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Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum

#4 in Best Things To Do in Lake Tahoe

Donner Memorial State Park picture in Lake Tahoe
Donner Memorial State Park picture in Lake Tahoe
Donner Memorial State Park picture in Lake Tahoe
Donner Memorial State Park picture in Lake Tahoe
Donner Memorial State Park picture in Lake Tahoe
Donner Memorial State Park picture in Lake Tahoe

Key Info

Price & Hours

  • Free
  • Sunrise-sunset daily

Details

  • Monuments and Memorials, Museums, Parks and Gardens, Recreation Type
  • 2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
4.2
Overall
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Scorecard

  • Value
    5.0
  • Facilities
    4.0
  • Atmosphere
    4.0

Read about how we rank Things to Do.

The Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum honor one of the darkest moments in American pioneering. Here, you'll find a great stone pedestal commemorating the Donner Party, the legendary pioneers who fell victim to the harsh Sierra Nevada winter of 1846 to 1847. The party (originally consisting of nearly 90 emigrants) was en route to California when their wagon train encountered a severe snow storm. Only half of the pioneers survived (many by resorting to cannibalism). The stone marker near the Emigrant Trail Museum stands 22 feet tall, marking the immense amount of snowfall from that winter.

For more information about the tragic Donner Party, head to the Emigrant Trail Museum. There you'll also find intricate dioramas detailing the history of railroad development in the Sierra Nevada region. It's a great spot for history buffs, according to recent visitors, though some expressed disappointment in the lack of interactive exhibits.

Recent visitors also suggest you spend some time outdoors. The park is home to numerous hiking and snowshoeing trails (more than 8 miles), or you can swim, boat and fish.

You'll find the Donner Memorial State Park and the Emigrant Trail Museum sitting about 3 miles west of Truckee. The park is open daily from sunrise to sunset; the visitor center is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It costs $10 to park in the parking lot May through September and $5 the rest of the year. Along with the museum and visitor center, there are also camp sites with restrooms and showers, as well as picnic areas. For more information, visit the Donner Memorial State Park website.

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Hotels Nearby

  • Thing to Do
  • Hotel
The Cedar House Sport Hotel

The Cedar House Sport Hotel ...

  • 3.4 Miles Away
  • 4.0-star Hotel Class
The Inn at Truckee

The Inn at Truckee ...

  • 1.2 Miles Away
  • 2.0-star Hotel Class
Donner Lake Village

Donner Lake Village ...

  • 2.8 Miles Away
  • 3.5-star Hotel Class
See all hotels in Lake Tahoe »

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#1 Emerald Bay State Park Carved millions of years ago by passing glaciers, this state park is a must-see for anyone looking to experience Lake Tahoe's beauty. Sheltered by towering trees, this inlet along ... Read more » Howcheng / Wikimedia Commons

#2 Squaw Valley Sprawling across six peaks on Lake Tahoe's western shore (about 10 miles northwest of Tahoe City), Squaw Valley has been dubbed one of the world's finest ski resorts ... Read more » Courtesy Squaw Valley

#3 Kings Beach State Recreation Area Stretching along Lake Tahoe's northern shore, this beach is one of the largest in the area. The nearly 13-acre park – which encompasses a fair amount of shoreline on the ... Read more » Courtesy of the North Lake Tahoe Visitors Bureau

#4 Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum The Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum honor one of the darkest moments in American pioneering. Here, you'll find a great stone pedestal commemorating the Donner Party ... Read more » zrfphoto / Getty Images

#5 Homewood Mountain Resort According to skiers, this small resort on Lake Tahoe's west shore (about 7 miles south of Tahoe City) is far more manageable than nearby titans like Squaw Valley and  ... Read more » IJ Venezuela / Homewood Mountain Resort

Courtesy Vail Resorts

#7 D. L. Bliss State Park Named for 19th-century lumber titan Duane Leroy Bliss, this stunning 744-acre park is home to the deepest section of Lake Tahoe and some of the area's most breathtaking sites ... Read more » Susanne Neumann / Getty Images

#8 Heavenly Ski Resort & Gondola With its summit soaring 10,067 feet above sea level (the highest peak in Lake Tahoe), this wildly popular resort truly is heavenly. And it's the only ski area ... Read more » Courtesy of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority

#9 Harrah's Casino Sitting just over the border from South Lake Tahoe in Stateline, Nevada, Harrah's Casino offers a lively counterpoint to Lake Tahoe's natural peacefulness. There are plenty of gambling ... Read more » Courtesy of Harrah's Lake Tahoe

#10 Alpine Meadows If you want to avoid the crowds that flock to nearby Squaw Valley, consider visiting the lesser known Alpine Meadows. Often referred to as Lake Tahoe's hidden gem, this ... Read more » Jason Abraham / Alpine Meadows Ski Resort

# Lake Tahoe Balloons Read more » grantmg / Getty Images

# Lake Tahoe Cruises Read more » Michael Marfell / Getty Images

# Tahoe Adventure Company Read more » Gary Pearl / Getty Images

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