It's easy to relate to frustrated motorists returning from a weekend skiing in Tahoe, stuck in heavy interstate 80 traffic with aching... more » legs and a long journey ahead. But spare a thought for those whose journey to the west coast was a little more arduous, and a little less certain that they'd make it there in one piece.
Just over a century and a half ago, a group of emigrants led by George Donner headed west over the Sierra Nevada mountains in search of a better life. Instead they found little more than suffering, snowstorms and starvation. Infamously resorting to cannibalism of the dead to survive, the party was to lose half its numbers before finally making it over Donner summit and into a more forgiving landscape.
The site of the Donner Party's suffering at the shores of Donner Lake is memorialized with a State Park complete with Emigrant Trail Museum and a monument to the casualties of 1846.
Traveling around the area now is much less foreboding. This easy stroll around the lakeside and through areas of forest is an ideal place to bring young kids, and also makes a great location for your first snowshoe adventure.
• Negligible (at 6000ft elevation)
• A fee is payable for the use of the parking lot and entry to the Emigrant Trail Museum. An hour at the museum will teach you about the history of the area including the Donner party, the Native Americans and the building of the nearby transcontinental railroad.
• Some free parking may be available just West of the park entrance, depending on snow removal conditions.
• The State Park operates a 154 site campground during summer months and a day-use area by the lake for picnics, fishing and beach activities.