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12 Fantastic Things To Do In Truckee, California: The Ultimate Outdoor Guide!

Updated: Feb 23

Find out the best things to do in Truckee, California in this year-round guide!


Best things to do in Truckee california

Situated in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Northern California, Truckee is a small, charming mountain town about a 20-minute drive from North Lake Tahoe. It's known for its outdoor recreation, artsy boutiques and cafes, and historic roots. In this post, I'm sharing 12 fantastic, year-round things to do in Truckee, California.


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1. Historic Downtown Truckee

Historic Downtown Truckee
Historic Downtown Truckee


Historic Downtown Truckee is a small and charming section of Truckee with a rustic, old-west feel. The main strip, which runs along Donner Pass Road, is lined with colorful and historic buildings, one-of-a-kind shops, and local restaurants, cafes, and bars. A couple of fun spots that I recommend checking out are Tourist Club (a local dive) and Old Town Tap.

 

2. Donner Lake Overlook

Donner Lake Overlook in Truckee California

Donner Lake Overlook in Truckee California
Sunrise at Donner Lake Overlook

For some of the best views overlooking Truckee, head to Donner Lake Overlook. To get there, take Donner Pass Road, a winding road with stunning vistas. Once you arrive at the overlook, you’ll find designated parking and a viewing area with gorgeous views of Donner Lake and the Sierra Nevada mountains. This is also the location of Rainbow Bridge (also known as Donner Summit Bridge), a restored arch bridge originally built in the 1920s.

 

3. Paddle Boarding on Donner Lake

Paddle Boarding on Donner Lake in Truckee California

Paddle Boarding on Donner Lake in Truckee California

Donner Lake's stunning alpine scenery and easy accessibility (due to the dozens of public piers that you can drive right up to) make it a fantastic spot for paddleboarding and kayaking. My favorite time to paddleboard on Donner Lake is the early morning, when the waters are calm, and the conditions are very dreamy with fog blowing off the lake.

 

4. Johnston Canyon Overlook

Johnston Canyon Overlook HIke

Johnston Canyon Overlook HIke

Johnson Canyon Overlook, reached via the Glacier Way Trailhead in Tahoe Donner, is a short and sweet loop trail with spectacular views of Donner Lake and Johnston Canyon. The hike is beautiful year-round, but my favorite time is in the winter, as it's one of my go-to spots to snowshoe around Lake Tahoe.

 

5. China Cove Loop

China Cove Loop in Donner Memorial State Park

China Cove Loop in Donner Memorial State Park

The China Cove Trail is an easily accessible 3-mile trail that loops around Donner Memorial State Park. It's another one of my favorite areas to snowshoe in the Lake Tahoe area. The snowshoe hike is perfect for beginners and is incredibly scenic, especially when the towering pine trees that frame the trail are blanketed in snow. Along the loop are numerous mini trails that veer off the main loop and lead to Donner Lake.

 

6. Donner Lake Public Piers

Donner Lake Public Piers in Truckee California

Donner Lake Public Piers in Truckee California

One really cool thing about Donner Lake are the easily accessible public piers (37 in total). These piers (or docks) are available on a first-come-first-served basis and are fantastic spots to soak up the sun and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

 

7. Truckee Farmers Market

Truckee Farmers Market

Truckee Farmers Market

The Truckee Farmers Market runs from May through October, every Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Truckee River Region Park. Here, you'll find local vendors offering a variety of fresh fruits, organic vegetables, artisanal breads, baked goods, and more.

 

8. Truckee River Bike Path

Truckee River Bike Path
Truckee River Bike Path in early October

Truckee River Bike Path

Truckee River Bike Path

The Truckee River Bike Path connects Tahoe City and Olympic Valley via a picturesque, 10-mile, out-and-back paved route alongside the Truckee River. Along the way are several places to stop and enjoy the scenery. In the summer, you'll spot rafters floating on the Truckee River, down to River Ranch Lodge and Restaurant, a great local spot to grab lunch and drinks after your ride. In the fall, there's lovely autumn foliage along the path.

 

9. Truckee River Float


Floating down the Truckee River is a local pastime. You can bring your own float or rent one from Truckee River Rafting and other local companies. One of the most popular, self-guided routes starts in Tahoe City and ends at the River Ranch Restaurant. Meandering along the river, you'll pass by some beautiful scenery and encounter some mild rapids. Conditions vary depending on the season.

 

10. Donner Summit Canyon


The Donner Summit Canyon Hike is a relaxed 3.6-mile loop, offering panoramic views of Donner Lake and the surrounding Sierras. Donner Summit Canyon was purchased by the Truckee Donner Land Trust in 2010, and it’s now part of Donner Memorial State Park. It's a popular spot for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter and hiking and biking in the summer.

 

11. Northstar Ski Resort

Northstar California Resort
Terrain Park at Northstar

Northstar California

Located roughly 10 minutes from Truckee, Northstar Resort boasts high-speed lifts and over 3,000 acres of groomed terrain. Many of Northstar’s trails are not particularly steep, making it a terrific option for families and beginner/intermediate riders. The Epic Pass resort is also home to one of the top freestyle terrain parks in the US. The Village at Northstar offers ice skating, shopping, spa services, and an array of dining options.


Check out my video on visiting Northstar here:


 

12. Palisades Ski Resort


Palisades Tahoe Ski Resort

Halfway between Truckee and Tahoe City, on HWY 89, Palisades Tahoe (formerly known as Squaw) is known for its extraordinary terrain and legacy ski culture dating back to the 1960 Winter Olympics. The Ikon Pass resort is open year-round and offers 3,600 acres of skiing and riding across six peaks. The Village at Palisades Tahoe, with its charming stone walkways and Euro-style setting, features shops, weekly events, and an array of dining and après options, including The Chalet, The Auld Dubliner, and the Rocker.

 

I hope you enjoyed my guide on the best things to do in Truckee, California!


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Hi, I'm Gabriella, an outdoor photographer living in Lake Tahoe, California. 
 
I'm originally from New York and moved to Los Angeles in 2013 to try out living somewhere new and different.  I found myself loving the adventurous lifestyle and dramatic scenery on the west side of the country.  Eventually, I moved to Lake Tahoe in 2019 after falling in love with its natural beauty and outdoor lifestyle. 
 
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