Located just to the west of Donner Lake and Donner Memorial State Park, this snowshoe trail to the Matrimony Tree provides all of the beauty of the Tahoe area without the traffic. This trip is easily done in a few hours, and it includes an excellent viewpoint that is ideal for a lunch stop.
While the trail has no obvious trailhead, it leaves from Troy Road just to the west of Donner Trail School, which is usually closed and not plowed. Most people park at the bottom of Troy Road because the uphill can get pretty icy. Try to get there early because there is only limited parking. If there isn't any parking available, there is additional parking at the school.
Start the trip by following Troy Road until you find the railroad, or snowshoe next to the road if you are feeling adventurous. Be very careful as you cross the railroad as the sound of the train descending from the south can be muted.
Note that signs marking the trail become a little confusing once you cross the tracks, and a map is recommended. Follow the small blue cross-country ski sign for about 0.25 miles until you see another sign that says "Follow the Rainbow Trail 0.5 mi / 0.8 km." If you turn too sharply and see a sign that says "One way downhill, Rainbow connection to Rainbow Trail," back up and bear to the right. Look for a sign marking the end of trail maintenance to rediscover the trail to Matrimony Tree.
Keep going south and you will pass a huge split boulder that is a sign that you are getting closer to end of the forest. Once you leave the forest, Devils Peak looms to the west. To reach the tree, follow the ridge on your right. The tree is a popular spot for proposals and weddings, hence the name. In addition to the gorgeous views of the valley on the south, the tree perfectly frames Devils Peak. Take your time enjoying the view, or explore the mile-long Matrimony Ridge in another direction before heading back to your car.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.