Panoramic vistas from Hawk’s Peak

Panoramic view from Hawk’s Peak. | Priya Hutner

Mule ears, Indian paintbrush and lupine were in full bloom. The birds chirped overhead. It was a beautiful morning on the trail to Hawk’s Peak in Tahoe Donner, a lovely 4-mile hike or mountain-bike ride with amazing 360-degree views from the top.

A good portion of the trail is an uphill climb (you gain 718 feet in elevation) mostly on single track and extremely exposed. It’s best to go early or later in the day unless you don’t mind the sun beating down on you.

The Trail
4 miles roundtrip | Moderate

Open to hiking, mountain biking & horses

The trailhead to get to Hawk’s Peak is located off Ski Slope Way just beyond Snow Peak Road on the right side of the street and directly across from the backside of Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Resort. There’s parking by the gate and a trail map.

My friend Karen Barchas and I started around 9:15 in the morning. It was still cool with a slight breeze in the air. From the gate we made a left on the trail, which initially starts on the Crazy Horse trail; there’s a sign and it’s clearly marked. The hike is relatively flat and easy initially. We walked up the fire road a short way toward the Hawk’s Peak trail.

Author on top of Hawk’s Peak. | Courtesy Priya Hutner

As we continued along the trail there were hundreds of bushes with white-blooming fragrant flowers. I shot a text to Will Richardson from Tahoe Institute for Natural Science and sent him a photo to help identify the fragrant plant. Richardson identified the genus as ceanothus velutinus or California lilacs, also called snowbrush. It grows wild up here. I felt like I was swimming in a sea of beautiful, white, sweet-smelling flowers. It lent such beauty to the hike. Off in the distance the snow still clung to the uppermost part of Sunrise Bowl.

At about .39 of a mile on the right side there’s a sign for Hawk’s Peak. Barchas and I took the single track up. It’s still a bit wooded here providing some welcomed shade. The trail opens up and crosses another fire road also part of the Crazy Horse Trail. There’s a signpost marked 17B that indicates the trail.

Fields of snowbrush aka ceanothus velutinus or California lilacs. | Priya Hutner

The dusty trail snaked and curved and wound its way upward. We navigated the easy switchbacks and continued ascending. From here on in its full sun for the rest of the way. The power lines along the Andromeda Trail can be seen from this vantage point. Looking west you can see sweeping views of Tahoe Donner and beyond.

At about 1.55 miles we connected with another fire road: the Andromeda Trail. We turned left at this junction and walked uphill for a short bit. The fire road evens out and reconnects off to the right with the Hawk’s Peak single track. There’s a signpost labeled 36K and an arrow pointing the way. Sunrise Bowl and Castle Peak come into view here. There was still plenty of snow resting on the mountain peaks off in the distance when we visited.

As we continued to climb, a number of rock formations came into view: Hawk’s Peak. At the base of the formation, the trail splits. If you take the left trail it wraps around Hawk’s Peak and marries into a network of hiking and single-track trails all part of the Tahoe Donner trail system. We veered off to the right to climb to Hawk’s Peak and stand on the rock formations. The view is stupendous. |