Donner Pass Weather Conditions

I-80 Weather Forecast California

Current & 7-day weather forecast, road conditions, and weather radar for I-80 at Donner Pass, between Reno and Sacramento.
All times shown in your local timezone

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Weather Radar for Donner Pass Weather Conditions

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Routes Related to Donner Pass Weather Conditions

  • The I-5 runs north-south through Sacramento, CA, west of Donner Pass.

  • US-395 runs north-south through Reno, NV, east of Donner Pass.

Donner Pass Weather and Road Conditions on Interstate I-80

Interstate I-80 at Donner Pass marks the high point across the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It sits between Sacramento, California, and Reno, Nevada. The pass sits at 7,239 feet above sea level, about 9 miles west of Truckee, California. Donner Pass is also known as Donner Summit or Euer Saddle. The scenic Donner Lake is located beside the highway and is visible as you traverse the pass.

How's the Weather on Donner Pass?

Donner Pass in winter can be dangerous and even closed in some cases. i 80 road conditions on Donner Pass from the month of October can involve snow and ice, and the conditions can change rapidly. The pass can experience heavy snowfall, strong winds, and dangerous temperatures in the winter months, and heavy rain and strong winds in the summer months. Travelers should always be aware of the potential for dangerous weather conditions before making a trip through the pass.

Weather for Donner Pass is often clear during the summer or early fall, and travel is a little easier. The weather is more stable at these times and the scenery is beautiful. Checking Donner Pass conditions even during the summer is sensible, as road work may cause delays.

In the summer months, temperatures at Donner Pass are generally mild, with temperatures ranging from the mid 50s to the mid 70s. However, the pass can still experience periods of heavy rain and thunderstorms. The pass is also prone to strong winds, so it is important for travelers to be aware of the potential for strong gusts.

Does Donner Pass Have Snow? And Other Road Conditions.

Snow could be heavy! New snow accumulation in Donner Pass is common during the winter, with frequent snow showers. The average annual snowfall is 33 feet, making the area one of the snowiest of the United States. Wind gusts can often exceed 100 mph during storms (and not only in the winter). Visibility often drops to zero during heavy snow. Sub-zero temperatures are not uncommon.

In the winter months, Donner Pass can experience heavy snowfall, with some areas of the pass receiving up to 500 inches of snow annually. This snowfall can cause dangerous conditions for travelers, as the pass is prone to avalanches. Snowstorms can occur suddenly and with little warning, so it is important for travelers to be aware of the weather before making the trip. Temperatures at the pass can drop below zero degrees Fahrenheit with wind chills of -20 to -30 degrees Fahrenheit.

According to, Donner pass sees an average of 15 days of snow in December! During the coldest months, temperatures average with a low around 23F and a high near 39F. Humidity above 70% is typical during the winter months. Given the frequency of heavy snow, it is best to be prepared for the worst during the winter months.

Are Chains Required on Donner Pass Right Now?

Check the top of this page for active chain controls! If none are shown, there are no active chain controls.

If you're planning on crossing the pass, be sure to check the weather conditions beforehand. Caltrans is the local road authority and will provide notice of any active chain controls.

When conditions restrict traffic, trucks will be halted at Applegate, California in the west, or the Nevada state line in the east. Passenger cars may be allowed to pass, but the pass is often closed to all traffic.

Chain controls or four-wheel drive vehicles with snow tires are often required in severe winter conditions. Officials won't hesitate to turn ill-equipped vehicles back the other way - so come prepared! Snow-tread tires can be identified by examining the sidewall of the tire. If you see the letters MS, M/S, M+S or the words MUD AND SNOW stamped into the sidewall, you're carrying the right gear.

Chain Requirements on I-80 over Donner Pass

Caltrans specifies a few different levels of chain control:

  • R1: Chains are required on all vehicles, except those under 6,000 pounds and equipped with snow tires on at least two wheels.
  • R2: Chains are required on all vehicles, except all-wheel/four-wheel drive vehicles equipped with snow tires on all 4 wheels.
  • R3: Chains are required on all vehicles, no exceptions! When an R3 control is present, the route over Donner Summit is often closed.

The speed limit over the pass when chains are required is 25-30 miles an hour and will be posted.

Caltrans provides additional winter driving tips.

Is there a Donner Pass Weather Camera?

Yes, you can check the Donner Pass weather cam in our map above. You can also check nearby cameras on I-80 on either side of the Sierra Mountains. New snow accumulation will often be clearly visible in one or more of these weather cameras.

Donner Pass is a Major Freight Conduit on I-80

Many commercial vehicles along the pass; it's important to prepare to share the road respectfully. Commercial vehicles can play a role in I-80 road conditions on Donner Pass, so safety and common courtesy is key for all drivers. On average, about 6,000 or so trucks, cross Donner Summit daily. Those trucks move nearly $5 million a day in freight between California and Nevada. This stretch of I-80 connects from I-5 in Sacramento, California, to US-395 in Reno, Nevada.

It's always important to check the weather and road conditions beforehand if you're planning on traversing Donner Pass.

The highway grade on I-80 over Donner Summit varies from 3 percent to 6 percent over a span of 30 miles, so ensuring your vehicle is prepared for the journey is important.

Other Vehicle Traffic Over Donner Summit

The pass is a popular route for travelers of all kinds wishing to cross the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In fact, nearly 30,000 passenger vehicles make the trip over Donner Pass on a daily basis! It's no surprise that the pass is a popular way to travel between California and Nevada. It's an essential gateway to world-class hiking, skiing, camping and other outdoor activities.

Winter Activities near Donner Lake

If you're looking to hit the slopes, some of the most popular ski resorts near Donner Pass include Sugar Bowl, Boreal Mountain, Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe, and The Palisades Tahoe Resort. There are also many cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails in the area for those who want to explore the wilderness in a more low-key way.

Be sure to take a moment to enjoy the scenery in the area, as it's truly breathtaking! Whether you're traveling from San Francisco, Sacramento, or Reno, enjoy the view as you go. Donner Lake also hosts a fireworks show on some national holidays, such as July 4.

If you find yourself caught in snow showers in nearby Truckee, California, you can wait out the storm with a number of top-quality restaurants.

The Sordid History of James Reed and the Donner Party

This route's notoriety began in the winter of 1846 when a group of settlers attempted to cross the Sierra Nevada Mountains in what was called the Donner-Reed Party. The journey was treacherous, and unfortunately, many of the settlers perished along the way.

While this infamous event in American history has passed, Donner Pass is now an integral connection in the Western United States.

Nowadays, Donner Pass functions as a widely used route in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California along I-80 - the second-longest highway in the United States.

As mentioned, the summit of the pass, Donner Summit, tops out at 7,239 feet (2,203m), so those used to living at sea level may want to be prepared to feel a little different at such a high elevation!

Current Road Conditions for I-80 on Donner Pass

Preparedness on any trip over a pass is important, but as you now know, Donner Pass road conditions can be especially tricky at times.

Be sure to check our map above before heading out over the pass when the conditions may be bad.

This map shows the current & 7-day weather forecast, road conditions, and weather radar for I-80 at Donner Pass.