Elevation Gain
890.00 ft (271.27 m)
Trail type
4.00 mi (6.44 km)
Warming hut
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 Summit Lake snowshoe is only about 4 miles round trip with under 300 feet of net elevation gain. However, the route is slightly more difficult than others nearby because there is not an actual trail to the lake. That being said, the payoffs of this trek can be worthwhile, as you'll likely encounter few, if any, other people once you veer from the forest road that most winter visitors stick to.

Sharing the same trailhead as the Andesite Peak and Castle + Basin Peak snowshoe routes, visitors heading to Summit Lake split off from the forest road parking area and head in an eastbound direction through the trees. During the winter, there is no marked trail, though it may be possible to follow the tracks of others. The route parallels Interstate 80, heading up and down over rolling terrain. The terrain can become very steep, and navigating around sheer drops and cornices may be necessary.

The route will lead to exposed areas, where views of the towering crags of Castle Peak to the immediate north become visible, along with Boreal Ski Resort, Donner Peak, and Northstar Ski Resort to the south of the freeway. A short ways after the Donner Summit rest area—which isn't visible from the path, but makes the best reference point—the course veers from an eastbound direction to slightly northeast. Summit Lake will sit at a point near where the eastern ridge from Castle Peak heads down to a thicker stand of trees.

The lake may be frozen over or covered in snow during the winter months. From here, retracing the route to the trailhead becomes easier. Those wanting to tack on some distance and difficulty may opt to climb the ridge to Castle Peak and create a loop path back to the trailhead.

There is weak cell service along the trail, and this should not be relied on.

Parking is available for free along the shoulder of the forest road heading north from exit 176 on I-80. However, if the forest road is icy or covered in snow, visitors may have to park in either the Sno Park or Boreal Ski Resort on the south side of the freeway offramp and walk to the trailhead. Those hiking at either of these locations should be aware that parking fees may be required.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass



Amazing views. No crowds.


Highway noise. Requires navigation.

Pets allowed


Trailhead Elevation

7,270.00 ft (2,215.90 m)

Highest point

7,560.00 ft (2,304.29 m)


Near lake or river
Big vistas

Typically multi-day


Groomed trail


Snowmobiles allowed



Nearby Adventures

Nearby Lodging + Camping


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