Step back in time as you follow the paths of the emigrants
The unforgiving Sierra Nevada winter of 1846-47 started early, setting the stage for what was to become an incredibly agonizing story of human desperation and determination. In April of 1846, the Donner Party set out to reach California. A series of errors, mishaps and tragedy followed in their footsteps.
Reaching the base of the Sierra just as an early winter storm set in, their fate was sealed, forcing them to stay the winter. Split into two camps, one at the base of what is now Donner Lake, and the other at Alder Creek, the emigrants faced unimaginable perils. Relief finally came in March, with few of the original party surviving.
Exploring this region on interpretive walks and hikes you can almost hear the clip-clop of oxen and the rumble of wagon wheels, as countless emigrants scaled the mighty Sierra Nevada in search of a better life. Learn about the success of the Stephens Party; the tragic events the Donner Party endured; and the importance of the transcontinental railroad.
The Donner Party Hike is a weekend of interpretive hikes, talks, exploration and history. Saturday offers hikes to several locations on the Donner Summit area. Sunday offers an additional walking tour and exploration/education at the Donner Memorial State Park.
Sierra weather is very unpredictable. Please check the weather forecast to ensure your clothing is appropriate for the entire day. This event will not be canceled because of weather. Rain, shine or even snow, as the emigrants, we will forge ahead. Should the weather or terrain conditions become unsafe, coordinators reserve the right to change the locations and hike programs listed in this brochure.
All hikes start at a 7,000-foot elevation or higher. You will be hiking on sand, loose gravel, slick granite, some steep terrain and possibly wet or snow-covered ground. Appropriate footwear is very important. Sturdy, water-resistant hiking shoes with deep tread are recommended.
Guides will be speaking to your entire group on an adult level. Please be considerate so that others can hear the information provided. Children are welcome when accompanied by an adult.
Hikes are long in length and do require some athletic ability. You will need to carry water and personal items. No drinking water or restrooms are available on the trail. Facilities are available at Donner Ski Ranch before and after the hike.
WHAT TO BRING ON HIKES
Small day backpack, walking stick or trekking poles, water, layered clothing, wind-breaker or rain gear, light snacks, sunscreen, dark glasses, hat, tissue and small trash bag.
WHAT NOT TO BRING
Pets, open-toed sandals, worn or slick soled shoes.
We’re proud to be part of Sierra Nevada Geotourism.