Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum

Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum

Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum
4.5
State Parks • History Museums
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This museum documents the fascinating and tragic history of the Donner Party's journey to the west coast.
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  • K B
    5 contributions
    Good, But …
    Over the years I’ve been to the Donner Museum and the Donner area, many times. I was excited to hear that a new museum is now open and generally it’s okay. It costs $10 per car to park in the parking lot of the museum. My primary quibble is that the museum tried to do too much and therefore shortchanged the complete story of the Donner Party and their 1846-1847 travails. The museum covered not only the Donner Party but also the local Native American Indians (poorly), the Central Pacific Railroad, and I-80 over the Donner Pass … trying to cover everything and thereby covering nothing very well (this is the failing of many “modern” museums). The museum needs to focus on the ONE thing almost every visitor to their museum and Donner State Park want to hear about, and learn more about: The winter encampment of the Donner Party and their successful and failed efforts to survive. Other issues I had with my experience … signage was severely lacking (try paying the $10 at the entrance booth and then getting back to the museum parking lot), the quality of the film (sound was awful), lack of historical artifacts, and the complete lack of anyone in the museum to answer questions (the one ranger present was fairly new and admitted I needed to talk with one of the park historians, none of which were there). I’d like to give an even lower rating but the Donner Party story is so compelling that it’s worthy of more study.
    Traveled with family
    Written July 23, 2022
  • Davigeta
    Saint Louis, Missouri932 contributions
    An excellent museum dealing with a famous tragedy
    The story of the Donner party is of course well-known, but this museum helped to fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge and personalize the tragedy. It primarily covers the expedition itself, but there are additional exhibits covering Chinese immigrants, Native Americans, and the railroad expansion into the West, over the mountains. Outside, there is a statue honoring all the emigrants who made their way West. The museum is free, but to use the parking lot it costs a $10 user fee, $9 for seniors. Afterward, a short drive takes you to Donner Lake itself. Park, and go out on one of the piers and get a nice view of the lake.
    Written August 21, 2022
  • David G
    Santa Clarita, California515 contributions
    Great little museum
    We were in South Lake Tahoe and heard about this memorial museum so I had to go see it. My wife came along for the beautiful one hour drive around the lake. She stayed in the historic downtown district to shop in the boutiques while I went to the memorial. The museum is free but it was $5 to park - a great deal! I love this type museum. They have a 25 minute movie about the 1846 cross country trip by emigrants seeking their fortunes in California. It explained the string of decisions along the route that ended in the tragic spending of the winter in the mountains covered in snow. The museum also had displays of the building of the intercontinental railroad. About a 1 1/2 hour time for the museum. I did not get to take any of the hiking trails but heard they were interesting too.
    Written December 19, 2021
These reviews are the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor checks reviews for fraud.
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Carol H
Chino Hills, CA203 contributions
Nov 2020
All of the exhibits closed because of Covid. You have 15 minutes in the gift shop before they charge you $5. They originally say that the $5 is for parking but when I told them the hubs dropped me off, she gave me the 15 minute time restriction.

The statue outside is huge and awesome and there is a stone where Moses Schallenberger’s cabin once stood. Beautiful area. Who knows what the museum was like. They did try to get me to go on a 45-minute guided tour, but with the exhibits closed, I passed.
Written November 18, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Lottelli
Wirral, UK2,432 contributions
Oct 2022 • Couples
We had read about the tragedy of the Donner party prior to coming to Lake Tahoe.
The museum had an excellent video that went through all the events and then the museum had further information and displays. A very interesting story. There is also a statue outside.
Written November 3, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

N6025JOrobertj
New Braunfels, United States4 contributions
May 2021
Museum closed due to covid. The same people who expect their supermarket to be stocked, who shop for clothes and groceries, who go to restaurants, etc., are the people who won't allow us to walk through a museum. Ridiculous! They didn't seem to have a problem with charging you to park, however.
Written May 14, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Rochelle F
Randolph, NJ818 contributions
Oct 2020
Beautiful state park and great place to stop and hike. Also nice for a picnic near the lake which is large and beautiful. People were out kayaking and there was even 1 person water skiing (in October). We hiked the path around the lake (on 1 side as the other has all private residences).
Written February 13, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Jana T
Prescott Valley, AZ19 contributions
Sep 2020
I read a few books about the suffering of the members of the Donner party before this visit. This was good, as the museum was closed (Pandemic). Most visitors would likely not get much out of just walking on the trail and seeing the statues, etc., unless they knew the details and the history (which you cannot get if you can't go inside the museum.)
Written June 3, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Aswathi C
Bowling Green, KY121 contributions
Oct 2022 • Family
it’s a state park, have to pay for parking but otherwise entrance is free. The tragic story of the Donner party is depicted in the pioneer monument with the plaque in the back describing the story of how the 22 feet snow fall near Truckee river stranded these emigrants from Illinois. And they were in short supply of resources, with some resorting to cannibalism. Less that half the party was alive when rescue finally arrived.
Written October 24, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Mark M
El Dorado Hills, CA815 contributions
Dec 2019
I had last visited the museum maybe 20 years ago, and it was pretty good. On our most recent visit to the area, this time with a Tahoe newbie, we took her to the museum and we were greatly impressed! It's much larger and of course felt much newer (the restrooms are a vast improvement as well). An excellent introduction to the history of the area - the Donner Party of course, but more than that. Well worth a visit - give yourselves an hour.

And be sure to walk over to the nearby monument to get a view of how deep the snow was back in 1846.

2 thumbs up!
Written January 20, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Ambassador488757
Reno, NV22 contributions
Jun 2020
There was free parking at the visitor center and a nice flat trail around the momument. Great for getting out of the car and stretching your legs. The museum exhibits were closed but a volunteer was behind a desk to give out a map and information.
Written July 5, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Mdwaugh2001
Visalia, CA158 contributions
Jul 2022 • Family
We arrived just in time to take the tour, which we would definitely recommend! We learned so much about the history of the pass as well as the families who made the journey to California. Even our 7 year old was very engaged. Highly recommend this stop if you are driving across The pass.
Written July 13, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

May V
7 contributions
Feb 2020
Campsites sell out like pancakes. You have to reserve it as early as 6 months before your camp date. Huge campsites. Well maintained. Toilets and bathroom are clean. Ridge campsite is closed to the lake. Donner Lake so beautiful, lots of big trees around and nice to jog and walk. The lake has clear waters and not muddy. Nice to swim, take pictures. Spacious picnic site. Dog friendly. Lots of water fun amenities for rentals. Been here many times and I still loved to come and bring friends over. They like the place. Its a very historic park. I usually give a brief history to my guest before coming up here. We hiked an old rail road track on the summit. Now awaiting for our camping this July 2020. My 6th visit since July 2019
Written June 30, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum, Truckee

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