Historic hikes explore emigrant history


Courtesy Donner Party Hikes · 

Hikers may experience the early emigrants’ journey across the Sierra Nevada without reliving the dangers on Oct. 4 and 5 during the 22nd Annual Donner Party Hike.

Participants may choose from five hikes on Saturday and a walking tour on Sunday. All of the events offer insight into emigrant history from area guides, along with invigorating recreation and beautiful scenery.

Saturday’s hikes begin and end at the Mt. Judah lodge at Sugar Bowl Ski Resort on Highway 40 on Donner Summit. Guides will lead groups of 10 to 20 people to interpretive spots giving detailed historical information focused on emigrant and area history. In the afternoon, hikers will enjoy a hamburger lunch and a presentation by Mark McLaughlin, an award-winning, nationally published author and a professional speaker.

On Saturday, there are five hike options available. They vary in length and some explore the Dutch Flat Donner Lake Wagon Road and 1913 Corridor Lincoln Highway with views of petroglyphs, old roadside billboards and the China Wall. Other hikes head up Roller Pass and/or Mount Judah, or pass pristine Sierra Lakes. Others follow emigrant routes with various signage and evidence of days gone by.

History hikes

Summit Meadows | Hikers skirt by Lake Van Norden with stops to see rock with mortars and other remnants of emigrants passing through. Moderate, 4-mile hike.

Summit Canyon/Dutch Flat Wagon Road | Explore Dutch Flat Donner Lake Wagon Road and the Lincoln Highway. Pass petroglyphs, roadside billboards and the China Wall. Find out where and why these roads were built. This hike is a moderate, one way for 3.5 miles. Hikers will be bused back to Sugar Bowl Lodge.

Roller Pass/Judah Loop | Hike up the Pacific Crest Trail to see views of Donner Pass, Coldstream Pass and Roller Pass where emigrants were forced to winch their wagons up a 35-degree granite slope. Continue up to the top of Mount Judah and on to Donner Peak before descending back to Mt. Judah Lodge. Moderate to strenuous hike for 5.4 miles roundtrip.

Coldstream Pass | This 4- to 6-hour hike climbs over Coldstream Pass, one of the most heavily traveled emigrant routes. The 6-mile hike is strenuous, with some bushwhacking while rising and descending over a minimum of 1,800 vertical feet. Hikers should be in good physical condition. Note: Coldstream Pass hikers will be provided a bag lunch as they will return after the activities conclude.

High Sierra Lakes | Enjoy incredible vistas seen by emigrants as they passed through the High Sierra years ago. Discover hidden alpine lakes while exploring Donner Summit in a moderate to strenuous 6-mile hike.

The two-day event concludes on Sunday with a relaxed walking tour leaving from the Donner Camp Picnic Area on Highway 89 North. Activities include a walking tour detailing the Donner Party’s encampment, a visit to the Murphy’s Cabin Site and entrance to the Donner Memorial State Park Museum showing a historical movie about the Donner Party.

Space is limited for all events and reservations are required. Registration for the Saturday hikes is $50 per hiker and includes a guided hike, commemorative ball cap, hamburger lunch and afternoon presentation. The two-day hike package, which includes Sunday’s walking tour and entrance to the Donner Memorial State Park museum, is $70. (Sunday’s walking tour is only available as part of the two-day event package.)


For more information or to purchase tickets, visit donnerpartyhike.com.