Truckee California

Donner Pass

Donner Pass

Just nine miles west of Truckee, Donner Pass is the high point for the Sierra Nevada Mountains on Interstate 80. It has been a formidable barrier for travel for centuries. At an elevation of 7,085 feet, the pass is narrow and has a steep accent from the east, with a more gradual rise from the west.

For early settlers in the mid nineteenth century, traveling through the pass was extremely treacherous due to the severe weather and large amount of snowfall the pass receives. With an average of 415 inches of snowfall per year, Donner Pass is one of the snowiest places in the United States. The pass can also be extremely windy with wintertime storms bringing wind speeds in excess of one hundred miles per hour.

Railroad Construction

In 1968, the Central Pacific Railroad completed its construction of the first railroad to cross the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Construction took more than five years and was completed with a 1,506–foot tunnel through Donner Pass. In 1913, a road was completed over Donner Pass. This road, the Lincoln Highway, was the first road to cross America. In the early 1960ís, Interstate 80 opened, greatly increasing the accessibility of the pass.

Donner Pass with Donner Lake in background

A Popular Recreation Spot

Donner Pass is named after the Donner Party. It is now a popular recreation spot for skiing, hiking, rock climbing, and ice climbing. One hundred eighty miles northeast of San Francisco, Donner Pass is the nearest downhill skiing to the San Francisco Area.

It is home to two ski areas, Boreal Ski Resort and Sugar Bowl Ski Resort. Sugar Bowl Ski Resort has a bit of trivia as it was the first ski area in California to install a chairlift and had the first gondola lift in the United States. Backcountry skiers must use extreme caution, as the Donner Pass area is prone to avalanches.