Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
870.00 ft (265.18 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
5.40 mi (8.69 km)
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The Donner Summit Lakes Loop is a scenic hike that passes three small alpine lakes, offering a feeling of seclusion, despite being reached by a short walk from a ski resort parking area.

The route will take hikers past Lake Angela, Flora Lake and Azalea Lake, three scenic high elevation lakes perched beside glacial granite slabs with trees rooting into the stone. Lake Angela, the nearest of the three to the starting point, is maintained as a municipal water reservoir, so accessing the water in any way, as well as biking or having dogs in its vicinity is not allowed. And while it is the largest of the three lakes, the structures, and power lines surrounding it make it the least appealing of the three. Hikers will pass along the lake's eastern fringe before climbing through forest and reaching Flora Lake. 

Flora Lake is likely the nicest, not to mention the most remote of the three (remote being relative, as all three can be reached in under two miles from the trailhead). The water is dark and not especially deep, and the granite wall along its western edge provides a picturesque high elevation quality to the area. 

Finally, Azalea Lake is small, with a access to boulders along its edge. 

Hikers should be aware that the trail is unmarked and can be very confusing to try to follow. Backcountry navigation, or just being aware of route orientation between lakes and landmarks would be very helpful.

Shortly beyond Azalea Lake is the Pacific Crest Trail, where hikers can trace this popular hiking and biking path back in the direction of the trailhead. The trail rises and climbs, while opening to wide views of surrounding peaks and Donner Lake. A series of steep switchbacks descends toward Donner Pass Road, where hikers may see climbers belaying along granite walls, and the peak of Mt Judah and the snaking Donner Pass snowshed tunnels dominate the horizon.

From here, some meandering will bring you back to the parking area surrounding Donner Ski Ranch.

While the loop can be done in either direction, heading in a clockwise path will keep the steep slope for the final descent. It's also very easy to head off-path as no trails are signed, so beginning with the lakes and ending with the clearly marked PCT seem to make routefinding a little easier.

While there are alternate starting points for this hike such as the Highway 80 PCT Trailhead, we opted to begin at Donner Ski Ranch who offer parking and a small restaurant with cold drinks for after completing the hike.

Being near the peak of the mountains, these trails will be beneath thick snow with possible road closures for much of the winter and early spring seasons.

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Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

No

Open from

April 12 to November 30

Pros

Beautiful scenery. Few other people.

Cons

Highway noise along portions of trails.

Trailhead Elevation

7,030.00 ft (2,142.74 m)

Highest point

7,240.00 ft (2,206.75 m)

Features

Family friendly
Near lake or river
Big vistas

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

Nearby Adventures

Lake Tahoe + Northern Sierra, California
Lake Tahoe + Northern Sierra, California

Nearby Lodging + Camping

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