Rustic, quiet and charming: Truckee is the perfect destination for a day trip to Lake Tahoe.
Paddling in Donner Lake, Truckee, California
Lake Tahoe is a classic Northern California vacation destination. Like all popular destinations, the lake has a slight overcrowding problem, especially during high season. Fortunately, nearby Truckee offers visitors a relaxing getaway — perfect for a day trip from Lake Tahoe. This article will outline some basic information about visiting Truckee and nearby Donner Lake.
How to get to Truckee and Donner Lake
Truckee is a 30-minute drive from Lake Tahoe, depending on where Lake Tahoe visitors depart from. The city is on the northwest side of the lake in California. The most direct way to get there is via North Shore Boulevard.
- Itinerary: Lake Tahoe to Truckee
- directions: North on North Shore Boulevard
- Distance: 30 minutes by car
Less than ten minutes west of Truckee is Donner State Memorial Park, anchored on the edge of Lake Donner. The best way to get there is via I-80 W.
- Itinerary: Truckee to Donner Lake
- directions: West on I-80 W
- Distance: Ten minutes by car
What to do in Truckee
Truckee offers a mix of small town charm and eternal Christmas. It is full of quaint restaurants and nearby hiking trails. Main Street is from an older, simpler time. Downtown Truckee is also a community gathering place. Storefronts and Old West-style homes provide an atmospheric backdrop to the hustle and bustle of the street, which is filled with art galleries, family restaurants and curio shops, perfect for spending a relaxing afternoon in family.
Many visitors who come to Truckee make it a point to patronize Jax on the tracks, a classic 1940s California restaurant. The servers are warm and welcoming, as is the food. All day breakfast is a nice option any time of the day.
- Restaurant: Jax on track
- Type: Dinner
- Address: 10144 W River St, Truckee, CA 96161
- Hours: 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
- Recommendation: Cheese omelette
If possible, visitors should travel to Truckee on a Thursday. Every Thursday, the town hosts a weekly festival known as “Truckee Thursdays”. The whole town gathers on Donner Pass Road to enjoy live music, comedy, magic shows and more. The street is closed to cars so vendors can set up shop and sell delicious treats and memorable souvenirs.
- Event: Truckee Thursdays
- When: Every Thursday
- Location: Donner Pass Road, Downtown Truckee
- Admission: Free
- Advantages: Food trucks, live shows, community festivities
Visit Donner Lake
Donner Lake is within Donner State Memorial Park. The park is filled with acres of natural beauty, and in the winter it is a great place for skiing, snowshoeing, and winter hiking. There is a $5 entry fee for cars entering the park, but this can be paid at the Visitor Center or the Emigrant Trail Museum.
Emigrant Trail is a family-friendly museum that provides visitors with a great way to orient themselves to the area as it explains the history of Donner State Memorial Park as well as Truckee, specifically covering the Wahoe Indians, early frontier settlers and the Chinese railway. laborers who built much of the railroad infrastructure in northeastern California.
- Place of interest: Donner Memorial State Museum (Emigrant Trail Museum)
- Address: 12593 Donner Pass Rd, Truckee, CA 96161
- Hours: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- Tickets: Free, but parking costs $10
There is a large bronze statue nearby commemorating the Donner feast, after which the area was named. The Donner Parties were the first New World caravanners who were snowed in the Donner Wilderness. The grounding resulted in almost 50% of the group starving to death. It’s a sober reminder of the sacrifice and hardship that tamed much of America for modern colonization.
Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities at Donner Lake. Compared to Lake Tahoe, Donner Lake is tranquil, calm and nonchalant. This makes it an ideal place to fish for salmon and trout. In the summer, the lake is suitable for light water sports like boating and canoeing. At other times the park may be used for camping.