Schallenberger Ridge Donner Pass – Truckee
Highway 80 to Donner Pass up to Schallenberger Ridge overlooking Donner Lake in Truckee, CA
The Schallenberger Ridge 4×4 trail is a moderately trekked trail in Truckee within Tahoe’s National Forest. With stunning views of Donner Lake, Highway 80, Signal Peak 4×4 Trail, Castle Peak/Castle Pass, many covered railroad tracks, and Northstar at Tahoe Ski Resort Mountain, this is one trail that you don’t want to miss. Schallenberger Ridge features some pretty epic sights.
As you start down the trail through Emigrant Canyon, you will see many small river ponds made up by Cold Creek and the South Fork of Cold Creek which meets just beyond the tracks at the confluence. If you visit this trail in the winter or late fall, you will likely find these river ponds frozen over. While we trekked this trail (early January), we saw a full team of hockey players on the ice going at it. We have not had very much snow this year, so we were lucky in making it to the top.
As you continue up through Emigrant Canyon, you will find a few hidden camp spots as well as multiple views of Cold Creek running to your left. As you near the end of the first section through Emigrant Canyon, you will hit the Donner Pass railroad tracks.
Donner Pass Railroad Tracks
At the railroad tracks, you have the choice of taking a left down to Cold Creek or heading over the tracks. If you choose to head down to Cold Creek, you can smash up, down, across and over the creek in almost any direction you want. You will want to have a set of off-road recovery tracks just in case for this trail.
If you want to head straight up to Schallenberger Ridge 4×4 trail, just cross over the tracks and make your way up the ridge. On a side note, be incredibly careful here. The section where you need to cross over the tracks is in somewhat of a blind spot. You DO NOT WANT TO TREK THIS ALONE. You want to have someone on the other end of the tracks waiting for you, just in case you get stuck and centered on the tracks.
While we were here, we saw the train pass once and then heard the train pass about an hour later, while we were approaching Schallenberger Ridge.
For a minute there, one of our guys got centered and had to start over (on our way out). It was not a good feeling. Do we need to go into more detail on this? If you hit this trail, bring another 4×4, recovery straps, shackle mounts and all your off-road accessories.
Making your way to Cold Creek
We started down Emigrant Canyon and eventually hit the railroad tracks. From here, we took a left down to Cold Creek. We drove down Cold Creek in a few different sections. This place was a blast if you like driving through creeks.
You can access the creek through a multitude of areas, but right next to the tracks is the main spot. This is also where you can drive up through the tunnel that goes under the railroad tracks. What an epic place to romp around. Cold Creek offers a variety of crossings and options for getting wet.
Through the Tunnel
If you are feeling froggish then leap. You can cross under the donner railroad tracks and through the tunnel, but it is a little sketchy. If you want to trek through the tunnel, you have a narrow section that you will need to get through first. This might be the toughest section of the trail if you decide that this option is for you. If your rig is narrow enough, you will make it.
On the Other side of the Tracks
On the other side of the tracks, you can trek around a little further up the creek. This is a great spot to hang out and relax. Just take in the view, listen to the water and just respect mother nature and what she has to offer for a bit. This was one special spot to hang out. The creek is low and the water is forgiving, depending on the time of year. If you have a 4×4 and love crossing water, you will love the other side of tracks.
Heading Up Towards Schallenberger Ridge
Emigrant Canyon to Schallenberger Ridge is just past the railroad tracks on your right. It is a switchback, that you will likely miss if you are not looking for it. We passed it, drove all the way down to Lost Trail Lodge and then headed back. The trail starts as a straight incline up the hill. Depending on the season, stock 4Runner’s and 4×4’s alike will likely make it just fine. If you are are approaching this trail with snow on the ground in a stock 4×4, you might want to reconsider. We had to punch it through some snow patches that I thought we wouldn’t make.
Views from Schallenberger Ridge
Once you reach the top of Schallenberger Ridge, you won’t be disappointed. The views are something similar to that of Signal Peak but they might be better. Better might not be the right word, but different. At Signal Peak, you have views of a few lakes and mountain ranges in every direction. At the peak of Schallenberger Ridge, you look straight down on Donner Lake.
You can see details of Donner Lake that you can’t see from any other mountain range. The views are spectacular. Views you can only reach with a 4×4. There are also views of covered railroad tracks and other major mountain ranges in the distance.
Thoughts on Schallenberger Ridge in Truckee
What a hidden gem. This trail was an epic little adventure to another peak in Tahoe’s National Forest. It really is crazy to think about. How many trails are out there that we don’t know about. The goal is to keep exploring and uncover hidden gems like this forever. Keep it wild everyone and tread lightly!