, parking!  I parked across the street from this favorite rock wall  and began my hike at the marker shown below.  Enlarge to see the climbers.

There are several easy options: You could park across the Old Donner Bridge and just walk back across the the nearest TH, or park at Mt Judah PCT parking and catch a TH there.

The trail will traverse uphill and the tracks I linked you to from my own hike will ascend all the way to the top of George S Stewart Peak.  It isn't too hard, even for the kids, although it isn't stroller worthy.

I started in the heat of the day so it was nice to photograph Donner Lake and the surrounding sights while snacking.  I could see the covered railroad tracks to the south, the Old Donner Bridge, to the west Lake Angela, and to the north through the forest see 80 carved in.
The Donner Pass Railway was covered for protection from snow, according to my grandfather who worked on the rails.
Descend into the forest and find wildflowers even in August despite the runoff creeks being dry.

This widow maker is a landmark that you are nearing the trail leading into Azalea Lake.  Me?  Got impatient as the sun dropped and bushwhacked over the rocks to get to the lake's basin.

Finally I arrived at Azalea Lake.  The trail went around the east side of the lake and continued past campsites and a small ascent on to Flora Lake.  I was the only one there!

Flora Lake is also set in a beautiful bowl.  If you climb a small distance to the east you get views of Donner again.  I added waypoints to my GPS tracks along this section as the trail isn't always clear, but is easy.

Pink is the old Donner Pass Highway.  Orange is Highway 80.   The small dark line at the top is where you could park and begin your hike rather than from my starting point.   
The Garmin Elevation Profile can be read more easily if you click on it to enlarge it.

Links for GPS:

Peachy Hiker GPS tracks  from Old Donner Pass
From 80 to Azalea by ClipperCreekWanderer  from 80 near Boreal.

Articles about other hikes you may be interested in:

Tahoe National Forest

Trails listed by Location

Thank you for stopping by.  Happy Trails!

edited 6-2013

1 comment:

  1. Becky posted the question to FaceBook, "Where can two out of shape parents take the kids for hikes?" My first thoughts are to Hidden Falls and to Fairy Falls, both best in spring and fall weather. Hidden Falls is in Placer, is shadier and has more trail options for distance. Bathrooms and parking are nice. Fairy (Shingle or Beale)Falls in Spenceville Refuge near Camp Far West has a longer trail section exposed to the sun. I have seen wagons or trail strollers, and kids doing the hike. It will be most pleasant started ealier in the day. Swimming at the pool just past the bottom falls is a favorite with kids!


Thank you for your visit to Peachy Hiker's place and for taking the time to share your thoughts!