7,470 ft
5,898 ft
5.1 mi

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near Armstrong, California (United States)

Takes some effort but the views are worth it!

From the parking lot we hiked along snow covered but very packed Cold Stream Drive till we reached the side of the ridge to save time and improve our odds of reaching the peak. Turned out we had enough time that we could have started up the ridge through the trees the way we ended our first attempt ( See https://www.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=16318511 ) instead of going along the less interesting road.

We climbed up the side of the ridge and met a well-traveled trail along the crest that eventually was replaced by a snow road carved out by a tracked vehicle following the crest. The road was not there on our previous trip and made travel quicker. There was a side branch of the road down the slope toward Cold Stream Drive which we took on the way back to see where it went. The carved out snow road along the ridge crest ended when it intersected the snow covered permanent dirt road between the railroad tunnel ends. Then a typical snowshoe track resumed.

Snowshoers we met told us that they had hiked the ridge in the summer and the ridge becomes too brushy from this direction before you get to the top. There is a road to the peak coming from the other direction.

The not very dense trees of the first part gave way to a mostly treeless crest of the ridge with great views to either side that was smooth and trivial to follow till 1.8 miles. Then you enter a thick forest and the top of the ridge becomes less distinct. The main track petered out before the edge of the thick forest and did not go to the peak this day and we may not have found the best way through it.

We picked our way through the trees going around the denser thickets while staying near the top of the ridge. The surface was sometimes uneven and several buried small trees created air pockets that tried to swallow us, but that added to the adventure! The GPS came in handy to keep us going straight. For most of the forest we did not find any unobstructed routes. Near the end we found a clear, but steeper, route to the South of the crest to the peak.

There are great views of the steep ridge sides, Donner Lake, Castle Peak, highway 80 and railroad snow sheds from the peak area which is above the trees and fairly flat.

I rate this between moderate and difficult because of length, elevation gain, you may have to break trail through untracked forest and a steep section just before the peak. Not hazardous (as long as you avoid the really steep slopes and cornices) or requiring much skill, but does present some challenges if you want to go all the way to the top. There seems to be a wide variation in what is plowed, tracked or carved based on my limited experience.

There are just a few official parking places at the trail head. Cold Stream Road to the trailhead is paved and was plowed wide enough to allow for a lot of parking on the side. It was popular with people playing in the snow in the flat area before the ridge. There are intimidating signs at the trailhead guarding the (plowed this day) access to the open field saying no parking, do not enter, no trespassing and especially no brush dumping! All but the latter don’t seem to apply in the winter. I think Cold Stream Road is only open November to April when Donner Memorial State Park is closed. The rest of the year you have to pay to enter through the park. No fees or facilities at the trailhead, but civilization is nearby. Dogs OK.


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