Blake Walsh

25 Best Things to Do in Truckee, CA

  • Published 2023/03/24

Visit the sunny riversides of the Truckee River in Truckee, California.

This beautiful town is spread over 87 square kilometers, of which as much as 3.4 square kilometers consists of water from the Truckee River and Donner Lake.

Its climate is best described as Mediterranean.

The summers are dry and hot, while winters are mild but can get chilly and even snowy.

It’s a wonderful place to visit with lots of areas of interest.

These are the best things to do in Truckee, California:

Enjoy Recreational Winter Activities at Northstar California

Aerial view of Northstar California

Lance Huntress /

Northstar California is one of Truckee’s most famous and well-known resorts, especially in the winter.

It operates during the winter and summer seasons, but it is significantly more popular during the former because of all the fun winter activities that can be carried out here.

This includes skiing and snowboarding trails.

You can also try skating around.

People downhill-skiing at Northstar California

David A Litman /

There is also a fire pits belt where you can host a nice warm bonfire.

After the snow starts melting during summers, other fun activities like mountain biking can be done here.

They have many picnic locations around the resort, which provide breathtaking views for you to look at and enjoy as you dig into your packed snacks or takeout from any of the resort’s on-site restaurants.

This is thus the perfect destination and is one of the best and most visited places if you are traveling with your family.

Scenic view of lake tahoe from Northstar California

David A Litman /

Fall in Love with Nature at the Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum

The waters of Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum

Zack Frank /

Located near the Schallenberger Ridge, which is a very old ridge known for its sedimentary rocks and great boulders and rock collections, this vast state park is great for some fun outdoor activities.

It is an especially great place to visit if you are vacationing during the summer since there are many more outdoor activities that you can enjoy, including boating, camping, fishing, water skiing, and more.

Pioneer memorial statue at Donner Memorial State Park

EWY Media /

There are hiking trails too, which are spread over large areas and go to great lengths among scenic views.

You can also spot geographically and geologically significant debris here and there from the olden and ancient times when glaciers used to dominate this area.

The Emigrant Trail Museum is also great if you want to learn about the vibrant history of the original people who settled here during the 1800s.

Tall trees and big boulders at Donner Memorial State Park

Jeffrey M. Frank /

Go for a Bike Ride at the Truckee Bike Park

The Truckee Bike Park is a local attraction that is really enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.

If you love biking, then you should definitely visit this place and give it a try.

There are various events also held here, and money is raised to be given to multiple charities.

The park itself has many different sections, which include really exciting avenues like dirt jumps, slopestyle, flow lines, drop zones, trails, and more.

Depending on how skillful you are, and if you are an amateur or a pro, you can select which area to visit and bike around.

There’s something in store for everyone, and you will definitely love visiting this park.

Take Your Toddlers to the Sierra Nevada Children’s Museum

Also known as the KidZone Museum, the Sierra Nevada Children’s Museum is the perfect place to take your children if you’re carrying around a toddler and a kid below the age of seven.

It was founded in 1992 with an aim to convert drab scientific knowledge into fun facts for kids and help them learn better.

Many of Truckee’s parents, agencies, and educational institutions came together to give birth to this museum, which is now famous worldwide and receives as many as 30,000 visitors every year.

There is always a campus school program, exhibit, or opportunity for volunteers that takes place here.

Alongside the many beautiful exhibits that would capture a child’s imagination, what’s more interesting is that the building is bilingual and all sessions are held in both English and Spanish.

Roam the Streets of Historic Downtown Truckee

Daytime view of Downtown Truckee

Finetooth, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Whether you’re a shopaholic or an entertainment lover, there’s something for everyone in the downtown part of Truckee.

Historic Downtown Truckee is filled with many independent and family-owned businesses.

Here, you can shop for authentic local crafts, visit museums, and enjoy various forms of entertainment.

Buildings along Historic Downtown Truckee

Matt Gush /

You can also opt for a walking tour of the entire area and gaze at some stunning works of ancient architecture.

As you walk, you will also find many local artists who organize sales of local merchandise and other souvenirs that you can carry back home.

The area itself is managed by the Truckee Downtown Merchants Association, which organizes many events annually.

People passing by Historic Downtown Truckee shops

Matt Gush /

Try Out Fun Water Sports on Donner Lake

The clean waters of Donner Lake

Robyn Havard /

The wonderful and vast Donner Lake is supplied by water from the natural springs of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which makes it a buzzing spot for all water-related sports and activities.

Kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, fishing, boating—you name it, and you can do it here.

People kayaking on Donner Lake

Chris Allan /

One of the best features that you can also enjoy here is that you can drive a marina around by renting one from the Donner Lake Watersports & Marina.

They also have motorboat rentals if needed.

For those interested in fishing, there are many local species of fish that roam about in the waters and make for a great catch.

Empty kayak boats near the shore of Donner Lake

Laurin Rinder /

Go Cross-Country Skiing at the Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Center

While downhill skiing is one of the more popular and family-oriented sports, cross-country skiing can be a really adventurous and great sport for those who love having adrenaline crash through their veins.

The Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Center is a great place to visit if you are one of those adrenaline junkies who loves trying out new adventurous sports.

Spread over 60 miles of lengthy trails that go through mountainside creeks and other geographical features to give you the best experience, this ski center is definitely worth a visit.

Some of the sections of the trail are also pet-friendly, so you can bring your furry friends and they can have fun along with you.

If you’re new to the sport but are really interested in trying out cross-country skiing, they offer lessons for beginners, depending on your age and requirements.

So, what are you waiting for?

Schedule that lesson and get ready for a cross-country skiing adventure!

Ride a Horse at the Tahoe Donner Equestrian Center

Those interested in the aesthetic art of horseback riding will enjoy a trip to the Tahoe Donner Equestrian Center.

You can try horseback riding here.

Guides will keep you company on all the trails, which are suited as per your needs, depending on whether you’re an adult or a child.

Pony rides are also available for young kids who cannot actually handle a horse.

On top of all this, the lessons given are very informative and easy to understand.

So, you can hedge up against a horse and maybe even take part in a friendly race.

Explore a Caboose at Truckee Railroad Museum

A train at Truckee Railroad Museum

Loco Steve from Bromley , UK, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Located in the downtown part of Truckee, this railroad museum stands very near the historic railroad station that was once very important in terms of shipping and traveling.

Today, the best highlights of Truckee Railroad Museum are the cabooses that have been restored to their original grandeur and beauty.

The museum also houses pictures, recreational items, stories, and other artifacts related to the theme of railways and railroads.

They provide a great insight into the historical importance of the railroad station that used to be located here.

Learn the History of a Jailhouse at the Old Jail Museum

Exterior of the Old Jail Museum in Truckee

Steezy Gordita, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Jail museums are always a fascinating place to visit since you get to learn about how convicts served their sentences and how they actually lived in a jailhouse.

This museum tells you precisely that, along with the history of a jailhouse built during the ancient 19th century.

The building itself is quite old, and its construction was completed on September 22, 1875.

It is located near the Jibboom and Spring streets and can be easily found.

Some of the historical tidbits that you can find here also include photos, rooms, and the history of how this town went from lawless to lawful.

Golf at Coyote Moon Golf Course

One of the grandest and most pleasing golfing experiences can be enjoyed on this golf course.

Coyote Moon Golf Course is one of the many luxury golf courses that most visitors swear by.

Magnificently spread over 250 acres, its lawns and hills are perfectly well-manicured and filled with green grass.

The beauty is also scenic, and the course goes through pine trees, giant rocks, a creek, and even wildflowers.

What makes this course even more remarkable is that it was designed by former PGA Tour player Brad Bell, which ensures that it is authentic and aesthetic at the same time.

Take a breath of fresh air and golf your woes away here.

Taste Local Wines at Truckee River Winery

Truckee River Winery was established in a car garage by Russ and Joan Jones in 1989.

It has since come a long way and is now a great place to visit, besides being one of the finest wineries in California.

What makes Truckee River Winery’s wine special is that it’s stored in barrels that are placed at a high elevation and low temperatures, which affects the fermentation process and makes for exquisite and different flavors to try.

Their tasting room is aesthetic and lets you taste many locally produced wines.

The staff is also warm and friendly and well-educated in the area of wines.

Beat the Summer Heat at West End Beach

What better way to cool off and relax than by visiting a beach and spraying yourself with cold water on a summer night?

West End Beach is fantastic and obviously one of the best summer destinations to visit in Truckee.

It also allows you to enjoy a wide array of activities like kayaking, paddleboarding, boating, and more.

There’s also a basketball court, volleyball court, and tennis court for those looking to play in the sun.

Playgrounds and horseshoe pits are also available for the kids to play in.

The snack serving area is excellent and serves the usual fare at reasonable prices.

Dine at Moody’s Bistro and Lounge

No vacation is complete without a lovely fine dining experience.

Moody’s Bistro is the perfect place to have a date and cozy up.

Set in a quaint 1950s theme, the restaurant’s architecture is simple and pristine.

Moody’s Bistro’s menu is delectable and consists of delicious dishes like braised lamb shanks, and fresh seafood.

The cocktail menu is also extensive and has some really great choices.

Live music is also played, which adds to the restaurant’s ambiance.

Schedule a date here and enjoy a night of good food, wine, and music.

Admire the Views from the Martis Peak Fire Lookout

You may find this fire look at Martis Peak, where you’ll enjoy some of the best views in the Tahoe Range.

Besides views of the Truckee region and Doth Lake Tahoe, the Martis Peak Fire Lookout provides stunning vistas of the surrounding area.

In 1914, the fire lookout was built on the mountain’s summit.

Spotting wildfires is done five days a week during fire season.

It is open to anybody who wants to stay up all night skiing or snowshoeing during the coldest months.

Cycle through the Truckee River Legacy Trail

Winter view of Truckee River Legacy Trail

Famartin, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Truckee River Legacy Trail was finished in 2014 following a 20-year process of cooperation, planning, and community participation.

This path is part of the Truckee River’s bikeways and trails network and is a multi-use bikeway rated as Class 1.

Snow-covered trees along Truckee River Legacy Trail

Famartin, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

While the Truckee River Trail Walk is a 5-mile riverfront trail, it may also be utilized as a leisure or recreation trail because its several branches link to various locations.

It is ideal for families seeking a pleasant way to spend the day together.

The route is accessible to individuals with disabilities, strollers, and pets and has parking sites in various segments.

Snowy day at Truckee River Legacy Trail

Famartin, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Brave the Rivers with Tahoe Whitewater Tours

This whitewater trip company has been operating in Lake Tahoe since 1994,

Nearly innumerable individuals, families, and group tours have used their services throughout this period.

The company works on various rivers, each with different lengths, difficulties, and scenery.

Truckee River and North and South Fork American Rivers are some of the rivers you can explore in this area.

Half-day, full-day, and multi-day tours are all available, and each of them may be tailored to meet the needs of the customer’s skill level and desire for adventure.

Climb the Historic Rocking Stone Tower

The Washoe people revere the 17-ton Historic Rocking Stone Tower as a treasured geological phenomenon.

Even though it no longer rocks, it is still well-known worldwide.

In ancient times, the stone tower was utilized by the Native Americans for ceremonial purposes and to dry food.

Early cultures meticulously chipped away at the rock, preventing animals from climbing up and eating their food.

You may easily access this stone tower, and a visit will only require a few minutes of your itinerary.

Go Mountain Biking at Sawtooth Trail

Sawtooth Trail has some of the most breathtaking sceneries within the trails of Truckee.

This single-track loop gets you across boulders and rocks native to the area.

This makes for an intermediate route for both hiking and mountain biking.

Complete with rolling terrains, Jeffrey Pine forest vistas, and overlooks of the Truckee River Canyon, the trail is both a breath of fresh air and a good challenge.

Sawtooth Trail is on Brockway Road.

Get Your Fine Art Souvenirs from The Carmel Gallery in Truckee

Get your wholesome art expedition in Truckee at The Carmel Gallery in Truckee.

This fine art gallery brings the beauty of photography to the forefront of the community.

Owned and operated by Elizabeth and Olof Carmel, this gallery showcases nature in its rawest form through vivid and colorful photos.

Feel like you’ve traveled across deserts, mountains, and seas with only the displayed photos to help you imagine.

You can also purchase art prints to bring home with you as souvenirs.

The Carmel Gallery in Truckee on Church Street opens its doors to everyone interested in visiting.

Practice Your Swing at Truckee River Regional Park

When it comes to family gatherings and outings, Truckee River Regional Park goes above and beyond expectations.

This public park covers 62 acres, making it the largest one within Truckee.

It features a disc golf course and a skate park for those intending to have a fun time engaging with sports.

This park is also home to the Salty Gebhardt Amphitheater, which hosts the annual summer outdoor concert series.

For your little ones, the park comes with a playground for them to explore and enjoy.

Bring out the cowboy in you with a visit to the park’s McIver Rodeo Arena.

And if you’ve still got energy for a small hike along nature, you’ll find the Legacy Trail within this park a good spot for your trek.

All these and more await you at this park!

You can find Truckee River Regional Park in downtown Truckee on Brockway Road.

Marvel at the Pastures at Piping Rock Equestrian Center

It’s never too late to go on a horseback cruise along Truckee’s alluring countryside landscapes.

Piping Rock Equestrian Center can make sure you get the horse-riding experience you’ve been wishing for within the Sierra Nevada mountains.

This equestrian center has been serving the community since 2011.

With its scenic trails and summer camps, the facility brings the best of equine escapades.

Traverse across meadows and meet local wildlife—all while you’re on a horse.

Piping Rock Equestrian Center also offers boarding for your beloved horses.

Admire the Wildflowers While Mountain Biking at Hole in the Ground

Craving a challenge on your usual mountain biking expedition in Truckee?

Hole in the Ground has your back!

This trail is infamous for its difficult length and altitude—a feat only daring adventurers may want to cross.

But despite its strenuous ride, this trail is one of the more popular trails in California.

Its alpine views and wildflower sightings make the ride even more worth it to visit.

If you’re a hiking type, this trail can accommodate your preferences, too!

Hole in the Ground’s trailheads are on the Norden exit of Highway 80 and Castle Valley Road.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Have a Ski Day at Boreal Mountain Resort

Ski-lift chairs at Boreal Mountain Resort

Noah_Loverbear, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This wonderful mountain resort is located near the scenic Lake Tahoe and is one of the most famous resorts for skiing.

During the winter season, it is the perfect ski destination.

However, do not worry if you are visiting in the summer, since it becomes an equally amazing paradise for hiking during this season.

Boreal Mountain Resort resort offers many different types of ski runs graded into various difficulty levels, depending on whether you are a pro, an expert, or an amateur.

Skiers at Boreal Mountain Resort

Chris Allan /

There’s also a tubing hill where your family will definitely have a lot of fun.

Other than this, they have set up many different restaurants serving various cuisines, depending on your tastes.

If you visit during the summer, you will love to go hiking when the weather is great and hot with lots of sunshine hitting your face.

You can thus plan your visit as per the kind of fun that you want to have at this resort, be it skiing or hiking.

Direction signs at Boreal Mountain Resort

Noah_Loverbear, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Final Thoughts

Truckee is a year-round adventure playground.

Even in the coldest and warmest months, this Californian town provides something for everyone.

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