Saturday, March 17, 2012

Donner Memorial State Park in the winter

Donner Memorial State Park is a great snowshoe and Nordic ski area. There is plenty of parking and there are very few visitors during the winter months. The summer roads and hiking trails become winter snowshoe and ski trails. There are designated and marked Nordic ski trails. However, in my experience, the trails are rarely groomed.

In addition to the marked trails, a good place to ski or snowshoe is along the South shore of Donner Lake. The shoreline provides magnificent views of the lake. If you’re lucky like I was today, you might get to see a Bald Eagle catching fish from the lake. On some days, you may find that the lake is frozen over.

Bald Eagle
If you start at the entrance kiosk and travel along the shoreline, it’s about 1.5 miles to the West End swimming beach. If you want to make it a loop, follow marked trails from the West End bathroom back to the entrance kiosk. The bathrooms are locked and water to the drinking fountains are shut off.

I rarely find other people out and about in the park during winter. This is an easily accessible hiking/skiing area that has the feeling of remoteness, once you get back in the forest and away from the lake.

There is technically no street parking on Donner Pass Road during the snow season. Therefore, you have to park inside the park and pay the $8 dollar day fee to park. However, this $8 dollar fee seems to be a barrier to entry, so there won’t be a crowd. Your parking fee includes admission to the Emigrant Trail Museum, so you might want to visit. The museum has photos and artifacts from the early days of Truckee, the Donner Party, railroading and other historical events.

Just after finishing my snowshoe at 3:00pm, the trail grooming machine went out to groom. You never know, you may find some groomed trails when you visit.

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