Donner Summit Historical Society is dedicated to telling the story of the most important historical square mile in California and maybe the entire Western U.S. We operate a museum on the Summit as well as the 20 Mile Museum along Old Highway 40.
Native Americans summered on Donner Summit for thousands of years before the arrival of European Americans. They left behind petroglyphs, mortars, and projectile points. The first wagon train to reach California with wagons crossed Donner Summit followed by hundreds more. Donner Summit is the site of the first transcontinental railroad, the first transcontinental highway (the Lincoln Highway), the first transcontinental air route, and the first transcontinental telephone line.
This area has been a hive of activities including many different industries: agriculture, sawmills, forestry, mink farming, ice harvesting, dairy cattle, railroading, highway maintenance, tourism, and the ski industry.
The rescued members of the Donner Party, their rescuers and the Forlorn Hope, the first group to escape Donner Lake, all crossed Donner Summit.
Visit our 20 Mile Museum which includes interpretive signage along Old Highway 40 from Truckee to Auburn.
Please also check our website for big events in Donner Summit history.