This trail is referred to as a "loop" in most guides, but it is actually a lollipop shape, with a 6-mile in-and-out segment in the beginning, and a loop to follow that is about 3.4 miles. Some hikers and their fur-pups only walk the first segment because it's a gradual climb and easy, but those aiming to reach the summit of Lookout Mountain will continue on at the loop. This segment is very strenuous and confronts you with snow a good part of the year, plus ice, loose rocks and boulders up a very steep climb. The elevation change on the first segment is about 900 feet, but on the loop and summit side trail it's over 2000 feet.
The in-and-out portion of the Donner Pass Trail travels through a series of old railroad tunnels, making it unique as hikes go. Artistic graffiti covers every inch of the tunnel walls and is enjoyed by most hikers. Be sure to carry a flashlight or headlamp so you can see them and the trail below your feet. Scenic turnouts in the tunnels offer views of the surrounding area. For those who take on the summit trail, the views can only be described as furbulous and breathtaking. They take in Donner Lake, surrounding towns, and mountains and canyons for miles. It's a great spot to rest and have lunch with Fido.
For variety, this trail features a few small waterfalls and caves. On the less positive side, however, are the mosquitoes, so don't forget the bug repellant! Near the bottom of the loop, you will find petroglyphs that merit a look, and in spring and summer, abundant wildflowers provide an eye-popping show.
This is a rugged, multi-use trail that offers both relatively easy and challenging aspects. Whichever you choose, you will take pawsome memories with you when you leave.