Donner Summit Recreation

Discover the All Season Playground off I- 80

A scenic paradise for I-80 travelers around the world, but so much more for those recreationalists willing to take the exit and start exploring this rich recreational paradise.

The Donner summit region of the Sierra provides some of the best snow play spots, scenic wilderness areas, OHV trails and roads, enjoyable day hikes, amazing fishing destinations for fly fishing or trolling. Plus, enjoy everything else from mountain biking to golf.

Donner Summit winter recreation:

Donner Summit has five alpine ski resorts, miles of cross country skiing, and numerous snow play areas.

Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding

  • Boreal – located right at Donner Summit off Interstate 80, Boreal draws in skiers and snowboarders of all ages. Often it is the first resort to open.
  • Sugar Bowl – miles of runs with modern lifts leading to four summits. Sugar Bowl has long been the premier ski area of Donner Summit
  • Donner Ski Ranch – located at Soda Springs just up the road from Sugar Bowl, Donner Ski Ranch has long been a favorite destination for area skiers and boarders
  • Soda Springs – A favorite family ski resort. Several children areas.
  • Tahoe Donner – Located in the Tahoe Donner development north of Truckee, open to the general public.
  • Add Northstar and Palisades Ski Resorts just off the route and you can see why Donner Summit is the destination of choice for California skiers.
Hiker In Spring Mountains Snowshoeing
Closeup hiker in spring mountains snowshoeing in solitude

Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoeing

  • Royal Gorge – the largest cross country ski area in the West, now operated by Sugar Bowl. Located at Soda Springs
  • Tahoe Donner – miles and miles of groomed cross country ski trails over varied terrain. Located north of Truckee.
  • Acres upon acres of Backcountry snowshoeing.

Snow Play Areas

  • Soda Springs – Tube Town and Planet Kids. Tubing and a moving carpet to the top of the hill for everyone and Planet Kids snow activities for children 8 and under.
  • Boreal’s Playland Tubing – a moving carpet carries tubers to the top of the hill next to the ski area.
  • Kingvale’s Tubes-R-Us – a sliding hill with a low admission price.
  • Tahoe Donner Snowplay – tubing runs open to the general public, sleds and tubes included in price of admission. located north of Truckee.

Donner Summit Summer recreation

Boating & Fishing

Boating is popular all up and down Donner Summit from the foothill lakes such as Rollins and Scotts Flat up the pass to places like Spaulding and Lake Valley and on across to the eastern side of the pass. There you’ll find lakes like Donner, Boca, Stampede, and French Meadows. 

Fishing is spectacular all around Donner Summit, especially in the famous Truckee River and in some of the bigger reservoirs such as Stampede and Spaulding. With so many destinations available to anglers, it is hard to choose.

There are over 20,000 surface acres of lakes on the Tahoe NF. They range in size from small, high mountain potholes to large reservoirs that store water for domestic uses. The lakes which are capable of supporting fisheries on the Forest primarily contain coldwater fish such as trout. About one quarter of the large lakes (e.g. Bullard’s Bar and Sugar Pine Reservoirs) provide fishing for warm water gamefish.

Fishing I-80
Ice Fishing:
  • Prosser Reservoir – Popular for canoeing, paddle boarding, kayaking, fishing and swimming. Located approximately 1.5 miles above the confluence of Prosser Creek and the Truckee River. Year round fishing. Ice fishing during winter depending on conditions. 
  • Boca Reservoir – Boca reservoir is a popular spot for water recreation of all kinds. ICE Fishing in the Winter Season

Backpacking and Day hiking

The mountains and forests around Donner Summit offer a variety of interesting trails for hikers to enjoy. Backpackers and day hikers set off to explore all the lakes in the Grouse Ridge area or along the Pacific Crest Trail. Day Hikers enjoy places such as Castle Peak or around Donner Lake.

Cycling the Roads and
Mountain Biking the Trails

Cyclers find miles of roads, including old Highway 40 and the rolling terrain along Highway 89 near Truckee.

Mountain Bikers enjoy great trails around Prosser Creek Reservoir, up on Donner Summit, over in the Grouse Ridge area, and along the Pioneer Trail.


Over 60 different campgrounds and unlimited dispersed camping options on a network of forest service roads provide weekend warriors plenty of options for their trip to the mountains.

The Best Camping

  • Jackson Meadows
  • Rollins Lake
  • Bowman Lake
  • Sugar Pine Reservoir
  • Lake Valley
  • And more than
    60 others
     . . .

Exhilarating OHV routes

Off road enthusiasts have lots of designated areas to explore, from the miles of road and trail around Prosser Hills to the expanse of forest trails out Foresthill Divide. Another popular area is around Fordyce Lake and Eagle Lakes.

Horseback Riding

Horseback riders set off in all directions, taking advantage of a number of Horse Camps such as Skillman and Little Lasier Meadow. Trail rides lead into Grouse Ridge, up and down the Pacific Crest Trail, along the Pioneer Trail, or to more adventurous places like the Painted Rock Trail or the Tevis Cup route.

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