Donner Lake Loop Ride Details
Level road with bike lanes on Donner Pass Rd., short rollers on South Shore Dr., and a bike path into Donner Memorial State Park.
Start at Donner State Memorial Park located at 12600 Donner Pass Road, Truckee.
GPS: 39.3247224, -120.232780 (Donner State Memorial Park entrance)
A cool cruise around the entire Donner Lake. Start at the Memorial Park and ride west on Donner Pass Road on the bike lanes. Be alert to motorists and pedestrians during peak summer months (July and August) because there is a lot of activity along this section with lodging on one side of the roadway and the lake on the other. Toward the end of the Lake you will turn left on South Shore Drive and discover the West End Beach facility is located here. You will also notice a small green bike sign with the Route #1 indicating you are on course. South Shore Dr. is a neighborhood street traveling along the south side of the lake. There are a couple of short climbs (rollers) and you will see a cautionary road sign reading No Outlet – continue riding to the very end of the roadway and you will see a gate – this is the beginning of the bike path traveling through the park. The Park is a beautiful setting with several locations to relax and take in the serenity of this unique location. When you are ready to continue your ride, just follow the park roadway and you will return to your starting location.
This is a famously historic route you will be riding on. Because of the abundance of water in the area the Washoe would spend summers here hunting, fishing and gathering food supplies for their winter months in the lower elevation valleys. The ride is named after the ill-fated Donner Party who perished here during the winter of 1846-1847. They were attempting to cross the Summit en route to the gold fields but encountered severe winter conditions with freezing temperatures and 20 foot snow pack without having proper supplies or shelter – they perished. The Park is preserving the site of the Donner Camp and houses the Emigrant Trail Museum and the Pioneer Monument dedicated to the travelers of the Emigrant Trail who trekked across country for a more promising future in California.
This route was first used by emigrant wagon trains in 1844, and in 1869 the Transcontinental Railroad passed nearby (railway still in use), and 1913 automobiles made the trip over the summit. The route became a state highway (U.S. 40) and later was replaced with a modern Interstate U.S. 80. Today, the historic Donner Pass Road is a Scenic Byway attracting visitors from around the world as they look and photograph the beautifully arched bridge to see the glacial valley and Donner Lake.