Above is a sample Google Earth view from above the summit looking back on the route you will take. The white-shaded lines are roads placed there by Google--the green line is our pathway, as well as the push-pin and label showing the old summit. Notice the Google label on the white shaded road showing "Old Donner Summit Road." Old Highway 40 is the road on the left. I-80 is at top of view--horizontal lines.


Instructions to view fly-over


Unlike the other Google Earth "video" on this site showing the alternate trail scam, which is actually just a video capture of a Google Earth fly-over, this fly-over is too large to turn into a movie. Even with hi-speed internet, It would take forever to download in good quality.

This "video" will require you to download the free Google Earth program onto your computer first, and then download our small (500k) "pathways" and "placemarks" file. Opening that file will allow Google Earth to play the video exactly as we see it, assuming your computer can handle the high processing requirements (most new ones will).

Simple right? Well, there is a small learning curve--but it will be worth it in the end. Plus, you will then have Google Earth to have endless fun with.

One main requirement: You will need hi-speed Internet. Dial-up just will not be able to handle the huge amount of images.

First, a little about how Google Earth (GE) works: GE uses millions of photos taken from aircraft and satellites of every square foot of the earth (or pretty much most of it). In most of California, they are very high resolution photos and taken with no clouds and no snow. You can see your patio furniture. The photos taken of the Donner Lake area were taken in 2006 and 2007, so they are very recent (even more recent than many cities).
GE also has highly detailed topography of the entire earth. So they lay all their photos onto the topography and this gives a virtual 3D image of the earth. You don't see the seams of the photos. You can adjust the camera angle, and direction, etc. and fly around as if you're in a helicopter. GE allows the user to create
pathways so that you can follow it later and placemarks to be added with titles. The small file you will download contains the pathways and placemarks that I have created for the old road based on the 1915 California State Survey. You will be amazed.

Since the original images are 2D flat and placed over 3D topography, only the ground is 3D. The trees, buildings, freeways, bridges, snow sheds--anything on top of the ground--is flat. So it looks funny when you see a house with just the roof. Or the freeway going up and down over the natural contour of the mountain, without the grading and fill that made the freeway level. But it's not much of a problem.


When you view GE, you will notice that it also shows the exact elevation of ground in the center of the view and the elevation of the "camera." It also gives the exact latitude and longitude of the center of the view.

This newest update from Google tells the "camera" to not bump its rear end into the nearby mountainside when it is making a turn on a pathway, since the camera needs to be back a certain distance from the area it is viewing to get all the view in the camera--just like a real camera needs to move back to get a wider image. This previously caused the camera to bounce around and get lost. Now you will notice that the camera smoothly flows up the mountainside it bumps into and then quickly slides back down to the correct height above the road as it travels forward.

So here are the steps:

First, go to
http://earth.google.com/download-earth.html  and download the Google Earth program and install it. Make sure it is working by having it fly to your house or any address you want. Now close the program completely.

Next, download the file called Flyover of Lincoln Highway (click that). Save it to your hard drive under My Documents. Then open it by double clicking on the file. It will then open the Google Earth program.
Close the "Tip" box that opens.

You will see the earth move and then hover over the area of our fly-over with all the labels. If the camera begins to zoom into something closer, you need to stop it: there is a box on the left side of the screen that says Places.
In there you will see a stop button--a black square. Click it so that everything stops.

Now you need to make changes to the settings before continuing:

Go down to the next box below Places (on the left side of the screen)--it says Layers. Unclick anything other than Terrain. If there is either a check box or a dot in any box, click it so it goes away. Just leave Terrain checked.

Now go to the very top menu and click on Tools. Then click on Options. Then click on Touring. Then change the
Camera Tilt Angle to 65 degrees. Then change the Camera Range to 70 (type this number into the box)
Make sure this is at 70 each time you start Google Earth. For some reason it doesn't stay at 70 when it closes. 
Then change the
Speed to 60. Do not click OK yet.

Go to the top of the same menu and click on the Cache tab. You need to increase the cache to as high as your computer can handle. I suggest putting in 1000 and 2000 in the two boxes. When you click OK, you will get a message that your computer can only do ___mb. Just say OK.

Now go back to the Places box and click on the plus signs next to Flyover of Lincoln Hwy and My Places. Look for the item "
1915 Calif State Survey Hwy 37" ---It looks like this:


Click on the words once (not the little box)

Then click on the play button below it --a black triangle pointing right.

Everything should work now and you will see the helicopter view flying over the trail beginning at South Shore Drive. As soon as it starts, you may want to press the pause button so that the images can load in a few seconds.
Note: Whenever you pause the tour, and then click play, you need to move the mouse into the picture area before it will start playing again.
As the tour plays, you will notice that It takes a while for all the images to load from Google to your computer. So you may just see blurry hillsides for a few seconds or minutes until the images are loaded. If you see a lot of blurring, pause it and you will see the images soon. Once all the images are loaded, the next time it won't look blurry or jumpy. After the 3rd or 4th time, it should all be smooth and clear. If it's not, you can either get more memory for your computer, or trying slowing down the travel speed from 60 to 30.

Note: If you click Stop, the tour will stop. If you then click Play again, it will start again at South Shore Drive.
Also, when clicking on a fly-over route, make sure you click on a route, and not a label that may have the same name. The routes have an icon with 3 connected colored dots like the one above.

After you take the main virtual tour, you can take other tours that are included in the file:

  1. You can take a tour of the Ted Owens ludicrous "alternate trail." Click on the words "Fake Trail Path" in the list of places. Then click on play.

  2. You can take a tour of the "Old northern route" in the US Forest Service land. This route was used from the 1860s to around 1912 as an alternate to the southern route. The northern route was a more steep and dangerous route that was probably used in the winter and spring when snow and risk of avalanche made the main southern route impossible.

  3. You can take a tour of the "Pre-1914 old route over tracks" near the summit. This was the route until 1914 when the state changed the route so that it went under the railroad tracks in a small tunnel, which is still there today. Below is a photo looking north through the tunnel taken around 1920.


According to the 1915 State Highway Survey, the

new "subway" was 16' wide x 16' high x 48' long.


Below is the 1913 state law that authorized the

building of this subway.



Email us with comments at info@historicdonnertrail.org