Indoor Climbing, Truckee Airshow and Tahoe City Trails

I had a really low-key weekend, but I also managed to fit in a few activities. We had been having early – late afternoon thunderstorms for most of last week, which put a damper on the usual afterwork outdoor activities. My softball game on Thursday even got rained out! By Friday, I was ready to do something. Since I didn’t want to play chicken with potential lightening, I convinced Greyson that we should head over to Incline Village to climb and the indoor climbing gym at High Altitude Fitness.

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High Altitude Fitness climbing wall photo via High Altitude Fitness

High Altitude Fitness is a swanky gym with a really nice climbing wall. It’s pretty much the only “real” indoor climbing wall in the Tahoe Basin (but they’re supposed to open up a Truckee location at some point!). They’ve got bouldering, auto belays and top roping, as well as a few routes bolted for sport climbing (bring your own rope). They re-set routes pretty often, and the ones I climbed on Friday (5.8 – 5.10a) were some of the most fun indoor climbing routes I’ve ever tried. There’s also a lounge area where you can get a smoothie or a $2 PBR and take a break. High Altitude Fitness is a full gym, with cardio machines, a weight room, fitness classes, etc., but I’ve only ever used the climbing wall, but they look pretty nice! They offer a ten pass punch card for $152 ($110 for locals!), which is a pretty great deal, especially compared to the cost of other regional climbing gyms.

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Kelly climbing at High Altitude on Ladies Night

Hight Altitude Fitness seems to run specials and deals fairly often. Off the top of my head, I have gotten a half priced locals pass at their screening of Valley Uprising earlier this year, I’ve climbed for free on their Wednesdays Ladies Night and gotten a two-for-one entry for Date Night Friday. Note: High Altitude did not pay me to write this – I just really love their climbing wall, and I’m excited for their Truckee location to open!

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On Saturday, I attended the Truckee Airshow at the Truckee Tahoe Airport. While attending the air show isn’t necessarily something I’d think to do on my own, I ended up enjoying it. Greyson and I worked a booth there, soliciting public feedback and handing out re-usable grocery bags. After the mostly stormy weather during the week, it ended up being a gorgeous day. We were stationed in a pop-up tent, but I kept dragging my chair into the sunshine to enjoy the warmth and see more of the show. There were all sorts of cool planes and helicopters set up on the tarmac and flyovers throughout the day. There were a couple of really great trick pilots doing flips and loops that made me dizzy just watching, and I also really liked the flyover by the WW2 Bearcat and Wildcat.

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I’m semi in the market for a new bike – because three bikes is not enough, right? I’m not ready to buy one quite yet, but I’m narrowing down what I’m interested in. I currently have a hardtail Cannondale cross country bike and a full-suspension bike (GT Sanction) with 6 inches of travel that’s great on the downhills, but not the easiest for pedaling. So I’m looking for a trail bike that’s somewhere in between the two. I have a couple of models in mind (Transition Scout, Specialized Stumpjumper, Trek Remedy, etc.), and I hope to try out a bunch before I’m ready to buy.

This weekend, Specialized was doing a free demo day at a couple of local bike shops. I missed out on the Truckee day on Saturday due to the airshow, but they were in Tahoe City on Sunday at Olympic Bike Shop. Greyson and I headed to Tahoe City with tentative plans to demo bikes on new-to-us trails and then head to the beach for Concerts at Commons Beach (free live music on Sundays at the beach).

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I was luckily able to borrow the exact bike I wanted to try – the 2016 Specialized Stumpjumper 650b! We got some beta on which trails to try, and Greyson and I headed up the steep hill to the Tahoe Cross Country Ski Area/Burton Creek State Park. The climb to the trails was HARD! There was a ~0.5 mile climb up a very steep paved road and then you kept climbing up fire road for another mile. It ended up being ~600 feet of climbing in ~1.5 miles. The bike I was demo-ing climbed really well, and I don’t even want to know what that would have felt like on my Sanction.

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When we got to the trail portion, I was kind of underwhelmed. I’ve heard this area is full of tons of unmarked and hard to find trails, so it’s quite possible we were just not on the fun stuff. The sections of trails we rode were pretty flat and boring, and, probably due to our lack of knowledge, we spent a lot of time on fire roads. Judging by the trails we rode, I didn’t think they were worth the climb! We did end up on one short section that I thought was really fun, but it pretty quickly turned to steep, loose rocks. I attempted to go down this section, and I did not succeed. I crashed the demo bike! The bike and I both ended up being fine, but I do have some nice scrapes and a partially-pulled off thumbnail. Gross.

Luckily, we were close to the end of the trail, and I limped back to the bike shop, dirty and embarrassed. All in all, I really liked the Stumpjumper, but I don’t think the rear suspension was set up optimally for me and I’m not in love with the 1×11 gearing. I’m hoping to be able to ride the Stumpjumper again this summer, hopefully on trails I’m familiar with, so I can do a comparison to my current bikes.

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Due to the drought, the Concerts at Commons Beach is currently not exactly on the beach, but it was still fun to sit outside in perfect temperatures and listen to music.

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We were both starving, so we didn’t end up hanging out at the concert for very long, but it was a great way to cap off a fun weekend!

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Local’s Favorite: Donner Lake

I am super lucky in that my new apartment is just a few flights of stairs and across the street from public access to Donner Lake. I can go from lying on the couch to lying in a floatie in under 5 minutes! While Lake Tahoe gets most of the glory in the area, Donner Lake is an underrated gem!

Donner Lake Truckee California // tahoefabulous.com

When I lived in South Lake Tahoe, I was only a couple of blocks from a public beach, and, comparing the two, I actually prefer swimming in Donner Lake. The Lake Tahoe beach I was closest to was really, really shallow – especially these last couple drought years. You would have to walk out a half mile to be deep enough to swim! It would also get really gross from the shallow water, popularity and nearby dog beach. Uggghhh – green slime.

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Slimy and shallow Reagan Beach on the south shore. Photo by Greyson Howard.

Donner Lake, on the other hand, gets deep quite quickly, and I much prefer the nearshore water quality to the south shore of Lake Tahoe. Greyson Likes to say that Donner Lake would be way more popular if it wasn’t so close to Lake Tahoe. Honestly, though, I don’t really mind! It definitely still gets busy on nice weekends, and it can be especially crazy on holidays – Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day. Check out the amazing photos he took of Donner Lake (from Green Phantom climbing area on Donner Summit) last week.

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Donner Lake is open to motorized traffic, but you’ll see tons of stand up paddle boarders, kayakers, small sailboats and swimmers in the water. There are a bunch of places around town you can rent SUP and kayaks, and a couple of places on the lake to rent boats as well.

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The coolest thing about Donner Lake are its public docks. These are small docks owned and operated by the Truckee Parks and Recreation district, and are available to the public on a first come, first serve basis. These docks aren’t big enough to launch a speedboat or anything, but they are perfect for hanging out in the sun and wading in to cool off. Most years, you could launch a canoe, kayak or stand up paddle board from the docks, but the water is a little low for that for Summer 2015. The plus side to the low water level is the small sandy beaches that have appeared making for even more public water access. We watched the fireworks on the Fourth of July from one of the new beaches on Saturday.

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For my friend’s bachelorette party last summer, we claimed a dock early in the morning, and hung out there all day, drinking beers and floating on inner-tubes when we got too warm. It was a great way to spend the day before going out that evening. For your best shot at claiming a dock, arrive by at least 9 am on weekends, though you may get lucky later in the day. You can park for free on the side of Donner Pass Road, but don’t park in the bike lane! You’ll get ticketed, and it’s rude to the many cyclists who ride that way for transportation or recreation. The docks are located on Donner Pass Road on the north side of Donner Lake. If you run out of food, drinks, or sunscreen, you can find that and more at Sticks Market, which is the best store in the area.

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If the docks are full, or you’re more interested in a sandy beach, you can head down to West End Beach, which is open to the public for a $5 admission fee before 5:00 pm. West End Beach has a number of amenities, including a playground, bathrooms, concession stand and rentals. I like to head to West End Beach to watch the sunset. You won’t have to pay the entry fee, and the water is usually still warm enough to swim in the early evenings. Occasionally, local gear shops host free stand up paddle board demo days and races, so check that out!

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Donner Lake is also the home of Donner Memorial State Park (yes Donner Lake is named after THOSE Donners), which has camping, a public boat ramp, a visitor’s center and a monument to the Donner Party. Another thing I like to do at Donner Lake is ride my bike around it. It’s pretty easy 7 mile road bike ride, that takes you through the state park with only about 170 feet of climbing (ignore the elevation on my Strava Map picture – I’m not sure what’s going on there!).

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Tahoe Summer Essentials

The weather is warm, the pine pollen is in full swing, and I’ve started checking items off my Tahoe Summer Bucket List – summer is here! I thought I’d share my list of my essential gear for an amazing summer in Tahoe (or anywhere warm with a water body and unlimited trails!)

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  1. A swimsuit you can actually swim in! I have a few of these, ranging from a one piece Tyr for open water swims to cute and functional bikinis. My current favorite thing to do is to pair this Patagonia top with these prAna Ramba bottoms. I also have a Calavera suit (lifeguard top and bottom), which I really like. I like how their sizing tool lets you put in measurements for your optimal size. The bottoms I got fit me well, but don’t have as much coverage as I was expecting. They stay in place and look great though! Note: As of 2019, Calavera no longer exists, sadly. I really like Athleta and Carve for active swimsuits, in addition to Patagonia and prAna.
  2. Healthy sunscreen and a hat. While I care about protecting myself from sun damage, I also worry about the potentially harmful effects of certain sunscreen ingredients on our waterways. I try to choose sunscreens that are mineral based (as opposed to “chemical”). If you’re looking for a healthy sunscreen that is activity, sweat and water-proof and works, my friend Kristen at Wayfare Collective did a great round up of environmentally friendly sunscreens to help you find one that will hold up to hard use: Part OnePart Two,Part Three. I’ve been using Beyond Coastal 30 SPF and, while I don’t love the smell or the way it feels – I can’t deny that it stays put. Greyson’s beard sometimes still smells like sunscreen, even after all day outside and washing his face.

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Another great way to keep sun off my face (and prevent scalp burns – thanks, fine hair!) is a hat. While there are a ton of cute and stylish floppy hats out there, my favorite is an old baseball cap I got in a thrift store in Bishop, California. Baseball hats seem to work well when I’m active, keeping my hair and sweat off my face and covering up the second or third day of camp hair.

  1. A way to keep your drink cold. Having a cold beer or icy Negroni on the beach or dock is one of summer’s true joys. If the sun is beating down on you, keeping your drink refreshing can be a challenge.

Beer coozie

You can always go with a standard beer koozie, but if you need your ice to last longer, I like the 16 oz insulated Klean Kanteen. It keeps cold drinks cold for up to 12 hours, and never gets a gross smell, no matter how long you leave old lemonade festering in there. (Not that I know from experience or anything.)

Negroni photo by Greyson Howard

Negroni from Reno Provisions. Photo by Greyson Howard.

  1. A bike to ride around town. While I own several bikes, I’m most attached to the one I ride the most – an early 2000’s Cannondale hardtail in Sobe green. While this bike is still great on the trails (I rode it on the Flume Trail this spring), it’s the bike I generally ride around town. Really, there’s nothing more fun than throwing a towel & sunscreen, a great book, some chips and a water bottle into my backpack and pedaling down to the beach. I also love riding to the bar to meet friends for a happy hour beer, and racing home as an adult bike gang.

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  1. For night rides and camping – a headlamp. I can slip mine (the Petzl Tikka 2 Plus) under my helmet when I’m bike commuting home after dark and it’s light enough (no heavy battery pack) that I don’t really notice it when I’m reading in the tent.
  2. Adventure sandals. I know that adventure sandals have their specific place – and, in my opinion, that place is almost everywhere. Ha! I personally love Chacos (I recently bought my 4th pair) and the Z-tanline is pretty much permanently ingrained in my foot at this point. Other great brands are Keens, Teva and Sanuk.

Tahoe Summer Essentials // tahoefabulous.com

These are just a few of the things I love for summer. What’s on your summer essentials list?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

Tahoe Summer Bucket List

Though it has felt like summer in Tahoe since about mid-February, official summer is almost here! Summer is the best time of year to be in Tahoe, but it always feels like summer slips away before I know it. So for this summer, I’ve created my official Tahoe Summer Bucket List! My list consists of new experiences and things I’ve done before, activities close to home and a few that are a short road trip away.

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  1. Backpack in Desolation Wilderness. I’ve lived in Tahoe for almost five years now, and I still haven’t gone backpacking in this gorgeous area in my backyard.
  2. Jump in Webber FallsI went a couple of times last summer, and I’m excited to go back.

Webber Falls // tahoefabulous.com

  1. Ride the Downieville Downhill.This world famous bike trail is famous for a reason. It’s 6,000 feet of epic descent, through smooth berms, loose rocks, slippery shale, and perfect dirt, and you can cap off the day with a jump in the Yuba River. (I actually checked off this item last week, but I hope to go back again this summer!)
  2. Boulder in Tuolumne Meadows.While the Yosemite Valley is popular for good reasons, the less crowded, east side of Yosemite National Park is an underrated gem. We have plans to do some bouldering, and then jump in the Tuolumne River.
  3. Soak in culture with Shakespeare at the Lake.The state park at Sand Harbor near Incline Village, Nevada has one of the best theatre venues in the world. All summer long, you can watch a Shakespeare play while the sun sets over Lake Tahoe at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival. This year, the show is Romeo and Juliet.

Tahoe Shakespeare Festival // tahoefabulous.com

  1. Go Gnarbuckling in the Yuba River. The South Yuba River near Nevada City is a pretty magical place. The area’s mining legacy created boulder fields, deep pools and mini waterfalls. One of Greyson’s friends invented the sport of “gnarbuckling”, which is traveling upstream in the Yuba River, via hiking, scrambling, swimming, jumping and falling. It’s quite a workout, and is best chased by a Mammoth 395 at Matteo’safterwards.
  2. Do my first bikepacking trip.Neither Greyson or I have done bikepacking before, but we have big plans do a one or two day bikepacking trip on the Tahoe Rim Trail, or some other local spot.
  3. Visit all the local breweries!Tahoe is finally stepping up its local beer game, and I have yet to sample all of the new options. That’s going to change this summer. I haven’t tried Alibi Ale Works in Incline Village or The Brewing Lair in Blairsden. I need to give Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co. in Tahoe City another shot and return to Cold Water Brewery in South Lake Tahoe. I’ll hopefully go on some road trips, and visit my favorites, Mountain Rambler Brewery in Bishop, June Lake Brewing in June Lake and Mammoth Brewing Company in Mammoth Lakes. New and new-to-me breweries seem to be popping up all over the place, and I plan to visit as many as I can! Also, I hope to hit up one or two beer festivals. Maybe Truckee Brew Fest or Reno’s CANFEST.

tahoefabulous.com

  1. Raft the American River. Just down the hill from Tahoe, the American River runs through Coloma. This spot is a world class white water rafting destination, and I’d love to do a raft trip this summer.
  2. Climb a 14-er. Probably not Mount Whitney, but I’d like to climb one of California’s 14,000+ foot mountains this summer.
  3. Bike at Mammoth Mountain Bike Park. Last year was the first year in a long time that I didn’t spend at least a day biking at Mammoth Mountain. Even with lift serviced trails, you’re working hard on the fun trails with great views.

Tahoe Summer Bucket List // tahoefabulous.com

  1. Hike from Sugar Bowl to Squaw Valley on the Pacific Crest Trail.Hopefully the wildflowers will be in full bloom when I do this hike.
  2. Swim every week! We may be in the midst of a drought, but Donner Lake and Lake Tahoe still have excellent swimming. Once it warms up, my goal is to swim at leastonce a week, and spend a lot of time on our pristine beaches.

These are just a few of the things I hope to do in Tahoe this summer. Anything epic I’m missing? Or, if you are visiting the Tahoe/Truckee area and want some suggestions, feel free to get in touch!

Five Best Places to Watch the Sunset in Lake Tahoe

Who doesn’t love a great sunset over the water? Luckily, there are quite a few places to catch the sunset in the Lake Tahoe area. Here are a few of my favorites.

  1. Lakeview Commons, South Lake Tahoe, California

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Cotton candy clouds at Live at Lakeview

Located at the corner of Highway 50 and Lakeview Avenue in South Lake Tahoe, this easy-to-access spot is usually bustling. During the summer, you can stake out a bbq, rent a paddle board or visit the high-class concession stand for gourmet hot dogs or local ice cream. You can also enjoy live music Thursday nights at Live at Lakeview. If crowds aren’t your thing, visit Lakeview Commons in the winter, when it is significantly less busy.

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  1. Tahoe Rim Trail from the Mount Rose Highway, Incline Village, Nevada

Looking toward the northwest shore of Lake Tahoe

A quick, 1.5 mile flat hike on the Tahoe Rim Trail from the Mount Rose Highway trailhead will bring you to a great spot to camp out and watch the sunset. There are plenty of flat rocks to post up on and get comfortable while you watch the sunset over the West Shore mountains of Lake Tahoe. I’d recommend bringing in a couple of beers and some snacks.

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  1. Trout Creek Meadow/Lily Beach, South Lake Tahoe, California

Smoke particles in the air make for astounding sunsets.

If you’re looking for an easy to access, but not crowded beach in South Lake Tahoe, I have to recommend Trout Creek Meadow/Lily Beach. You can access this area from the west end of San Francisco Avenue in the Al Tahoe neighborhood or from the bike path behind Meek’s Lumber. The meadow is a great place for bird and wildlife watching, so be on the lookout for coyotes and waterfowl of all kinds. Dogs must be on leash (and are banned during certain key bird breeding seasons) and no alcohol!

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  1. Hidden Beach, Incline Village, Nevada

Sunset over the East Shore boulders is a Tahoe must-see.

I’ve talked about my love for hidden beach in a previous post. Check it out here!

  1. The Top of Mount Tallac, South Lake Tahoe, California

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Cascade Lake and Lake Tahoe from a different angle.

For our more adventurous sunset seekers, you could take a late afternoon hike up Mount Tallac, watch the sunset over Lake Tahoe and Desolation Wilderness, and then hike down under a full moon. This is a strenuous 9.5 out and back hike, with over 3,500 feet of elevation gain that starts at 6,500 feet. The views are definitely worth it!! Be prepared for the hike, especially if you plan to come down at night. You’ll need headlamps (plus extra batteries) and confidence in your ability to follow the trail in the dark.

Want even more great places to watch the sunset in Lake Tahoe? Click here for more of my suggestions.

Tahoe Paradise: Webber Falls

This weekend I was lucky enough to experience possibly the coolest spot I’ve explored since moving to Tahoe – Webber Falls.

Webber Falls, Truckee California // tahoefabulous.com

Webber Falls is created by the Little Truckee River pouring out of Webber Lake. Water cascades down two tiers of solid granite, creating a nearly perfect swimming hole above the main part of the falls. The two tiers total about 65 feet, with about 15 feet above the pool and 50 feet below. The view down the canyon is incredible, and the surrounding rocks and deep waters make for perfect jumping off rocks or just lounging in the upper falls’ light mist.

Webber Falls // tahoefabulous.com
Have you ever swam at the top of a waterfall?

While Webber Falls often feels isolated, it’s not too far off the road and is becoming a more popular destination. If you do find your way to this natural playground, be respectful and pack out everything you pack in. While this place is still nearly pristine, we did find some garbage, including cigarette butts and beer cans.

Though Webber Falls is not very far off the road (less than a 1/4 mile hike), the way down is steep and could be treacherous. Not recommended for dogs, drunk people or children! During the spring the flow is too high (and cold) for safe swimming, but the water is usually perfect by mid-summer. However, use your best judgement! Don’t swim there if you feel it is unsafe and be sure to check water depth before jumping.

Webber Falls // tahoefabulous.com
Greyson climbs around on the fun boulders surrounding the pool.

This spot is an absolute gem, and I’m so glad that I got to experience it. I’m sure I’ll be back many times in the future.

Click here to see my Webber Falls Video!

What: Webber Falls
Where: North of Truckee, California
How to get there: I’m not going to tell you! This is such a small and special spot, you’ll just have to ask a local.

Hidden Beach, Incline Village, Nevada

Hidden Beach is a gorgeous, fairly secluded beach on the east shore of Lake Tahoe. The beach is a few miles  south of Incline Village, Nevada. While there is no actual parking for this beach, there are some spots along the side of the road, and a well developed trail and set of stairs that can get you from the legal parking area to Hidden Beach about half a mile away.

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The best place to park is on the lake side of the road, about two miles north of Sand Harbor. There will probably be cars there already. Be sure you are parking in a legal parking area! You will be ticketed and possibly towed if you park in residential During the summer, arrive early! Parking is often full before noon, and I would suggest arriving before 10 am.

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The water is the trademark Tahoe aqua and very clear. It often tends to be warmer than some of the other Tahoe beaches, so it’s a great place for swimming. The sand isn’t as nice as some of the North and South Shore beaches, but it’s definitely good enough for lounging around and enjoying the sun. It’s also a great place for watching the sun set over the mountains.

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The last time I was there, I saw an osprey fishing, 3 paragliders showing off, and no naked people! Legally, this is not a nude beach, but I’ve heard rumors that sometimes there are nude beach goers. If you do decide to get naked, watch for cops and don’t forget your sunscreen! This beach is also a great place to take a break on a kayak or stand up paddle board trip, and you’ll often see them glide by.

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Photo via Google Maps

Trail Report: Donner Peak Hike

I had a little incident at the climbing gym on Wednesday:

Donner Peak Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Luckily, it’s just a strained tendon.

I wanted to take it fairly easy on my hand this weekend (no biking or climbing), so I went on a hike! Since I started mountain biking three years ago, I haven’t tended to do a lot of hiking, as I’d generally rather be on a bike. I’ve been doing more hiking recently, and I was reminded how awesome it can be.

Greyson, Sylas and I decided to climb to the top of Donner Peak, a hike they’ve both done many times.

Donner Peak Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Greyson and Sylas enjoy the view from the top.

The hike starts on the Pacific Crest Trail, just off Highway 20 in Truckee. It’s just under 4 miles, with 1.8 ish mile climb up. You take the PCT up for about a mile, then turn left onto the Judah Loop. The last part is an off-trail scramble to the top of the peak.

Donner Peak Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Donner Peak Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Donner Peak boasts incredible views.

Donner Peak Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Some overly friendly wildlife.

Donner Peak Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Bring binoculars. We spotted a couple of waterfalls rushing in the distance.

I tracked our hike via Strava. The hike up took about 43 minutes to cover 1.8 miles with 933 feet of elevation gain. We definitely weren’t rushing on this hike, stopping to enjoy the views and throw some snowballs. At this point in this low-snow year, there’s not really any snow on the trail, but some of the sections of trails are very muddy and covered by small meltwater streams. Wear boots or expect wet feet! We stopped several times on the hike down to examine and identify wildflowers. While the wildflowers aren’t going crazy yet, I imagine that this hike will be excellent for wildflowers in the next couple of weeks.

Donner Peak Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Hike stats: 3.8 miles, 933 feet elevation gain, 1:27

Click here for more information and better directions to this hike.