If you're anything like me, when you think "Donner Pass," you think, in short, "cannibals." This part of American history seems glossed over between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. But stepping onto this land, greeted by a giant statue commemorating the height of the snow during the winter of 1847 (approx. 20 feet high, believe it or not), you get that sense of the past and just how "too easy" things are now. Luckily, unlike the way of life, the nature here hasn't changed as much – it's still absolutely beautiful.
After you walk around the trails where the Donner party set up camp, be sure to stop into the Emigrant Trail museum (on site) and watch the 20-minute documentary. It's quite old, but it does a nice job of answering all your questions and helping you wrap your mind around this harrowing yet exciting time in America's past.