The following photos and trail directions are from a loop I ran around Truckee on a warm September afternoon. With a start/finish in downtown Truckee, you can take advantage of free parking, easy access to breakfast/coffee at Coffeebar, and many options for finish-line food or beverages like Alibi or the Pour House.
I recommend parking in the free lot on Jibboom Street (across the street from the Pour House).
And now for the route… from the parking lot, head East on Jibboom and turn left on Bridge to run north under the freeway up the 1.5 mile paved Trout Creek Trail to Tahoe Donner. After crossing Northwoods Boulevard, continue on the dirt Powerline Trail as it meanders up, crossing Copenhagen, Herringbone Way, and finally Skislope, 2.3 Miles up from Northwoods.
At Skislope, turn right on the paved road, then left, immediately after Teton Way to connect to the Teton Way trailhead.
The switchbacks on Teton Way trail lead up to a dirt road; turn left (still called Teton Way) to connect to the trails overlooking Schallenberger Ridge. Follow this until turning right on the Bergschrund Trail.
At the top of the Bergschrund Trail, turn left on the Glacier Way trail, and continue on this until it merges with the Donner Lake Rim Trail.
The Donner Lake Rim trail (approximately 7 miles in to the run) follows the rim of Johnson Canyon.
Before reaching the Drifter Hut, watch for a steep left turn down, continuing on the Donner Lake Rim trail, onto the switchbacks that cut down and across Johnson Canyon.
When we ran this on September 8, around mile 10 we crossed the only creek of the day and were able to filter water to refill our packs.
Within a quarter mile of the creek, watch for the trail intersection sign and turn right to continue on the Donner Lake Rim Trail as it crosses Johnson Canyon, and begins climbing up to Summit Lake.
Continue on the Donner Lake Rim Trail until the Warren Lake Trail intersection – and turn left towards the I-80 Rest Area, PCT.
Before reaching the I-80 rest area, turn left on the PCT to go under the freeway through the culverts. Note: If you don’t leave a car at the PCT trailhead near Boreal like we did, I would suggest stopping at one of the rest areas, either on the north or south side of I-80, for a bathroom break and to refill your water.
Once on the south side of the freeway, we turned right to get to Steve’s car at the PCT Trailhead. He ended his run here (mile 14), I got some fresh food and a cold drink, and headed south on the PCT towards Donner Pass.
The four miles of PCT between I-80 and Old Highway 40 are beautiful and easy to follow.
The view approaching Donner Pass and Old Highway 40 is breathtaking.
The PCT crosses Old Highway 40 and continues down a dirt road to the PCT trailhead on the south side of 40.
Just to the left of the PCT trailhead is the trail that leads down into Summit Canyon.
Follow the trail as it goes under the Donner Pass Train Tunnels (marked 1913 Underpass on the map) and across the granite slabs, careful not to step on the petroglyphs along the way.
Follow the Old Lincoln Highway as it winds through Summit Canyon to Beaver Pond, and continue following down towards the West-end neighborhood at Donner Lake. The trail exits at Old Highway Drive (paved) (if you accidentally exit on Hwy 40, just follow this down to South Shore Drive).
From Old Highway, turn right on South Shore Drive and follow this about two miles around the West and South shores of Donner Lake.
After entering Donner State Park, the paved path leads to a single track that skirts between the campground and Schallenberger Ridge, as the trail crosses the park.
After passing Split Rock, stay on the north side of the pond, along the border of the Creek Campground in Donner State Park.
After crossing Cold Stream Rd, continue across the vacant lot that leads to the bridge over Cold Stream Creek and along the ponds before Deerfield Drive.
Follow Deerfield Drive until Hwy 89 and cross at the intersection. Turn left on the paved path, then right as it leads up and over the Sierra College property. After passing the school, the pavement turns to dirt and leads over to Downtown Truckee.
The dirt path turns back to a paved bike trail and leads to the roundabout at the corner of Historic Downtown Truckee. Stop at Burger Me for a quick milkshake and burger or follow Donner Pass Road until turning left on Spring Street, then right on Jibboom, to return to the car.
Strava running route saved here, although note that I had some difficulty finding the trail between the train tunnels and Summit Canyon, so if you follow the route exactly it might not be fun in that section.
And here is another one to try – a fun 35 mile loop Donner Lake.