Step Back in Time with the Donner Party Hike

Travel is so easy, relatively speaking, these days that we rarely give it much thought. Hop on a plane and you’re on the opposite coast within the same day.  It’s hard to imagine the hardships and triumphs of those who first settled the west, traveling for months through grueling, dangerous conditions to reach their goal.  One great way to step back in time is the annual Donner Party Hike here238-2 in Truckee.  This year’s hike – the 23rd annual – is being held on October 2nd and 3rd.

On Saturday, hikers can choose among six guided hikes with different focuses and skill levels.  Each hike is led by knowledgeable guides who share fascinating details of the area and those who previously settled it.  Hikers can choose the railroad snow shed hike to hear about the building of the Transcontinental Railroad through the area, and the Chinese workers who lived and died to make it a reality.  Other hikes include Roller Pass, where emigrants were forced to winch their wagons up a 35-degree granite slope, or our lovely high Sierra lakes, or the Dutch Flat Wagon Road to learn about where and how the road was built and the advent of motorized transport through the Sierra.

Saturday hikes will begin and end at Donner Ski Ranch located on Highway 40 on Donner Summit. Guides lead groups of approximately 15–20 people to interpretive spots giving detailed historical information focused on emigrant and area history.  The cost for Saturday’s hikes is $45 per hiker; $50 after September 26.

Sunday provides the opportunity for an additional day of history and exploration as part of a two-day Donner Party Hike package. The day begins with an interpretive walk where participants will hear of the grueling travel and mishaps of the Donner Party and the archeological finds of the group in this area. Participants will then drive to Donner Memorial State Park to view the Murphy Cabin Site and Pioneer Monument. Participants are welcome to view the movie documentary and explore the Emigrant Trail Museum at the State Park, admission to the park is included for the remainder of the afternoon. The Saturday and Sunday package is $65 per hiker; $70 after September 26.

More information and the hike registration form can be found at the hike’s website.

Guide photo courtesy of the Donner Party Hike