The main draw to Donner Memorial State Park in Truckee, Calif., is, of course, to see the site of the Donner Party’s ultimate failure. The park plays the attraction up, especially with its new visitor center, where guests can learn just how these early pioneers managed to mess up so badly. (Spoiler alert: They took a shortcut they weren’t supposed to.)
While the park may feel slightly creepy due to its unique history, it’s still a beautiful and popular destination for hikers and families. Donner Lake, in particular, stands out, and visitors to the park can rent pedal boats, kayaks and paddleboards to explore it.
Pedal boats seemed the easiest to maneuver, so a couple friends and I took ours out on the lake, which offers a gorgeous view of the mountains and the small-town charm of Truckee. While pedaling is not the most relaxing way to travel, coasting along the water in the middle of quiet Donner Lake, as the sun peeked out from the clouds, was a perfect way to spend the day.