The Visitor Center at Donner Memorial State Park sits at the gateway into California and features interactive exhibits that explore the experiences of crossing the Sierra from the earliest times to the present. The six exhibit areas impart a strong sense of place for these groups that are a part of the Donner region’s heritage: The Washoe Tribe, the Emigrant trail and the story of the ill-fated Donner Party stranding in 1846/47, the westward expansion of the railroad, the Chinese workers who built the railroads and changed the west, the influence of the interstate highway system through the Sierra and the erection of the Pioneer Monument and creation of Donner Memorial State Park. The Gift Shop features a notable collection of books on the Donner Party and other topics featured in the exhibits. In addition, visitors can purchase a wide variety of carefully selected gifts, souvenirs and other items to enhance their experience.
Hours: Daily 10am-5pm
Closed: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Front Desk: 530-582-7892
The picnic area is located near the lake and includes picnic tables, restrooms and piped drinking water. A sandy beach and walking trails are nearby. An easy, one-mile lakeside interpretive trail starts in the lagoon portion of the day-use area and continues along the lake. Day use permits can be purchased at the front entrance and are good until sundown on the day of purchase.
The park has more than three miles of frontage on Donner Lake and Donner Creek. Fishing is not spectacular, though the lake is planted periodically with catch able trout, and sometimes Kokanee along with trout are caught. A valid sport fishing license is required and may be purchased in nearby downtown Truckee. Many fishermen use the park as a base to visit nearby lakes.
While the park has no boat-launching ramp on site, a public ramp operated by the Truckee Donner Recreation & Parks District is available in the northwest corner of Donner Lake about a mile away. There is a fee charged for boat launching. For information call (530) 582-7720 or click here for more information. The lake is open to both power and sail boats.
Though the water is cold (65°-68°), many enjoy a refreshing swim in Donner Lake. Swimming is allowed at all State Park access points. China Cove, on the west end of the Park, offers a roped swimming area, sandy beach, picnic benches, bathrooms and parking. For additional swimming options around the Lake that are open to the public, outside of the park, click here to visit the local Recreation & Park District website.
Non-Motorized Water Sports
Donner Lake is very popular for non-motorized water sports such as paddle boarding, kayaking and sailing. Equipment can be rented at the State Park concession during summer months.
Lakeside Interpretive Trail
The Lakeshore Interpretive Trail features eighteen trail-side exhibits illustrating the history of the Emigrant Trail and the area’s geology and ecology, Washoe culture and the local recreational possibilities. The path leads to, and along, Donner Lake. The trail ends at a nice picnicking spot near the lake.
Summer and Winter Interpretive Programs
A wide variety of interpretive activities are scheduled during the year. Programs include campfire programs, nature hikes,guided snowshoe hikes and Jr Ranger programs. Self guided activities are also available at the park.
For a calendar of upcoming State Park sponsored events, click here.
For a calendar of upcoming SSPF sponsored events, click here.