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6 Jun 2017
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'Donner Lake? As in THE Donners?'

If I had a nickel for how many times people have said in passing, ‘Donner Lake? As in THE Donners? The Donner Party?” … well, I’d be like the Gold Rush miners: quite rich! The beautiful stretch of the Sierra Nevada mountain range that we know today as Donner Summit is a rich part of Northern California’s history. The first wagon train to cross into California traveled over Donner Summit — it’s the site of the first transcontinental railroad, first transcontinental highway, and telephone line, first ski resort (well, just east a bit in Truckee) and subsequently we also have the ill-fated history of the Donner Party. 

Donner Summit History

Its stunning crags, peaks and valley dropping down sharply to Donner Lake afford some of the most beautiful vistas in the Sierra, but its history has us captivated in many ways. If you’re staying in the Truckee-Tahoe area for summer biking, hiking, exploring, or general ‘get-lost-sen-out’ moments of refreshment (perfect place to do it!), might we add a trip to the Donner Emigrant Trail Museum while you’re here? Who doesn’t like learning about the history and seeing cool artifacts that give us a sense of place and time for those early adventurers? For those emigrating to the Wild West for a new life.

You can purchase a Walking History of Donner Summit, or visit the Emigrant Trail Museum on the east end of the Donner Lake, or better yet you can sign up for the Donner Party Hike, hosted October 14-15, 2017. It’s a professional hike with local historians, and a popular autumn event you don’t want to miss as an outdoor enthusiast historian! 

More Tahoe Area History

Want to learn more about our Tahoe area history?