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Camping at Donner Memorial State Park

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Overview of Donner Memorial State Park

Donner Memorial State Park, located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in northeastern California, offers visitors the chance to enjoy stunning scenery, outdoor recreation, and a glimpse into a significant historical event – the ill-fated Donner Party's winter encampment.

Camping Information

Camping Facilities:

  • The park provides campsites for tents and RVs. Sites typically include amenities such as fire pits, picnic tables, and food lockers.
  • Bathrooms with flush toilets and coin-operated showers are available to campers.
  • Some campsites may offer hookups for RVs; however, availability can vary, so it's advisable to check with the park directly or reserve in advance.


  • Campsite reservations can be made through the California State Parks reservation system, typically up to six months in advance.
  • Given the popularity of the park, particularly during the summer months, securing a reservation early is recommended.

Camping Fees:

  • Fees for camping vary according to the site type and amenities provided. A daily vehicle fee may also apply.
  • Check the most current fees on the California State Parks website or by contacting the park.

Campground Rules:

  • Quiet hours are usually enforced to ensure a peaceful experience for all visitors.
  • The number of vehicles and guests per site usually has limits.
  • Bear-proof food storage is essential—store all food and scented items properly to avoid attracting wildlife to the campsite.

Recreation Opportunities

Hiking Trails:

  • The park features a variety of hiking trails, including nature trails and paths that traverse the shore of Donner Lake or lead into the surrounding mountains.

Water Sports:

  • Donner Lake offers opportunities for fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding.

Winter Activities:

  • In the winter, visitors can enjoy snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on marked trails.

Historical Significance

The park commemorates the site where the Donner Party was trapped in the winter of 1846-1847. A visitor's center provides exhibits on the history of the area, including Native American life, the Donner Party, and the construction of the transcontinental railroad.

Visitor Center:

  • The Visitor Center features a museum with detailed exhibits about the Donner Party and the area's natural history.
  • A monument and the Murphy family cabin site give physical context to the story of the Donner Party’s struggle for survival.

Wildlife and Environment

The park is home to diverse wildlife and plant species unique to the Sierra Nevada ecosystem. This includes black bears, which requires visitors to practice caution and be aware of bear safety protocols.

Bear Safety:

  • Store food and scented items securely in bear lockers when provided.
  • Maintain a clean campsite and dispose of waste in bear-resistant trash containers.

Seasonal Access


  • The park is most accessible in the summer months when trails and campgrounds are free of snow, and the lake is available for water recreation.


  • The park remains open in winter, offering a different set of recreational activities, but expect snow and prepare accordingly.

Park Accessibility

ADA Accessibility:

  • Portions of the park, including certain campsites and facilities, are ADA accessible.

Additional Tips

  • Weather: Check the weather forecast before your trip, as mountain weather can be highly variable, even in summer.
  • Regulations: Familiarize yourself with all park regulations to protect the natural environment and ensure a safe experience for all visitors.
  • Wildfire Safety: Due to the risk of wildfires, be mindful of fire restrictions, especially during the dry summer months.
  • Preparation: Bring appropriate clothing and gear for outdoor activities and fluctuating temperatures.

For the most current information regarding camping and recreation at Donner Memorial State Park, it's best to visit the official California State Parks website or contact the park directly before planning your trip.

Map of Campgrounds in Donner Memorial State Park
Campgrounds in Donner Memorial State Park
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