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Donner Memorial State Park Cross-Country Ski

Lake Tahoe + Northern Sierra, California

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Donner Memorial State Park Cross-Country Ski

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  • The park's visitor center has a collection of displays and maps relating to the Donner Party and park trails.- Donner Memorial State Park Cross-Country Ski
  • The trail begins immediately behind the parking entrance kiosk, located 100 yards west of the visitor center.- Donner Memorial State Park Cross-Country Ski
  • Trailhead.- Donner Memorial State Park Cross-Country Ski
  • The trail loop can start behind either gate.- Donner Memorial State Park Cross-Country Ski
  • The relatively level trail makes this adventure appropriate for all ability levels.- Donner Memorial State Park Cross-Country Ski
  • There are endless opportunities to leave the trail and head into the backcountry.- Donner Memorial State Park Cross-Country Ski
  • Cross-country skiing in Donner Memorial State Park.- Donner Memorial State Park Cross-Country Ski
  • The edge of Donner Lake, with the distant summit of Donner Peak in the background.- Donner Memorial State Park Cross-Country Ski
  • An example of the scenic vistas of Donner Memorial State Park.- Donner Memorial State Park Cross-Country Ski
  • The trail threads through the forest.- Donner Memorial State Park Cross-Country Ski
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Endless backcountry opportunities. Amazing views.
Cons: 
Trail not always groomed. Can get crowded.
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Region:
Lake Tahoe + Northern Sierra, CA
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Groomed trail: 
Yes
Net Elevation Gain: 
35.00 ft (10.67 m)
Parking Pass: 
State Park Fee
Preferable Season(s):
Winter
Total Distance: 
3.00 mi (4.83 km)
Trail type: 
Loop
Trailhead Elevation: 
5,980.00 ft (1,822.70 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Pro Contributor

Donner Memorial State Park is a scenic collection of trails in winter when the park closes all of its roads to vehicles and grooms them for cross-country skiers.

From the park visitor center, locate the trail by heading about 100 yards west toward the parking entrance kiosk, and the trailhead lies just behind that. The cross-country ski trail follows the path of South Shore Drive, the summer road that visitors use to travel through the park. The trail quickly arrives at two closed gates that make up either end of the loop. The left gate will lead you first into rolling forest, while the right will take you over flat terrain toward Donner Lake.

The wide and generally level trail begins to pass by views of the lake through the picnic areas. And though the actual trail never goes to the lakeshore itself, there are many opportunities to leave the main trail and head down to the lake. It is even possible to ski most of the course of the snowshoe trail, which offers a far more scenic, if slightly more backcountry, course.

At the southeast edge of Donner Lake the path leaves the open and flat South Shore Drive path and enters the path of a summer fire road. Here the forest becomes more dense and the terrain encounters some very slight elevation variation, though the route remains good for skiers of all ability levels.

The trail passes by the sites of several summertime campgrounds along with the intersection for the Coldstream Trail before reemerging at the closed gates just down the slope from the trailhead.

The trails themselves are unmarked, so having an idea of landmark locations or a navigational aid may be helpful. Trails are open from sunrise to sunset. All state park rules apply. Also note that, while the park grooms trails when it is able, there is no regular schedule for grooming. New snow may mean the route is not maintained.

When skiing near the edges of the water, be aware that flat areas, including areas with previous tracks, may be on frozen water and may change with conditions.

Backcountry Safety

Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.

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(28 within a 30 mile radius)

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