Mt. Judah Loop Trail – View from Atop!

IMG_0901A wonderful hike in Lake Tahoe is the Mt. Judah Loop Trail that offers sweeping views of Donner Lake and the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains on the North Shore.   As a resident on the North Shore, many of my recreational activities favor this side of the Lake but there are marvelous hikes in every region surrounding the lake.   The Mt. Judah Loop Trail veers off from the famed Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) that spans 2,663 mile along the West Coast from Canada all the way to Mexico.  Learn more about the Pacific Crest Trail.   The trail is well marked, moderate in difficulty, 5.5 miles in length with an elevation gain of 1,700 ft.   The trail loops around the summit of Mt. Judah, elevation 8,234ft, offering a 365-degree view of the region.

Mt. Judah Loop Trail Hike

Getting There:  Exit highway 80 at the Soda Springs Exit and travel 4 miles along the former Highway 40 to Donner Pass.  Drive past Sugar Bowl Ski Resort and turn right after a group of buildings.  You will see a parking lot on your right with cars scattered, look for the Pacific Crest Trail sign at the far end along the road.

Hike down the road until you reach the PCT trail signs indicating further directions.  A single-track trails begins to climb the backside of the mountain with rocky steps and short switchbacks.  Soon you will come across a trail intersection which indicates the beginning of the Mt. Judah Loop Trail and where you will leave the Pacific Crest Trail.   This will also be the conclusion of your loop around Mt. Judah when you return, joining back on the PCT.  The single-track trail remains fairly level and loops around the summit amongst wild flowers, pine forests and  most notably spectacular views.   Along the loop there is also a detour to a lookout from Donner Peak which I highly recommend offering an amazing vista above Donner Lake.   First summit accomplished!

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On to the next peak!  Return back to the Mt. Judah Loop Trail and follow the ridgeline as it climbs up Mt. Judah  to the highest point on the mountain.   Here is where all of your hand work will pay off!  I recommend taking a break and soaking in the 365-degree views around you, including views of the crest, Lake Mary and Sugar IMG_0911Bowl to your west, the Pacific Crest trail to your south,  Donner Lake and Truckee to your east and Castle Peak to your north.  To complete the loop, follow along the trail back down the south side of the mountain and look for the junction back to the Pacific Crest Trail.  Turn right at the junction and travel north along the Pacific Crest Trail as you descend alongside Mt. Judah, weaving through dense pine trees.  Eventually, you will pass the original junction you took to begin the Mt. Judah Trail Loop hike.  Continue along the PCT until you exist the trail.  For more information about the specifics of this hike along with others in the Lake Tahoe region I often use Every Hike as a good reference guide.
A few tips:  I recommend this hike early in the morning or late afternoon when the sun is least intense as portions are exposed.  Note that the snow hasn’t melted off the summits yet and trails at high elevations such as this one aren’t clear of snow.  Give this hike another month to ensure a dry path.  This wonderful hike can also be enjoyed during the wintertime on snowshoes!  Take extra precautions when snowshoeing along this trail and be aware of winter conditions.

Have you hiked the Pacific Crest Trail or Mt. Judah Loop Trail?  Share with us in the comments your favorite hikes to enjoy in Lake Tahoe!

If you enjoying learning about Lake Tahoe follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

All photos below to Robin Penning

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