Mark Hudon climbing at Donner, 1979.
Photo by Blit...
Donner Pass is located just south of 80 east of Truckee. The climbing is on granite rocks ranging from small to hundreds of feet. Both cracks and sport climbs co-exist here, and there are some kick-ass climbs of both sorts.Camping near the climbing is illegal, but doesn't seem to be too severely enforced. If that troubles you, there's camping on the opposite side of Donner Lake, or plenty of hotel-type accomadations in nearby Truckee, which also is an ample source of food and entertainment.The Donner Pass climbing season is from ~mid-April until whenever snow closes the road in November or December. Donner's 7000' elevation means that even during beautiful summer days a surprise storm is possible, so be prepared.
From the Bay Area, take 80 East, through Sacramento. Continue uphill until the Soda Springs exit. Follow Donner Pass Road through Soda Springs and past the ski area exits until you find yourself travelling down a steep and windy road with large rocks on both sides. The first rock you'll come across is Baboon Crag then School Rock, both on your left. Total drive time is highly dependent on traffic and your willingness to speed, but it can be done in just over two hours if you're foot is heavy...
Browse More Classics in Donner Pass
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Donner Pass:
Featured Route For Donner Pass
: Tahoe Vicinity
: ... : Grouse Slab
Short Cake is an excellent face climb on beautiful solid granite. The climb goes up just right of the Jellyroll Arch start. Climb the Jellyroll Arch corner for 10' or so and turn the corner on the right onto the face just below the first bolt. Continue up on thin face passing 2 or 3 more bolts. At one point you get very close to Insidious Crack, the 5.6 climb to the right. At this point move left and follow an obvious line past horizontal and vertical cracks. Good gear protects this whole up...[more] Browse More Classics in CA
View from high above Donner Lake
Unknown problem (V4?) on an unknown boulder at Don...
This picture isn't washed out... I just glow that ...
|By Brian Quiter|
From: Oakland, CA
May 11, 2004
More about camping: the Donner Lake camping area doesn't open up until Memorial Day, but Granite Flats campground opens earlier. It is located a few miles south of Truckee on highway 89. It costs $15/night/site and an extra $5/night for each extra vehicle. Its not the most remote campsite as it is directly adjacent to 89, but has decent toilets and well water.
|By Aron Quiter|
From: Berkeley, CA
Sep 16, 2004
Sometimes $20 a night.
Sep 25, 2006
Donner has some great climbing!
|By Nikolai Daiss-Fechner|
From: Boulder, CO
Feb 11, 2008
If climbing near the top of Donner (Goldilocks, Schoolhouse, Hiking PCT etc), please do not park in the paved part of the Sugar Bowl Academy lot (formerly ASI). There is a service road that runs out the back of the lot. Parking on any of the dirt in this area is permitted. Just stay off the pavement.
Bathrooms are rather scarce on Donner, and burying it is tough since most of the ground is solid rock. There is an outhouse at Snowshed wall (can't miss it), as well as bathrooms at the Cafe in Norden (West towards where you get onto 80). Donner Ski Ranch is also sometimes an option. SBA (right on the pass) CANNOT allow general public to use their restrooms legally. Also, down on 40 along Donner lake there are a few small cafes and stores that may or may not have bathrooms. There is a beach on Donner lake at the west end that has restrooms, but there is an access fee depending on the time of year.
The easily accessible docks on Donner Lake are for public use, on a kind of first come first serve basis. Look down at the shore as you drive along the lake to find them. Excellent place to have an evening beer after climbing or spend a rest day lounging and swimming. (On a side note, do not fish here without a license because Rangers DO come by to check). The swimming is first class...water temps are chilly but very nice as far as snow runoff fed lakes go.
I would be more than happy to provide any additional info. Feel Free to contact me. I however, have a terrible memory and rout beta is not my strong point. I did live here (at SBA) for 2 years though and know the area itself very well
|By Fred Gomez|
From: Lewisburg, WV
May 3, 2009
couple of questions about Donners Pass:
Is all the snow melted by the end of May? Is everything climbable at this time?
Are crowds ever a problem here? Is it very often that you have to wait in line for a popular climb? Would memorial day weekend be a bad time to go?
Thanks for any info you have.
|By Rick D|
From: Reno, NV
May 4, 2009
Response to Slab Guy:
The snow will still be around but you can get to all the walls as of right now. Snowshed is still pretty wet though. Snowshed is usually packed on the weekends, Truckee will be a zoo on memorial, everyone from the bay comes up.
|By Paul Rezucha|
Nov 2, 2009
Could anyone tell me if there is any good place to camp this time of year around Donner? Most campgrounds are open May through October. Forest Land is ok to "dispense" camp but where/how does one find a good area that's not private and that is accessible. You do need a fire permit (free) from the park service/visitor center if you plan to cook or have a fire. Thanks!
From: Las Vegas, NV
Oct 21, 2011
Does anyone know what camp site is closest and if there are any camp sites paid or BLM with trails leading to the climbing areas? I'm fine with long trails, even up to 10-12 miles.
Jul 10, 2012
Can anyone recommend a guidebook for Donner and/or all of North Tahoe? I searched online and all I could find was the Falcon guide from 1999 and a Maximus Press book for Big Chief.
|By John Jackson|
Jul 13, 2012
If you want the comprehensive guidebook for the North Tahoe region:
The new LOCALS GUIDE to North Tahoe has all 1,300 of the known routes in the North Tahoe-Donner-Reno region with full color overlays of almost every route. Included are seven hundred routes not documented in the other guidebooks listed, as well as a detailed history of climbing in the region.
More info here: camp4press.com
From: Reno, NV
Aug 5, 2012
This guide is awesome for the area. For a .7-.8 climber it's helped to point me to some fun stuff. Going to go hit some .6 and .7 up above snowshed today and help clean it out!!!!
Thanks J. Jackson, see you at happy hour.
|By Alex Haeger|
From: Denver, CO
Oct 20, 2012
For anyone interested, the state park campground on Donner Lake is closed for the season as of 10/19/12. I got here late on 10/19/12 and was unable to find safe looking national forest land, although according to maps of the area national forest land surrounds the donner pass area. Does anyone have better info on camping in the NF land?