Donner Memorial State Park

When looking for parks in California, or parks in general with significant United States history a good park to look into is the Donner Memorial State Park. This park is an important asset in American history being home to a great historical tragedy. Other than just historical attractions the park has many bright and cheerful activities which can be carried out such as hiking, boating, skiing, swimming, picnics, snowshoeing, and much more.

What is the history of the Donner Memorial State Park?

The park was the location of the cabin in which the Donner party resided in their expedition. The Donner party was a group of families who were migrating from Independence, Missouri to California.

The traveling was very difficult and carried out by wagon, this wagon overturned a few times during the cross country journey than hardships began to strike when a direction thought to be a short cut, was in fact not. Soon much fighting broke out between different people, and at one point an elderly man was left behind to die, while another man killed a man.

Once the party reached the High Sierra, winter conditions struck their travels such as snow storms. The winter was carried through in a place they claimed as a rest area near Truckee. Almost half of the migrants perished during this time period and once the food source became scarce cannibalism struck the group.

The Donner Memorial happens to be the location where a large portion of the Donner party passed away, and the cannibalism aspect of the parties history has drawn in more than 200,000 visitors curious about seeing the site and learning about what happened.

Park Geographical Information.

The park is located on the east side of Donner Lake, owning 2.5 miles of the lake shore line. Donner Memorial is located within the Sierra Nevada.

Some geographical sites located on the park are erosion sites where the earths crust rose bubbled and hardened, leftover debris found from ancient glaciers left behind when the ice melted over the area of the park, and sedimentary rocks. All of these areas are very good sites for learning aspects of science and the earth itself.

Park Trails.

There are two trails located on the park known as the General Nature Trail and the Lake Shore Interpretive Trail.

The general trail is a mere half mile when traveling along than back to the entrance of the trail beginning south of the park museum.

Lake Shore Interpretive Trail on the other hand is a lengthy 2.5 miles from the beginning and back, also posing to be much more educational than the General Nature Trail. The trail has many side exhibits which educate about the migration route and the Donner Party.

Park Camping

The camping site on the park has a hefty 154 camp ground sites to suit its high numbers of visitors to the attractions. The camp ground also has a day use area for people who are either not interested in camping, or could not get a site reserved in time but still want to spend the day on the park.

Park Museum

The museum located on the park grounds is known as the Emigrant Trail Museum. The total visit averages at approximately 1 hour to complete seeing and learning all given information provided by the museum. The museum displays educational insights on the Donner Party, Native Americans, and the Transcontinental Railroad.

Pioneer Monument

Found by the museum you can find the monument and also the Donner Party’s original cabin which they stayed in.

Special feature shows and events are also traditionally carried out around the Pioneer Monument.

Park Fees and Contact Information

The Donner Memorial State Park is open year round including winter with access to the trails and all features.

Regular tours can be attended in front of the park museum starting at 10:00 am 2 to 3 times a week.

Park is traditionally open to non-campers from 8am to 11pm. Fees for camp site vary upon specific days or holidays and includes one vehicle allowance. Any additional vehicles will carry an additional fee.


Donner Memorial State Park
12593 Donner Pass Road At Highway 80
Truckee, CA

For additional park inquiries and general information call the park at 1-530-582-7892.