Donner Memorial State Park

The Donner Memorial State Park, or Donner State Park as it is sometimes called, is one of the California State Parks. The Park is located next to Donner Lake, in Truckee, California and the Entrance is at 12593 Donner Pass Road, with a handy exit close by on Hwy 80.

The Entrance to the Donner Memorial State Park in Truckee, California

Things to Do at Donner State Park

Donner State Park is a great place to visit with lots of activities year round. I took all of the pictures on this page on July 14, 2011, which was a Thursday, so mid-week it was great, and not as crowded as on the weekends.  

Here is a list of things to do at the park, and some pictures. This page will just be an overview of the activities, with more detailed information being provided shortly on additional pages:

  • Biking - The park is a great place to ride bikes, because there are lots of roads, very little traffic, and the speed limit is low. If you plan on riding bikes around Donner Lake or walking around the lake, you will need to cut through the State Park.

  • Camping - I'm not much of a camper, but if I was going to go camping in Truckee, it would most likely be at the Donner State Park Campground due to the fact that it is directly adjacent to Donner Lake, and the State Park itself has so many things to do! It is just a great peaceful place to relax!

A Donner Memorial State Park Campground at Donner Lake in Truckee, California

  • Cross Country Skiing - There are three color-coded Cross-Country Ski Trails through the Park in the winter. The trailhead for all of the trails is located near the Emigrant Trail Museum. Parking for the trails is either at the Museum or near the park entrance. The trails are:

  1. Lake Loop Trail - 2.5 miles (Easiest)

  2. Coldstream Trail - 2.1 miles (Steeper)

  3. Upper Coldstream Trail - 1.4 miles (Most Difficult)

  4. Additional details on each trail will be provided. Please check out my Cross Country Skiing Page for additional trails in the area!

  • Fishing - there are over three miles of frontage on Donner Lake and Donner Creek that you can fish from. In addition, Fishing Boats can be rented from within the Park (see Watersports below). There is the public Donner Lake Boat Ramp on the northwest corner of Donner Lake, if you have your own fishing boat, and there is a great All Access Fishing Pier at Shoreline Park midway on the North side of the Lake.

  • Hiking - The park has about two and a half miles of hiking trails:

  1. There is the 1 mile Lakeshore Interpretive Trail (pictured below) which parallels Donner Lake and has educational signs along the way. The trail starts in the lagoon portion of the day-use area of the park, and continues along the lake. This is an easy flat trail to hike, and the scenery can't be beat! There is also lots of places to sit down to rest along the way if need be.

  2. There is also the China Cove Trail which is a trail from the Campgrounds over to China Cove at Donner Lake where the China Cove Beach area is located. This trail would be used primarily if you were camping in the park.

  3. There is also a short, self-guided nature trail that starts near the Emigrant Trail Museum and makes a loop through the forest.

  4. Staff-led hikes start in late June each year. The hikes range from 1 - 2 hours and start at the museum at 10:00 a.m.

  5. The Park borders the Tahoe National Forest where there are excellent hiking trails. You can pick up hiking maps at the Museum. See my Truckee Hiking Page for additional hiking information!

Donner Memorial State Park - Lakeside Interpretive Trail in Truckee, California

  • Picnicking - Each campground has it's own picnic area, but the day-use area of the park has picnic areas all along Donner Lake. There are lots of BBQ areas to grill, restrooms, and piped drinking water. I went through the park on a Thursday to take pictures, and there were lots of picnic areas open. There were lots of shaded areas, as well as tables out in the full sun! They all looked nice and relaxing to me!

One of the Many Picnic areas at Donner Memorial State Park

  • Snowshoeing There are two snowshoe trails in the Park during the winter time. They are:

  1. Nature Trail - 1.8 miles

  2. Snowshoe Adventure Trail - 2.9 miles

  • Swimming at the China Cove Beach - while you can pretty much jump in Donner Lake from any of the shore areas in Donner Memorial State Park, there is one official beach area in the Park, located in China Cove. I couldn't find an official name for the Beach, so for the purposes of this website, I'm going to refer to it as China Cove Beach. The area has a defined swimming area, with signs posted warning that there is No Lifeguard on Duty, and that the water is Extremely Cold! China Cove is also a place to go Diving on the Lake. You can also check out my Truckee Beaches page, for other beaches at Donner Lake and my Lake Tahoe Beaches page for information on the Lake Tahoe beaches.

China Cove Beach in the Donner Memorial State Park in Truckee, CA at Donner Lake

  • Visit the Donner Memorial State Park Visitor Center, the Pioneer Monument and walk around the self-guided nature trail that starts at the Visitor Center.

Pioneer Monument at the Donner Memorial State Park in Truckee, California

  1. Watersports - Boats can be rented in the Park from Donner Lake Watersports - Prices listed below were effective 7/14/2011 so they may be higher than this now!

    1. Canoeing

    2. Fishing Boats

    3. Jet Skiing

    4. Kayaking

    5. Paddleboarding

    6. Sea Cycling on a Paddle Boat

Boating Pricing at Donner Memorial State Park in 2011

Please call for current prices!

Donner Lake Watersports Boats

Donner Memorial State Park - Rules

  • Animals - Do not feed the chipmunks, squirrels, marmots or any other animal that you might see
  • Campground Quiet Hours - 10:00pm - 7:00am
  • Dogs - Permitted in the campground and picnic areas (max 6ft leash), and in your tent or motor vehicle at night. Not Permitted on the trails or the beach.
  • FIRES are only permitted in the established fireplaces
  • No DIVING within the State Park System

Cost of Admission - 2024

  • Boat Rentals: See my photo above with the 2011 prices - I expect they may be higher now, so it is best to call the number listed for current prices.

  • Day Use: Per Car = $10.00 per vehicle during the peak season of May 1 - September 30, and $5.00 per vehicle during the non-peak season of October 1 - April 30

  • Donner Memorial State Park Visitor Center: Open 10am - 5:00pm daily

Hours and Operating Schedule - 2024

  • Campground: Usually open from Memorial Day until mid-September or until freezing weather is imminent

  • Donner Memorial State Park Visitor Center: - Open Daily year-round from 10am - 5pm, except closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years

  • Call the Donner Memorial State Park for Current Seasonal Hours. (contact info below)

Contact Information

For additional information, and to call for campground reservations or book online, please contact the Donner Memorial State Park at:

  • Address: 12593 Donner Pass Road, Truckee, CA 96161

  • Phone: (530) 582-7892

  • Campground Reservations: (800) 444-7275 (book up to 7 months in advance)

  • Website:

See Also.....

Other California State Parks that will be covered by the Truckee Travel Guide Website include: (info to come)

  • D.L. Bliss State Park
  • Emerald Bay State Park
  • Sugar Pine Point State Park
  • Tahoe State Recreation Area

See Also:

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