The trail parallels the historic California emigrant road and is very gentle, with about a 200' drop in elevation and only minor ridges to climb during the full 15 miles.
There are several mid-way access points that make this trail an easy one to do in short segments. Avoid midday summer treks as the vegetation overhead consist mostly of open stands of pines and the trail can be hot, dusty and dry.
You can begin at either end: Alder Creek Road on the southwest or Stampede Reservoir near the Logger Creek Campground. Good mid-point access points are Prosser Reservoir or the Donner Camp Picnic Area.
Topographic maps: Truckee, Hobart Mills.
To cross Prosser Creek near the head of Prosser Reservoir, you will need to wade the creek, which is normally not a problem except during spring runoff. To avoid fording the creek at this point you can climb the short distance to Highway 89 and use the highway bridge to cross the creek. This is the recommended route for hikers and bikers during high water season. Both equestrians and bikers should dismount to cross the bridge. Once you are on the other side of the creek, follow the connecting trail the 0.25 mile, or so, back to the main trail near the ford.
See East Slope Map. The upper (southwestern) end of the trail begins down Alder Creek from a trailhead next to that creek. The trailhead sits just to the east of the northeast boundary of the Tahoe-Donner subdivision of Truckee and its private Alder Creek Campground. Most people heading to the trailhead drive up the Alder Creek Road to where it connects to Highway 89, approximately 2.3 miles north of the I-80 intersection.
The access through the subdivision can be reached via Northwoods Boulevard from the main part of town. Ford Road connects over to the Alder Creek Road near its upper end. Once you reach Alder Creek Road, follow it downstream to the trailhead. Bikers can use these roads as part of a loop.
Several midway access points exist, but for visitors the easiest to find is the Donner Camp Picnic Site on Highway 89. The trail begins again off the parking area.
The lower (northeastern) end of the trail ends (or begins) near Stampede Reservoir. To access this trailhead, take I-80 approximately 7 miles east of Truckee toward Reno. Exit at Hirschdale and cross under the Interstate following County Road #894 to Boca and Stampede Reservoirs. Follow this road for 9 miles. Note: the road changes to #270 at the Sierra/Nevada County line. Turn left (west) on to Dog Valley Road #261. Proceed for 2.5 miles to the end of the pavement. The trailhead is on the left (west side) of Road #261 just past the end of the pavement.
This is also a terrific trail for equestrians especially in the spring and fall. The western trailhead along the Alder Creek Road offers poor trailer parking.
The trail is popular for mountain bikers and is not technically challenging, but more difficult because of length if you do the full trail to Stampede Reservoir and back.
California Emmigrant Trail
This is a popular trail for Truckee locals who enjoy it for an brisk morning walk or jog or an evening stroll.