Trip Ideas

homemade strawberry rhubarb pie

Stop & Smell The Pie – Explore Lincoln Highway Donner Pass

If you’re craving a more authentic experience, one that leaves you with a feeling that you truly got to know Nevada County's hidden gems, people and cultures then Lincoln Highway Donner Pass should be on your to do list this year.

Tips & Resources

For the best experience, slow yer roll & immerse yourself in Donner Summit’s culture.

Please note: a road rehabilitation project is underway on Donner Pass Road / Lincoln Highway which may cause the road to be inaccessible. Check the Truckee Travel Alert for more information.

By Alex Silgalis

Going on a vacation is supposed to be a relaxing experience where you feel reenergized when you get home. And yet, when was the last trip you took and didn’t feel exhausted? There is a time or a place for that, but why not add a day or even two to just recharge those batteries. We suggest taking that detour on your vacation or workweek to explore a hidden gem of Nevada County – Lincoln Highway Donner Pass.

Before I-80… There Was The Lincoln Highway

The interstate system is an engineering marvel that provides commerce and travelers a fast way to move across our country. But before these vast freeways crisscrossed the nation, there was the historic Lincoln Highway. Dedicated in 1913, it was the FIRST automobile road to span the width of the United States. While most of it over the years has been realigned or superseded by I-80, there is one segment starting near Soda Springs and ending in the historic town of Truckee-Tahoe that still exists.

Most Beautiful Scenic Drive In California… Maybe The Country

Donner Memorial Bridge at Sunset during early fall snow
Photo by: Scott Shots Photography – Image appears courtesy: Visit Truckee-Tahoe

This section isn’t just a humdrum route either. The Lincoln Highway Donner Pass may arguably have the best landscapes in the Sierra and offer breathtaking views across its entire journey. The highlight is the Donner Memorial Bridge (also known as the Rainbow Bridge). Due to its odd location, angle of slope, and curvature, the engineers of the state of California had a lot to deal with to make this bridge happen. There’s a good chance you’ve seen this bridge in a car commercial with Donner Lake in the distance.

Come For The Views… Stay For The Pie

If you do visit Lincoln Highway Donner Pass, we suggest you let off the gas and immerse yourself in the area. This is one of those rare places you can experience how traveling used to be. The opportunity to create connections with residents and experience local culture.

homemade strawberry rhubarb pie
Image appears courtesy: Donner Ski Ranch – Old 40 Bar & Grill

Start off the day with a longtime favorite for locals & visitors at the Donner Lake Kitchen. They’ve been serving up breakfast classics like huevos rancheros & cowboy breakfast since the mid 70s. Stop by the Old 40 Bar & Grill at Donner Ski Ranch for a fresh homemade Stawberry or Rhubarb pie that your grandma used to make. Over Donner Summit and hungry for lunch? Grab a made-to-order roast beef sandwich from the Soda Springs General Store & Deli where they honestly have everything you could think of. From camping necessities like hot dogs, high quality cheeses, and coffee to lodging items like laundry detergent and even knick-knacks you can bring back for a friend.

Make It A Loop

Instead of hopping back onto I-80 for your return journey, we suggest taking Lincoln Highway Donner Pass back instead. You’ll get different views of the scenery and an opportunity to take in other attractions like the historic summit tunnel. Then finish off the day with the best ice cream West of the Mississippi – Little Truckee Creamery. The flavor options and the silky-smooth texture will make you wish you could stay longer.

Wet Your Adventure Whistle

woman climbing at Donner Summit with bridge and Donner Lake in the background
Rock Climbing at Donner Summit – Image Appears courtesy: Visit Truckee-Tahoe

The Lincoln Highway Donner Pass is also a gateway for a myriad of outdoor adventure. The road itself slices directly through the Pacific Crest Trail and is a good access point for backpackers and dayhikers. Donner Summit is also the crown jewel of climbing in Tahoe. You’ll find spot, trad, and multi-pitch all on high-quality granite and can even hire rock climbing guides to enjoy it. And in winter you can find some of the most authentic skiing & left in the Sierra at Donner Ski Ranch and Sugarbowl resorts. This is merely an introduction of the fun to be had in this part of the county.

In this day and age of rushing to get to the next place we suggest you make the journey over Donner Summit your destination. We guarantee you’ll make memories that will last forever.


Alex Silgalis

Alex founded Local Freshies® in 2014 to be the #1 website providing the “local scoop” on where to eat, drink & play in mountain towns throughout North America. When he’s not writing and executing marketing strategies for small businesses & agencies, he’s in search of the deepest snow in the winter and tackiest dirt in the summer.

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