bridge in truckee

What to Do in Truckee from Mountain Biking to Swimming in Donner Lake

The quaint little town of Truckee acts as the gateway to all that North Lake Tahoe has to offer. But don’t think that Truckee is just an extension of Tahoe. The growing municipality has its own charm and so many things to do that you don’t need to venture far to live the high Sierra life.

Plus, being on the corridor between San Francisco and Sacramento and Reno means that you aren’t in no man’s land either. Truckee is a great place to get away without feeling like you’re too remote.

Here are some fun things to do in Truckee whether you are a seasoned local, a potential homeowner, or a weekend warrior.

Historic Downtown Truckee

With the train lumbering through and Truckee River gurgling nearby, Downtown Truckee has a feel of nostalgia for old times past. And Truckee has an important history. After the infamous Donner Party couldn’t go any farther on the Immigrant Trail due to an early winter, it became the hub for gold and silver miners coming to and from Coloma in California and Virginia City in Nevada in the mid-1800s.

Downtown Truckee maintains its appeal with its cute, old-Western feel and walkability. Storefronts and restaurants line Donner Pass Rd., aptly named Commercial Row, making it easy to wander and browse. From dive bars like the Past Time Club and T-Club to elevated dining at Moody’s Bistro and Pianetta Ristorante to new breweries like Alibi Ale Works and wine tasting at Uncorked, there is a variety of places to eat, drink, and experience Truckee’s nightlife. As for shopping, there are kitschy shops, touristy shops, book shops, and great boutique retail options. There really is something for everyone in the family in Downtown Truckee.

Every Thursday in the summer from June to August, Downtown comes alive for Truckee Thursdays with live music and local vendors lining the street. It’s always a fun time with good food, delicious drinks, new friends, and old.

*Note that due to COVID-19 challenges, Truckee Thursdays have been canceled for the 2020 summer.

Donner Lake/Donner Memorial State Park

Not far from Downtown, nothing is really far in Truckee, is beautiful Donner Lake. While smaller than Lake Tahoe, visitors can still enjoy a variety of watersports from paddleboarding to kayaking to water skiing or tubing behind a ski boat.

The public docks that dot the shore are wonderful places to put a towel down and cool off and West End Beach is a favorite for putting your toes in the sand.

Mountain Biking

While there are plenty of trails to explore around Truckee, a good place to start is the Donner Cross Country Center. The ever-evolving trail network allows access to Prosser Hill, Donner Rim Trail that offers sweeping views of Donner Lake, and Alder Creek.

Another option, great for kids and adults alike, is the Truckee Bike Park. With epic pump tracks, flow lines, and single tracks for all levels you can practice to get on the big trails and have a lot of fun while doing it.

If you want to bike on something paved, the Truckee River Legacy Trail follows the Truckee River for six miles, providing an easy, but scenic, ride perfect for the whole family.

Ski Resorts

Truckee is a great base camp for so many outdoor activities and day trips, but obviously, one of the biggest reasons that people visit is to enjoy the snow! Luckily, there are plenty of ski resorts nearby.

Northstar California Resort is close by, technically Truckee’s true ski resort only seven miles from Downtown. With one of the best villages in the Tahoe basin, Northstar is family-friendly and offers a variety of year-round amenities in addition to awesome skiing like a world-class golf course and an endless array of hiking trails.

Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Area is also right in Truckee but is small with only two lifts and 14 trails. It is an awesome place to take the kids, learn how to ski, or try cross country skiing! Other nearby resorts include Boreal Mountain Resort up the I-80 on Donner Summit and Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows on the way to Tahoe City.

Village Walk Skyline

While Truckee hotels are wonderful to stay in when visiting, having a home in Truckee means you can enjoy the Sierra Nevadas all year long. Village Walk Skyline is a luxury development at the base of Northstar, which means that everything there is to do in Truckee will be minutes away from home.

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