The deep snow at Donner Memorial State Park somehow seems different
from snow at nearby Lake Tahoe resorts–perhaps because it calls to mind
the winter of 1846-47, when 22-foot snows stranded a company of
California-bound pioneers called the Donner Party.
Park visitors, needn’t fear sharing the Donner Party’s
fate, but they can learn about the group’s tragic story. A small
museum, open space for family snow play, and easy nordic ski trails make
this a good stop off Interstate 80, 2 miles west of Truckee on Donner
The museum presents the life of indigenous Indians, chronicles
mining in the area, and–through a display of relics and a 25-minute
slide show–explains the ordeal that claimed the lives of 42 of the 89
Donner Party members. Hours are 10 to noon and 1 to 4 daily; admission
is 50 cents for adults, 25 cents for children.
Snow-booted winter visitors can follow a short trail past sites
where some Donner Party families built crude cabins. And nordic skiers
can take a marked, level 2-1/2-mile loop to within view of Donner Lake.
Ranger-led ski tours and programs start at 10 on the mornings of
February 9 (you ski 6 miles; difficult), February 24 (3 miles; some
hills), March 17 (6 miles; moderate), April 6 (railroading program), and
April 13 (easy walk). For details, call (916) 587-3841 or write to the
park, Box 9210, Truckee 95737.