Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum

#4 in Best Things To Do in Lake Tahoe
Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum
Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum
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Key Info

12593 Donner Pass Rd.

Price & Hours

Free
Sunrise-sunset daily

Details

Monuments and Memorials, Museums, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
4.2scorecard
  • 5.0Value
  • 4.0Facilities
  • 4.0Atmosphere

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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More Best Things To Do in Lake Tahoe

Emerald Bay State Park
Squaw Valley
Type
Time to Spend
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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 the southwest shore of Lake Tahoe is known for its colorful granite cliffs and stunning panoramas. Follow Highway 89 south from Tahoe City (about 20 miles) or north from South Lake Tahoe (about 10 miles) and you'll come across the Emerald Bay Lookout, the park's crown jewel. And you should make sure you have a camera on hand – the scenery is breathtaking and travelers say there are photo opportunities everywhere you turn.

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