This hike takes you past a number of Historical Sights near Donner Summit.
This hike begins in the parking area next to Rainbow Bridge.
You'll cross over to the other side of the road & hike down toward the Donner Pass Indian Petroglyphs. Stay on the track which leads you around the Petroglyphs & up toward the towering & imposing actual China Wall.
Once you get above the China Wall you will be on what used to be a railroad bed & tracks. Proceed West through Tunnel 7 & then Tunnel 6 which is 1525' long. the Tunnel floor is wet so be sure to wear shoes/boots that will keep your feet dry.
Once you emerge from the West end of Tunnel 6 you' circumvent a parking area & shortly arrive at the Historic Summit Hotel. The only thing you'll see are a few things that tells you there was a structure here at one time.
Continue your hike along the road past Lake Mary & the Historic Lake Mary Cabin. After a short 1/3 mile, you hike past the Pacific Crest Trailhead continue hiking another 0.3 miles till you come to a parking area & the Central Shaft Historical Marker which explains that by digging this vertical shaft, the Chinese Laborers were able to start digging on 4 faces of the Tunnel, two faces going from inside to outside entrances & 2 faces going from the outside in toward the Central Shaft.
From The Central Shaft, you'll hike out to the ByPass 40 road, hike approximately 1/4 mile until you come to the trail on the right side of the road heading North up toward Lake Angela & Catfish Pond.
The trail up is well-maintained & easy to stay on. You'll come to a nice overlook of the China Wall after about 1/4 mile. You'll want to stop & take photos. After another approximate 1/4 mile, you come to the controversial Stephens Pass Emigrant Trail Marker.
From there you move in a general NW direction which will lead you to Lake Angela.
Retrace your track back to the trail, once back on the trail a short 1/10 of a mile & you'll arrive @ Catfish Pond, which was built by the Chinese when they were digging tunnel 6. It became a reliable source of food for the Chinese laborers, the kind of food they were used to eating. This is the perfect shaded spot to stop for a nutrition break.
From Catfish Pond the trail is up & over huge slabs of granite that are now clearly identified with a white paint spot & a Red paint spot centered in the white spot; once over the granite at the peak elevation of 7,267', you'll intersect with the well-traveled, tree-canopied Pacific Crest Trail & from there on it's all downhill; the early part of the descent includes 11 switchbacks.
After all the switchbacks you'll eventually intersect with Hwy 40 Scenic Bypass 2-lane road at which point if you look east you can Rainbow Bridge just a little more than a stone's throw away. Walk over Rainbow Bridge & you're now back in the parking lot where you began.
The ill-fated Donner Party crossing 1846 was a DRAMATIC event. The Stephens-Townsend-Murphy Party in 1844 was a HISTORICAL event because they were the first to cross the Sierras into California TWO YEARS BEFORE THE DONNER PARTY & all 50 members + 2 babies were born & lived while traveling, ALL SURVIVED. Here is a fascinating article that tells of similarities & differences between the Donner Party & the Stephens-Townsend-Murphy Party, entitled The SMART Ones Got Through.
Check out the Official Route and Triplog.