Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
700.00 ft (213.36 m)
Trail type
5.00 mi (8.05 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The 5-mile roundtrip hike to Johnson Canyon Overlook boasts beautiful panoramic views and is rated as moderate. The trail is open year-round, however, be sure to bring adequate winter gear such as snowshoes if you plan on hiking September through April. Portions of the trail occasionally remain snow-covered through late summer.

Beginning at the Glacier Way Trailhead located off Ski Slope Way, the gravel trail gradually gains elevation as it passes over sparsely forested hillsides. There are numerous intersections with other trails, however, they are well marked. Continue to follow the signs for Donner Lake Rim Trail.

The route soon becomes a narrow dirt path that winds through dense manzanita and pine trees. During the summer, wildflowers paint the landscape vibrant shades of yellow and violet. Along the way, there is a shaded picnic table overlooking Donner Lake and the surrounding mountains, a perfect spot for a snack or break from hiking.

At Johnson Canyon Overlook is a warming hut called the Drifter Hut, resting at an elevation of 7,635 feet. Here the view stretches from Castle Peak in the northwest to the Sierra Crest to the south. From here, hikers may choose to descend into Johnson Canyon via Donner Lake Rim Trail West or take Drifter Trail to Hawk’s Peak and Alder Creek. To return to the Glacier Way parking lot, take Far Side Trail, which quickly loops back to Donner Lake Rim Trail East.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Beautiful views. Wildflowers. Warming hut.


Little shade.

Trailhead Elevation

7,140.00 ft (2,176.27 m)

Highest point

7,688.00 ft (2,343.30 m)


Vault toilet
Big vistas

Typically multi-day


Suitable for


Permit required



Nearby Adventures

Nearby Lodging + Camping


Have updates, photos, alerts, or just want to leave a comment?
Sign In and share them.