Simply the best |

Simply the best

Whether you are surveying from the parking lot of the McGlashan Point turnout or gazing from top of a rock hill, there is no bad view of Donner Lake and its surroundings.
Photos by Kaleb Roedel / Sierra Sun |

If you are searching for the best view of Donner Lake, look no farther than Donner Summit’s “McGlashan Point.”

Besides that beautiful blue view, the next best part? The 6.5-mile drive there is a breeze.

To get there, starting in downtown Truckee, continue west on Donner Pass Road until it turns into Old Highway 40 at the Interstate 80 intersection by the Chevron gas station.

Shortly after you’ve passed Donner Memorial State Park, the road begins to hug Donner Lake. Peek to your left; the sun-splashed, deep blue water is impossible to miss.

You are also sure to see flocks of recreational athletes — bikers, runners, roller skiers — migrating in each direction on the road, paddleboarders in the lake and locals and visitors sun-bathing on the lake’s docks and bounding to West End Beach.

Once you curl past the western rim of the lake, take note — the road begins to climb and wind. But snaking up the mountainside for only three more miles (where you’re bound to see a bevy of rock-climbers attempting some of Donner Summit’s epic boulders) brings you to your destination: McGlashan Point.

There is a spacious turnout on your right side with more than a dozen parking spaces. It comes shortly before the famous Donner Summit Bridge, a curved overpass known as the Rainbow Bridge for its concrete arch span.

As you approach the turnout, there will be a yellow “Narrow Bridge” sign stacked atop a green “Vista Point” sign pointing you to the parking lot.

When you step out of your vehicle, be sure to have your camera ready to capture the stunning perspective of your soon-to-be new smartphone background and laptop screensaver.

The vista point offers arresting views of not only Donner Lake, but also the surrounding landscape. On your right stands the towering Schallenberger Ridge with the historic Transcontinental Railroad tunnels carved into its side.

On your left, you get a front-and-center look at the 241-foot Rainbow Bridge, which has a 24-foot viewing deck, backdropped by a gigantic granite mound.

And everywhere you turn, you will see the endless sprawl of evergreens stretched across the Sierra Nevada. What’s more, there are various access points to trails and rock hills, giving you the option to survey the sights at numerous angles and heights.

Sure, if you are on the beaches of Donner Lake you get to gaze at the impossibly blue body of water up close, but if you want to see that other “Jewel of the Sierra” really shine, and marvel at the lake’s surroundings, a short drive up Old Highway 40 to McGlashan Point is a must.

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