• Activities:

    Cycling, Fitness

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Spring, Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    33 Miles


33-mile loop with steep inclines, long downhill sections, a few flats, and a few rollers. This ride features a forrest, lake views, and a stretch along the Yuba River. Duration: 4-5 hours.

We love this 33-mile loop on old Highway 40 from Cisco Grove to Donner Lake and back. It has just about everything: a few flats, a long slow pull, rollers, a screaming downhill, a tough Alpine climb and a long, cruising downhill. Not to mention altitude. The ride starts at a little above 6,000 feet, climbs to the summit at about 7,200 feet and then drops down to Donner Lake at just under 6,000 feet. Of course you retrace those numbers as you head back the other way. The whole thing also features gorgeous forest and lake views and stretch along the gurgling Yuba River which, if you are not training and can stop for a blow, makes a fantastic rest stop.

The ride: We usually start the ride at a little dirt parking area off of Old Highway 40 just east of the Cisco Grove exit and the private campground at the end of the old highway. If you are coming from the west, exit and then cross the freeway overpass and turn right onto the Old Highway. From the east exit and turn right, then right again onto the Old Highway.

From here the ride begins a modest climb mixed with a few flat stretches as you pass the Rainbow Lodge and head east toward Kingvale. After a short climb out of Rainbow you see I-80 again and turn left to stay on the Old Highway and go under the freeway before continuing east. Here another strech of nearly flat road allows you to get back up to speed before the tough climbing ahead. Once through the stop sign at the Kingvale freeway exit, you begin a three-mile climb to Soda Springs that is tougher than it might look at first. The climb begins gradually enough but soon turns into a grind where it is tough to get your speed above the low-teens without starting your heart to racing. We usually ease off here and take it slowly, mindful of the even tougher climbing to come.

At the top of this pull you cross the overpass and head into Soda Springs, where the General Store on your right is fully stocked with drinks, snacks and, usually, fresh deli sandwiches. Continuing on you confront a series of rollers and eventually pass the Sugar Bowl ski resort on the right and Donner Ski Ranch on your left. About four miles from Soda Springs, you reach Donner Summit, where a parking lot at the Sugar Bowl Ski Academy provides an excellent re-grouping point.

Next comes the screaming, three-mile descent to Donner Lake. Watch for gravel from the shoulder on the first few turns after the bridge and vista point, and be mindful of tourists and rock-climbers pulling out from parking spots along the edge of the road. Once you are about a mile down the hill interruptions are less likely and you can really let it fly, easily reaching speeds in excess of 40 mph on this well-maintained stretch of mountain highway. A stop-sign at the bottom marks the entrance to Donner Lake’s West-end beach, which makes a good turnaround point, or you can continue on a few hundred more yards to the boat launching ramp, where bathrooms and water (but not swimming) are more accessible.

You can turn around here and retrace your track, or continue on another four miles to Truckee, where lunch and snack stops are plentiful. Our favorite is Wild Cherries’ deli and coffeehouse on your right along Donner Pass Road just as you enter Truckee’s newer commercial district. Wild Cherries has great sandwiches, salads and other fare, plus outdoor seating. Best of all, the place is a cosponsor of the CyclePaths/Wild Cherries race team. Source

Pack List

  • Bike
  • Helmet
  • Hydration
  • Sunglasses
  • Nearest Bike Shops:
  • Paco’s in Truckee on Donner Pass Rd in the Safeway Shopping Center; CyclePaths, in Truckee “Gateway” on Donner Pass Rd.
Read More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Community Photos

+ Add Photos


Overall rating:  Rate this Adventure

Leave a Review

Have you done this adventure? Leave a review!

Tahoe Loco

TahoeLoco.com is a web site by and for people who live, work, and hang in Tahoe. We are a diverse, growing online community of people with many interests but one thing in common: we love Tahoe and believe in its sustainable future. The site features contributions from the community in our “Basin” and “Extreme Tahoe” blogs and in our ski conditions forum, and in public comments through the pages.

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

Nearby Adventures

Hike the Sugar Bowl Loop in Kings Canyon NP

Tulare County, California

First and foremost, to get to this trailhead you need to drive down a 2-mile, one lane dirt road that is quite steep.

6 Saves

Hike to Ehukai Pillbox

59178 Ke Nui Road, Hawaii

This hike starts directly across from Banzai Pipeline, the famous barreling wave at Ehukai Beach.

7 Saves

Winter Hike to Calypso Cascades

1046 County Highway 115, Colorado

While most people go snowshoeing near the Bear Lake or Glacier Gorge area in RMNP, Wild Basin is a much less trafficked option.

5 Saves