While the Donner Lake Rim Trail and the Wendin Way Trail make Johnson Canyon, just above Donner Lake, a popular snow-free destination, it is a great place to explore while buried under feet of snow. With numerous aspects offering various routes wandering through open faces and wooded glades, Johnson Canyon offers jaw-dropping views of Donner Lake and the Sierra Crest.
Snowshoers and skiers can either start from the Wendin Way trailhead just above Donner Lake Interchange, or from the Glacier Way Trailhead in Tahoe Donner. Click here to see a map and for additional information. Be aware that avalanches, while uncommon in the canyon, do occur on steeper slopes.
From Glacier way, loosely following the Donner Lake Rim Trail out to the picnic area/overlook offers a relatively easy option with a few hills along the way, culminating in amazing views across the top of the canyon, down toward Donner Lake, and out across the Sierra Crest. Frog Lake Cliff, Castle Peak and more can be seen from here.
From Donner Lake Interchange, you can head up numerous directions depending on snow conditions and safety, passing through willows, Jeffrey pines, fir, mountain alder and aspen with changing views of the surrounding ridges and Donner Lake. While Johnson Canyon can often be very peaceful and serene, it is important to know that snowmobilers also use the area.
Avalanche safety education and equipment are strongly recommended for Johnson Canyon. A beacon check station is available at the Donner Lake Interchange trailhead. Please check Sierra Avalanche Center for daily avalanche forecasts.