Normally Red Mountain would be ignored since it's so far away but here on the flank of Mt. Judah, with such a great view, it ought to be mentioned. The two pictures here show Red Mountain at the point of the arrows. The older picture is an Alfred A. Hart (#191) called "Summit Valley."
Red Mountain is a special place. It has a gorgeous view of everything around which is why the railroad built a lookout up there. Lookouts kept an eye on the 40 miles of snowsheds the CPRR had. The sheds were like tinder boxes. The wood baked in the summer sun and dried. Sparks from locomotives set fires destroying, sometimes, miles of sheds. When a fire was seen, the fire watchers used the first telephone in Californai to call Cisco Grove. Cisco would then telegraph the fire trains, always kept with full heads of steam, to go attend to the fire.
Red Mountain is not just interesting for the history, the view and the strenuous hike. Once you are up on Red Mountain you will note that the rock is very different from any other rock in the neighborhood. 65 million years ago Red Mountain was an island in the Pacific. Plate tectonics has been moving the Pacific Plate into the North American Plate. The Pacific Plate is going under the North American Plate but not everything went underneath. The North American Plate scraped Red Montain off and it rode on top to sit among all the granite peaks of the Sierra.
Today it's a great hike from either side but it's rugged. From the west you follow an old stage road that went to
Meadow Lake. The trail from the east was built before they invented switchbacks. For information to do your hike, go to our "Brochures" page and open up "Historic Hikes of Donner Summit." The brochure is also available at the Donner Summit Historical Society or the Summit Restaurant.