It was a sunny, crisp November day when we visited the train tunnels at Donner Summit in Truckee, California.
We parked at the dirt parking lot off of Donner Pass Road, across from the Donner Ski Ranch. From there, you can easily access the tunnels (I believe it’s Tunnel #6 where you begin, after crossing under Sugar Bowl Road.) and begin your adventure.
While the path through the tunnels is flat, it’s best to come prepared with sturdy walking shoes, as the terrain can be uneven and rocky in spots. Bringing a headlamp or a flashlight is also a good idea, some parts of the tunnels are incredibly dark. Once you enter these strikingly tall structures, you’ll be greeted by colorful graffiti (some more artistic then others) and eerie bits of light.
There may be puddles of water inside or there may be snow depending on the time of year you visit (Bring snowshoes if you go in the winter!).
In between the tunnels, you’ll be rewarded with gorgeous views of Donner Summit and beyond, including Donner Lake.
This walk can be as long as you want to make it. Simply turn around and head back to the parking area when you’re ready. We walked about 1 1/2 miles in before we turned around.
The tunnels have a fascinating and tragic history. I’ve included a few links below if you’d like to know more about the tunnels and the surrounding area. The train tracks were removed from these particular tunnels after the last passenger train rolled through in 1993 (the first train was in 1868!). The trains still run through this area, just in a new tunnel a little further southeast.
Want more historical background on the tunnels? Here is the briefest bit of history on the construction of the railroad at Donner Summit, and here’s a link to the Donner Summit Historical Society. And here’s one more fun read.