The winter of 1846-47 was a cruel one, and the Donner Party became etched in history because of it.
During the winter of 1846-47 – a particularly frigid, challenging one – the original Donner Party suffered numerous struggles, tragedies, and hardships. In fact, reaching the base of the Sierras at winter’s onset, there the party was trapped until March 1947. But you don’t even have to fully imagine…
Every winter you have a unique opportunity to understand firsthand what the original Donner Party experienced, as part of a small group of 15-20 people who will be expertly and safely guided through customized hikes. Each one explores the original group’s travails, early Truckee history, and the wonderfully pristine Sierra Nevada scenery.
One of the best places to begin to learn about the Donner Party Hikes is the Sierra Nevada Geotourism website. There, in addition to contact information about this joint Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce/Donner Summit Historical Society event, you can find out key dates and hiking details, prices and so on. You’ll also be able to read a good overview about the true story of the 1846/47 Donner Party.
Told as it actually happened – “an incredibly agonizing story of human desperation and determination” – you’ll learn how through a series of missteps, tragedy followed the Donner group wherever it went. Setting out in April of 1846, their lengthy sojourn took them to the base of the Sierra as the winter set in. Forced to stay on, and split between two camps, the emigrants involved “faced unimaginable perils.” On being rescued the following March, few were still alive.
If you would like to walk their walk, the annual event offers up a one or two-day event, divided into six expertly guided hikes. Each hike explores different characteristics of early Truckee history, and of the emigrants who came here. Each provides detailed information as you trek through our vivid and spectacular Sierra Nevada backdrop. The Saturday hikes begin and end at Donner Ski Ranch (off Highway 40). Later, enjoy a lunch, and Frank Mullen’s presentation (Mr. Mullen is the author of Donner Party Chronicles). Sunday’s walking tours focus directly on the Donner Party’s tragedy and route. Starting at Alder Creek, where the family was forced to stay the winter, you’ll hear of the “grueling travel and mishaps” of the original party, and learn about archeological finds at the location.
This year the event dates are October 8 and 9. The cost of the Saturday hike is $55/person, and for the Sunday 2-day package, $80/person. These costs increase by $10 each after September 25.
To find out more for yourself, visit the Geotourism website (link is above), or write to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re interested, you can also visit the official Donner Party Hike website. There is quite a bit of useful information on the site, and in addition, a registration form you can print, fill out, and fax. If you’re thinking of spending an extra day or two in the area, the site also has a link to various lodging specials. If you find you want to make a home in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, we can help you find a comfortable place to spend your summers and winters.
This list was accurate at the time of publication; please check directly with the venue(s) to ensure dates, times, and locations remain the same.