Donner Summit is the most significant historical square mile in California and maybe the entire Western United States.
Native Americans crossed the summit for thousands of years as they summered in the high Sierra following game and better summer climate. They left behind petroglyphs, grinding mortars, metates, and basalt flakes from knapping projectile points.
The first wagon trains to come to California with wagons came over Donner Summit using three passes: Donner Pass (right here down to Donner Lake), Roller Pass and Coldstream Pass (both of which you'll get to on the Judah Loop Trail). Parenthetically the escapees, the rescuers, and the Donner Party rescuees came right over Donner Summit too.
The first transcontinental railroad came over Donner Summit followed by the first transcontinental highway, air route, and telephone line.
People coming over Donner Summit, coming to California, helped make California what it is today. The route over Donner Summit connected California to the rest of the country and brought California products out of the state to the world.
Then there are a myriad of little stories about crossing Donner Summit: the first motorized crossing of the U.S. went over Donner Summit as did the first automobile crossing of the Sierra and the first fellow to bicycle across the Sierra (then he went across the country and arond the world by bicycle in 1885). Those are just a few of the Donner Summit stories you willl find on our website or in our Heirlooms (check out the Heirloom indices for hundreds of stories).