I was chasing spring up the mountains in late July. I found it on the Mount Judah Loop Trail.
Stay right off the freeway up Donner Pass Road. Pass Sugar Bowl Road and a couple hundred yards past the Sugar Bowl parking area you will see a small cluster of buildings that was the Sugar Bowl Academy. Turn right in the parking area and travel to the right down the narrow road that leads to the trailhead to park. At the trailhead you will find a map with several local trails and landmarks. In the bottom right of the map you will find the Mount Judah Loop Trail.
The start of the trail is decomposed granite and was nearly overwhelmed everywhere I turned with spring growth in a variety of rich greens, topped with red, orange, pink, purple, yellow, and white flowers.
The climb begins quickly up switchbacks of granite steps, and is exposed to the sun in many areas.
The trail does level out in a forest of pines, aspen, and alder overlooking Lake Mary. I expected to see plenty of mule’s ear in bloom but I was thrilled to see so much more.
Deeper into the trail I felt transported to a jungle filled with such a variety of thick greenery I found myself taking pictures of every plant as each seemed bigger and brighter than the last.
Finding patches of snow was a great surprise and I could not help following my youngest son with a slide, on our bottoms, back down to the trail.
A mile into the hike there is a sign that is the intersection of Donner Pass Trail and Mount Judah Loop Trail, follow the Mount Judah Loop Trail. Another sign still further in will send you to the right to continue the loop to the peak.
You will know when you reach the peak. The wind comes from every direction, taking an easy 20 degrees off the valley temperatures. Depending on the time of day you go, it’s another great benefit of hiking at this 7988-ft. elevation.
The views from the top are spectacular with Donner Lake and Donner Peak in one direction, overlooking Sugar Bowl and it’s Crow’s Nest, Castle peak in another, and the long ridge of Mount Lincoln.
After taking a seat on one of the rocks strewn about the top of Mount Judah, enjoying a snack, and taking several panoramic pictures, we made our descent.
This trail has become quite popular, and dogs are welcome on the trail, but we still had the peak to ourselves. The direct sun along the peak may require another application of sun block. A hat and sunglasses are also advisable. Walking sticks are helpful as well, as there is loose granite.
The hike makes its way down the mountain side and wanders through forest and lush greenery once again before you come to the end of the loop at the first intersection that returns you to the granite steps toward the trailhead.
The Mount Judah Loop Trail is like a great book you want to read in one setting, but also never want to end. From Tahoe National Forest: the trail is open for the following uses: Hiking and Horseback Riding.
To see the original article and photos in the Auburn Journal newspaper, CLICK HERE.