Donner Memorial
Guide

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Introduction

Donner Memorial State Park is located within the Sierra Nevada in the state of California. It is a site of historical significance, as it was where the ill-fated Donner party was trapped by snow and resorted to cannibalism. The area is also a geologist's dream, with remnants of glacial movement and transformed sedimentary rocks.

A major feature of Donner Memorial State Park is its lake, Lake Donner. You can enjoy fishing and boating in the lake and the surrounding waters. If you're up for a dip, the water is chilly, but you can enjoy a vigorous swim in it. History buffs won't want to miss the Pioneer Monument and the Visitor's Center where you can learn the stories of early emigrants to California, including the Donner Party. You can even take a self-guided tour to see the Donner Party's Murphy family cabin site.

Donner Memorial State Park features a campground that has 154 campsites. You can park your RV and enjoy the Sierra Nevada. The park has a day-use area, complete with picnic tables, so you can enjoy picnicking near the water. There are also trails you can enjoy. There are no hookups available at the campsites, but there are a table and stove at every site. There are also restrooms, but these are not open during the winter.

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Transportation in Donner Memorial

Driving

Donner Memorial State Park is a California state park located in Sierra Nevada. Traveling from Sacramento, you can get to the park by going east on Interstate 80 for 100 miles. The park is located west of downtown Truckee, on the southern side of the freeway. You'll need to pay to park and fees vary by season.

Donner Memorial State Park closes many of its facilities during the winter months, including day use roads and restrooms. There are activities that you can take part in during the winter, such as guided snowshoe hikes.

You can bring your boat to Donner Memorial State Park to enjoy on the water. There is not a boat launch ramp at the park, but nearby, you can access the Truckee Donner Recreation and Parks District public ramp. Power and sailboats are both allowed. If you do not bring your own boat, you can rent non-motorized water equipment, such as kayaks and stand-up paddleboards for use on Lake Donner.

Parking

Public Transport

Campgrounds and parking in Donner Memorial

Campsites in Donner Memorial

Reservations camping

Reno KOA at Boomtown

The landscaped, all-RV Reno KOA at Boomtown campground is adjacent to the Boomtown Casino & Hotel and shares all of its amenities including nightlife, entertainment, shops and restaurants, resort-level benefits and 24-hour security. Guests will find the Boomtown Family Fun Center and plenty of outdoor sports and activities to be easily accessible. The Reno KOA at Boomtown campground itself is well lit and offers river and mountain views, full hookups with free cable and Wi-Fi, private showers, a seasonal heated pool and spa, a shuttle, a recreation area and a playground.

Donner Memorial State Park Splitrock Campground

The Donner Memorial State Park Splitrock Campground is the smallest of the campgrounds at this state park. There are 42 campsites, and the sites are relatively close together, so you might not have all of the privacy you're looking for. These campsites are the closest to Donner Lake, so they tend to book up quickly. There are no hookups at these campsites, but there is a picnic table and stove at each site. You'll also need to put your foods and beverages in the food storage locker present for your use. Showers are also available at the campground.

Donner Memorial State Park Creek Campground

The Donner Memorial State Park Creek Campground has 57 campsites, making it smaller than the Ridge Campground. Not all of the campsites are big enough for your RV, so you'll want to check into the site before you make your reservations to ensure you're getting a site that's large enough for your rig. While there are no hookups, there are picnic tables and restrooms for your use. Each site also has a metal bear-resistant food storage locker that you must keep your food in while camping. Dogs are allowed at these campsites.

Donner Memorial State Park Ridge Campground

The Donner Memorial State Park Ridge Campground is located in the middle of the state park. It has 59 campsites, although not all of the campsites are large enough for a camping trailer or RV; some are just large enough for a tent. There are no hookups at the park, so you'll need to be prepared for primitive camping. This campground is located closest to the amphitheater of the campgrounds at Donner Memorial State Park.

The campsites each feature a table and a stove that you can cook on. Because of the tenacity of the local bears, each campsite also has a food storage locker. You must keep your food items, as well as beverages and toiletries, in the metal bear-resistant locker while you are camping at Donner Memorial State Park or risk being fined. Dogs are allowed at the campsites, as well as picnicking areas and paved roads, but they are not allowed on the beach or on hiking trails.

First-come first-served

Alternate camping

Seasonal activities in Donner Memorial

In-Season

Boating

Bring your boat when you pack your RV for your trip to Donner Memorial State Park. The park allows power and sailboats, in addition to the more commonly used kayaks or canoes. You will need to use the Truckee Donner Recreation and Parks District boat ramp, as the park does not have one of its own. You can also rent equipment from the state park during the summer for use on the lake, such as kayaks.

Fishing

When you arrive at Donner Memorial State Park, you can spend some time enjoying the fishing. It is not great fishing, but Lake Donner is planted with trout that you can catch from time to time. You can also go fishing in the nearby areas of Donner Creek and surrounding lakes. Bring your gear with you in your camping rig and make sure to pick up a sport fishing license when you arrive in town.

Swimming

When you come to Donner Memorial State Park, don't forget to pack your swimsuit in your camping vehicle. The water is cold in Lake Donner, but many people enjoy a dip in the water. The park offers a sandy beach with access to the lake, and it includes a roped off swimming area that is separate from the rest of the lake. There are restrooms in this area, and they also have picnic tables so you can enjoy a bite to eat.

Off-Season

Exploring the Visitor Center

Donner Memorial State Park is a national landmark and has a visitor's center that is open most days of the year, so make sure that you make time to stop when you arrive in your camping rig. It includes exhibits that tell the story of westward expansion in the country, as well as providing information about the native Washoe Tribe, the Emigrant Trail, and crossing the Sierra Nevada. There is also an impressive Pioneer Monument dedicated to those that crossed the Sierra.

Picnicking

You will find plenty of areas to enjoy a picnic at Donner Memorial State Park. The park has tables at each of its campsites, as well as a stove to utilize for meals and food storage containers. In addition, there is a picnic area near the lake that has tables and restrooms, as well as drinking water. You can enjoy the area for the day or make plans to camp with your tent or RV, depending on your preference.

Hiking

Donner Memorial State Park has plenty of hiking options available to visitors. There are occasional guided hikes, as well as trails that you can explore on your own. The Lakeside Interpretive Trail features exhibits along the trail that outline the history of the area and information about its flora and fauna, ending up at Lake Donner. In total, there are over eight miles of trails that you can hike on when you come to explore the park.

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