While the park is open year-round, certain attractions such as beaches, paddling, and camping are typically enjoyed from Memorial Day through mid-October.
As the heat of summer arrives, the alpine lakes and rivers surrounding Truckee feature a variety of scenic beaches to cool off at, including some in the park itself. The park’s boundaries start on the eastern side of Donner Lake, wrapping its way around the north shore. The two primary beach areas are the Donner Creek Outlet and the China Cove Beach.
The park is a perfect destination to set off on a paddleboarding or kayaking adventure. As at most area lakes, paddle sports are best in the morning on Donner Lake. In the afternoon, the winds pick up creating an unpleasant experience with choppy waters. Each Thursday from June 22nd to November 16th, the park offers FREE paddle tours (first come first serve). On the paddling adventure, guides will discuss wildlife diversity and the rich cultural history of the area. You can also rent kayaks, canoes, stand up paddleboards, and even pedal boats from the Donner Lake Marina which borders the park’s boundary. Before you set off on the waters, be sure to read our visitor’s guide to water recreation.
In the nearly 3,000 acres of land, you’ll find about eight miles of trail that also connects to the hundreds of miles of trails in the Tahoe National Forest including the famous Pacific Crest Trail. Some of the most popular trails include hikes along the Lakeside Interpretive Trail and the Old Emigrant Trail Road that contours along the slope above Donner Lake. Use this printable guide to learn about Truckee's flora and fauna on a self-guided Nature Loop. Brochure maps are available online and at the Donner Memorial Visitor Center.
The park has over two miles of frontage on Donner Lake and Donner Creek. Although the fishing is not usually spectacular, the lake has kokanee and planted trout. Fishing licenses are required. (Many fishermen prefer to use the park as a base to visit nearby lakes).
There are three main campgrounds located within the state park with 154 sites available. They typically open from Memorial Day through Mid-October depending on when the snow melts. Reservations can be made through reservecalifornia.com six months to the date of your first day of arrival.