When do you ever get the chance to hike a tunnel? A tunnel that speaks volume of history and that allowed emigrants into California from the East. Yes, Donner Pass is named after the Donner Party. If you don't know anything about the Donner Party, click the link for a quick history lesson. I found out about this hike the night before, and immediately knew this was a must do hike! I did some research and the next morning I packed up Joose (my dog) and off we go, day trip with the pup. Two hours later I took exit to Soda Springs and parked at the entrance of the tunnel by sugar bowl ski resort. Ready to kick ass and chew bubble gum, and I'm all out of gum!
Look for this sign for parking. If you take a right at this turn, you drive over the entrance about 100 feet after the turn. There is a red gate that you can walk around or go under to start the hike.
"China Wall" or "Chinese Wall" which was constructed by the Chinese to hold up the train as it passed between tunnels.
The hike is about 5.6 miles out and back and is rated easy. I created the route on Alltrails.com if you want to check it out. Multiple segments of tunnels with openings throughout the tunnels for natural sunlight. I am a fan of graffiti or "urban art" I like to say and looking at all the graffiti that filled the walls of the tunnels was a sight to see. If you want to bring a flashlight, feel free. I brought one but didn't really need it due to the natural sunlight that penetrates the tunnel windows and cracks throughout the hike. It was 90 degrees during this hike but when you enter the tunnels, you feel a cool breeze and the temperature drops a good 20 degrees.
I was impressed on how big the tunnels were. They had to be at least 30 feet tall, higher at some points and 20 feet wide. How did they get that high in the late 1800s'?!
Another part of the hike I enjoyed was the beautiful views that overlooked Donner Lake and Donner Summit Bridge.
Bring the kids, camera, and a flashlight for an easy and fun hike with the family.If you feel like being adventurous, there are openings that allow you to get on top of the tunnels for an even better view of the area. Finish the hike and head down to the lake to cool off or if you decide to go during the winter, then a few ski resorts are a short walk away.
Don't be afraid of the dark. Face your fears. Conquer the unknown.