Picturesque Donner Lake often gets bypassed by travelers on their way to Lake Tahoe, but this snow melt reservoir has a State Park with an expansive swimming area, a fishing pond, trails galore. There’s also a visitor center with museum exhibits on the ill-fated Donner party, who were forced by circumstance to camp near the east end of the lake in the mid 1800s.
In the campground, 154 sites are broken into three quaint and shady loops, with the Splitrock and Ridge loops being closer to the lake and the Creek loop backing up to Michaels Pond. We were happy to find a site for Sofitel in the Creek loop, where we dipped our fishing poles in the pond morning and evening. No trout ever came back to camp with us, but our neighbors had lots of luck, and ate fish for dinner and breakfast!
Hot showers, flush toilets and firewood for sale make setting up camp here an easy affair. Bear lockers for food and fire rings are available at every site. Along the water front there is lots of room to find a shady spot to relax the day away as well as water sports rentals where you can get a kayak or paddle boat to get right out on the water. The Sierra Teardrops kids were fully entertained with water sports and bike rides for the entire trip!
Temperatures range from the mid 70s to mid 40s in summer at this elevation, making Donner Lake a great spot to tuck in to a tear drop trailer for a cozy night’s sleep. The campground doesn’t offer hookups, so bring a generator to keep batteries topped off.
Miles of hiking and biking trails provide easy access to the forests, rivers and vista points all around the lake. The Emigrant Trail Museum hosts a monument and historical account of the Donner Party and the tragic end they met traveling through this beautiful area during the harsh winter of 1846 Just minutes away is the charming mountain town of Truckee, with a days worth of shops and restaurants to explore.
Donner Memorial State Park is an excellent spot for teardrop camping, and is a welcoming place for hikers, bikers, families, and history buffs of all ages.