14 Fun & Best Things to Do in Truckee, California

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Martis Peak Fire Lookout Scenery Overview

Truckee, California, is nested in the Sierra Nevada mountain range about 200 miles northeast of San Francisco. The location of this community offers year-round activities for outdoor enthusiasts, especially those who love skiing, snowboarding, hiking, and biking. 

During the winter, Truckee has been recognized as the coldest spot in the nation, making it a popular destination for winter snow sports.

In the summer, temperatures warm up during the day, perfect for visiting parks, hiking, exploring, and more. Then, you can gather around a campfire to warm up as the temperatures drop. 

Some of the best places in Truckee to explore include the beautiful Donner Lake, Trout Creek Trail, Truckee River Railroad, and Martis Peak Fire Lookout.

There are numerous things to do, including dining, shopping, outdoor adventuring, and sightseeing. The best thing about the area is that it averages 245 days of sunshine a year, providing perfect weather for outdoor exploring. 

TL;DR

  • Most significant landmark – Truckee River Railroad
  • Park to visit – Truckee River Regional Park
  • Free activity – Hike to the Martis Peak Fire Lookout
  • Activity for kids – Playing at KidZone Museum
  • Activity for adults – Wine Tasting at Truckee River Winery
  • Place to eat – The Golden Rotisserie
  • Nightlife – Donner Creek Brewing
  • Place to stay – Cedar House Sports Hotel

Things to Do in Truckee, California

1. Truckee Railroad Museum

Truckee Railroad Museum Building
Management / TripAdvisor

Address: 10075 Donner Pass Road, Truckee, CA 96161

Located next to the historic railroad station downtown, the Truckee Railroad Museum is the most iconic landmark, adding historical significance to the area. The caboose is from the Southern Pacific Railroad and was regularly used in the area. 

The railroads, including the First Transcontinental Railroad, Logging Railroads, and Tourism by Rail, all played significant roles in the development of Truckee. 

The Truckee Railroad Museum shares the story of the railroad in and around the area, including details from the initial round of survey parties scoping out the site for the First Transcontinental Railroad. Additionally, the museum features a children’s play train, a logging exhibit, and several rail cars and vehicles. 

If your kids love trains, or maybe you do, the Truckee Railroad Museum is a must when visiting the area. There is so much historical information at this one location that you will have a lot of knowledge and a better understanding of the area as you continue to explore. 

See Related: Things to Do in San Jose, California

2. Truckee River Legacy Trail

Truckee River Legacy Trail in Winter
image by Famartin is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Address: 10500 Brockway Rd, Truckee, CA 96161

The Trackee River Legacy Trail’s groomed trails stretch approximately six miles, starting at the Truckee River Regional Park. The Truckee River Legacy Trail is one of the most famous hiking trails following the Truckee River, offering breathtaking views of the river and surrounding areas. 

Truckee River Regional Park is also home to many recreational activities worth exploring. The park offers visitors abundant playground equipment, pony rides, and sports facilities like ballfields and tennis courts. 

The park’s amphitheater hosts several events, including the annual Wednesday Summer Music Series. Additionally, the amphitheater features many live acts and concerts during the summer, making this park the place to go for summer excitement and family-friendly fun. 

The Foothill Farmers Market is hosted weekly, on Tuesday mornings, from mid-June through late September. This weekly event hosts live music, free samples, various community vendors, and more. 

The farmers market is held near the playgrounds at the park and is easily accessible from the Truckee River Legacy Trail. The farmers market is a must-experience event, especially for those looking for handmade crafts, homemade goodies, and locally sourced fresh fruits and vegetables. 

See Related: Things to Do in Ridgecrest, California

3. Cedar House Sports Hotel

Cedar House Sport Hotel at Night
image by Booking.com

Address: 10918 Brockway Road, Truckee, CA 96161

Cedar House Sports Hotel is a quaint hotel dedicated to providing guests who love an active lifestyle, a cohesive experience that inspires them to continue exploring the Truckee area. Consider this hotel the base camp for outdoor adventures and a place to stay and enjoy four seasons of fun and excitement. 

Staying at the Cedar House Sports Hotel offers breathtaking views of the area and access to the freedom of living in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Skiing enthusiasts staying at this hotel are minutes from some of the most popular ski resorts, including Northstar California and Olympic Valley. Black Tie Ski Rentals offers equipment rentals for those going cross-country skiing.

The atmosphere at Cedar House Sports Hotel is a symbiotic relationship between the mind, body, and soul with its innovative architecture. In addition, there is an emphasis on environmental awareness, integrating many recycling and eco-friendly elements in the décor, design, and room amenities. 

Staying here offers an opportunity to live your best life. With access to activities all year long, you’ll find something for everyone to enjoy. Your experience at the Cedar House Sports Hotel is unique, especially for people who live an active lifestyle. 

Book your stay at the Cedar House Sports Hotel and plan your upcoming Truckee getaway. See for yourself why this is the best Truckee hotel for your stay.

See Related: Proven Ways to Get Free Hotel Rooms

4. Donner Creek Brewing

Drinks at Donner Creek Brewing
image by Donner Creek Brewing/Facebook

Address: 11448 Deerfield Drive, Truckee, CA 96161

Donner Creek Brewing is a brewpub carrying two to three in-house brews on tap, as well as a few local favorites. The stellar selection of bottled or canned beers and wines can be enjoyed at the brewpub or to-go in the comfort of your home or hotel accommodations. 

This location’s gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches are a must and pair great with the in-house brews.  The laid-back environment and local vibe make this the perfect place to hang out, meet the locals, and make new friends. In addition, the area attracts fantastic people worldwide, so you never know who you may encounter. 

Outdoor and indoor seating is available, allowing you to gather and enjoy the fabulous views of the surrounding area. The brewpub is both family and pet-friendly

The night crowd is friendly, making this the place to grab a drink with friends in the evening after a long day of exploring the great outdoors in Truckee. 

During your next visit to the area, stop by Donner Creek Brewing for a refreshing cold brew and some exceptional grilled cheese sandwiches. 

See Related: Things to Do in Mariposa, California

5. The Golden Rotisserie

Golden Rotisserie Interior
image by Kelsdogger/TripAdvisor

Address: 11357 Donner Pass Rd, Truckee, CA 96161

Do not let the fact that The Golden Rotisserie is set in a strip mall fool you. The food and service are fabulous and a must-try when in the area. 

The Golden Rotisserie serves mouth-watering, simple Mexican-inspired cuisine, including rotisserie chicken, tacos, tostadas, and burritos. Every bite of food is full of flavor, and this restaurant does not disappoint those looking for a unique, simple, and affordable meal. 

Food service is quick, allowing visitors to grab their food and enjoy it while exploring the town. Many order from The Golden Rotisserie and take the food to a park or a trail for a peaceful picnic. 

People visiting Truckee, staying in a hotel or Airbnb, or needing food to return to their room will want to order from The Golden Rotisserie. 

California offers a series of food tours that you should not miss, such as the Downtown Los Angeles Food Tour, San Francisco Chinatown Culinary Walking Tour, and Monterey Guided Walking Food Tour.

See Related: Things to Do in Oakland, California

6. Truckee River Winery

Truckee River Winery Scenery
Management / TripAdvisor

Address: 10061 S River Street, Truckee, CA 96161

The Truckee River Winery was established in 1989 and is California’s coldest and highest winery. This winery specializes in single vineyard varietals, offering high-quality vintages for locals and travelers. 

Truckee River Winery is a great experience for any wine enthusiast when exploring California. The wines have a rich flavor, and the overall experience is unique. 

The winery has become a valued part of the Truckee community, offering award-winning pinot noir events and knowledgeable staff who are happy to answer any wine-related questions the customers may have. 

It isn’t easy to imagine that the Truckee River Winery started in the garage of owners Russ and Joan Jones. However, it has come a long way and offers the perfect place to gather with friends and family while sipping some of the finest wines in California. 

Don’t forget to stop by Truckee River Winery during your California vacation and visit their tasting room to sample some of the best wines in the area. 

7. Donner Lake Inn Bed & Breakfast

Donner Lake Inn B&B
image by Booking.com

Address: 10070 Gregory Place, Truckee, CA 96161

The Donner Lake Inn Bed & Breakfast has five guest rooms in a resort nestled in the mountains near Donner Pass. The setting and environment at this bed and breakfast will make you feel at home. 

Relax in your room with comfortable living spaces, perfect for escaping your daily routine. Select rooms have a fireplace, making it feel like a mountain resort getaway with views of Donner Pass.

The bed and breakfast offers comfortable public spaces for guests, including a dining room area and a great room space with a seasonal wood-burning fireplace. 

Seasonal outdoor seating areas are a great way to enjoy forest sights and sounds, providing an outdoor oasis to relax. In addition, the outdoor seating area offers fantastic sky views, perfect for stargazing and relaxing under the stars. 

Nearby, tranquil Gregory Creek flows by, offering peaceful sounds, perfect for relaxing outdoors or napping. Don’t forget to set your alarm because the hearty homemade country breakfast is worth waking up for. 

Book your mountain escape at the Donner Lake Inn Bed and Breakfast for a magical addition to your getaway in Truckee, California. 

See Related: Hotel vs. Motel vs. Inn: What’s the Difference?

8. FiftyFifty Brewing Co.

FiftyFifty Brewing Co. Interior
image by Jan OR/TripAdvisor

Address: 11197 Brockway Road, Suite 1, Truckee, CA 96161

FiftyFifty Brewing Co. crafts its beers using the finest products and ingredients while creating the best possible experience for locals and visitors. 

The brewery takes pride in its work, creating unique products and adding special touches to each bottle. The wax-sealed bottles are done by hand because small touches mean a lot to the owners. 

The outdoor patio area offers a serene place to enjoy the cold beverages and mouth-watering dishes at FiftyFifty Brewing Co. 

The restaurant and tasting room staff are friendly, knowledgeable, and interactive. Additionally, the service is quick and attentive, ensuring you can grab a quick bite to eat or stay for several beverages, all while catching up with friends. 

Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy an excellent, refreshing, locally crafted beer with a tasty meal at FiftyFifty Brewing Co. 

9. KidZone Museum

KidZone Museum
image by Dreamer371825/TripAdvisor

Address: 11711 Donner Pass Road, Truckee, CA 96161

Kids have a blast playing, learning, and discovering at the KidZone Museum, a local attraction in Truckee, California. Exhibits are designed to inspire and promote creativity in children under seven but can provide fun and valuable learning experiences for visitors of all ages. 

As part of a 192 grassroots coalition of parents, agencies, and educators, the Sierra Nevada Children’s Museum, also known as KidZone Museum, opened in Truckee. 

This location offers many opportunities for kids to be kids and burn off any energy they have left while exploring Truckee. In addition, the museum exhibits provide healthy and loving connections with the children, establishing and strengthening their physical and intellectual foundation.

The exhibits at this museum are designed to encourage participation and interaction. Popular exhibitions at KidZone Museum include Sierra Settlers, an Indoor Play Structure, an Art Studio, and a Nature Play Area. The museum also offers an Infant Area, with activities perfect for guests aged 0 to 18 months. 

If you are visiting Truckee with children, include a visit to the KidZone Museum, where your kids will have a blast. 

See Related: California Travel Guide: Printable Guide to Travel

10. Martis Peak Fire Lookout

Martis Peak Fire Lookout Scenery

Address: Highway 267, Truckee, CA 96161

There are many free things to do in Truckee, California, and hiking up to the Martis Peak Fire Lookout is one of the most challenging yet thrilling free experiences in the area.

Some of the best views of the Truckee and Tahoe Range are from the Martis Peak Fire Lookout. This lookout was built in 1914 to provide a place to watch for wildfires throughout the mountain’s summit. 

The Martis Peak Fire Lookout is used five days a week during the fire season and is open to anyone who wants to hike up for a look or go skiing and snowshoeing in the area. 

Hiking to the lookout is available from the Tahoe Rim Trail, and the main road is marked with orange diamond signs. This hike winds through the Picnic Rock Lake Tahoe viewing area and is moderately challenging. The terrain gets a bit rough, and inexperienced hikers may have difficulty. 

Avid hikers looking for a unique adventure must include a trek up to the Martis Peak Fire Lookout. Cross-country skiing fanatics will have fun getting to this lookout during winter.

Visitors needing ski equipment can rent skis and accessories from Black Tie Ski Rentals. For a side trip, experience the Mountain and Desert Tour from San Diego or enjoy an Ultimate Lake Tahoe Self-Driving Audio Tour.

11. Lost Trail Lodge

Lost Trail Lodge
image by Lost Trail Lodge/Facebook

Address: 8600 Cold Stream Road, Truckee, CA 96161

Lost Trail Lodge offers a mountain resort getaway, perfect for travelers seeking an authentic mountain vacation. All rooms are attached to the main lodge, with a private entrance from the deck, ensuite bathrooms, and gas-fueled parlor heaters. 

All rooms have various unique mountain resort-themed features, including a pet bed for your fur babies, a sunken jacuzzi tub, and plenty of comfortable beds for you and your guests. Each room offers the perfect oasis to return to after a long day of outdoor adventuring. 

The main living room area of the lodge has instruments, CDs, a CD player, and many games. There is also an extensive reading library full of books for guests of all ages to take out on the patio or curl up in front of the fire. 

The Lost Trail Lodge is set in the mountains, surrounded by the forest, with plenty of opportunities for sledding in the winter and bike riding in the summer after the snow melts. Wildlife viewing is fabulous and enjoyable all year long. 

Check the Lost Trail Lodge availability today to learn more about booking accommodations for your upcoming Truckee, California getaway. 

12. Donner Memorial State Park

Donner Memorial State Park in Winter

Address: 12593 Donner Pass Road, Truckee, CA 96161

Nestled in the scenic Sierra Nevada Mountain Range is the Donner Memorial State Park. This legendary park offers various activities all year long for travelers to experience and enjoy. The leisure or recreation trail winds through the park and overlooks Donner Lake.

During summer, travelers can enjoy picnicking, boating, fishing, water-skiing, hiking, and camping at the park. The park’s winter months provide visitors access to winter sports activities like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing on trails, and playing in the snow. 

The famous Pioneer Monument was built in honor of the California emigrants traveling west over Donner Pass in the mid-1800s and is accessible all year. 

The Donner Memorial State Park Visitor Center houses the Emigrant Trail Museum, with exhibits, including the Emigrant Experience, the Donner Party, the Land of the Washoe, the Chinese construction of the railroad, and early adventures over the Donner Pass.

Exploring Donner Memorial State Park will give you access to Donner Lake for various water activities, including boat rentals. Donner Lake watersports and the West End Beach are perfect for summer visitors.

Take time to breathe in some fresh mountain air and enjoy the natural surroundings at this park. There are various things to do at Donner Memorial State Park and Donner Lake, making this park one of the best in Truckee, California.

Don’t forget to stop by and cross nearby Donner Summit Bridge and the Mt. Judah Loop Trail. Reservations are required for private tours and larger parties wanting to explore the park with a park ranger. 

13. Northstar California Resort

Northstar California Resort Outdoors
image by Hotels.com

Address: 5001 Northstar Drive, Truckee, CA 96161

The Northstar California Resort is one of the area’s most well-known ski destinations and is extremely popular during winter. The Northstar California Ski Resort offers plenty of year-round activities for guests of all ages to experience and enjoy, including a downhill ski area and scenic ski lift rides.

This ski resort becomes a downhill skiers’ paradise during the winter, with many skiing, snowboarding, and sledding opportunities. The resort has a ski rental company for guests looking to go downhill skiing.

Summer activities at this ski resort include mountain biking, picnicking, hiking, and more throughout the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

No matter what time of year you are in the area, Northstar California Resort offers unique experiences that will enrich your Truckee getaway. 

If you plan to stay at the Northstar California Resort while visiting Truckee, it is best to book your accommodations early. Being one of the best places to stay, this resort fills up quickly, and rooms sell out quickly, especially during the winter. 

See Related: Things to Do in Lone Pine, California

14. Old Truckee Jail Museum

Old Truckee Jail Museum Building
image by Steezy Gordita is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Address: 10142 Jibboom Street, Truckee, CA 96161

The Old Truckee Jail Museum is in historic Downtown Truckee, offering visitors something interesting to experience on the weekend during the summer and on Thursday evenings. 

This location is one of the few surviving 19th-century jailhouses in the Western USA and one of the few remaining buildings original to the area. The jailhouse was used from 1875 until May 1964 and has survived many wildfires and other natural disasters that swept through the site in the town’s early days. 

Since then, the historical society has offered exciting tours of the location, allowing visitors to see what life was like in the 1800s. In addition, local artifacts and photographs showcase and preserve Truckee’s history, sharing it with current and future generations. 

Additional exhibits at the museum include relics and photographs from lumbering, box manufacturing, ice harvesting, bootlegging, gambling, and the film industry. In addition, some exhibitions include artifacts from the area’s early winter sports era, including skiing equipment and several historical images. 

The Old Truckee Jail Museum is a rare gem in this area and part of Truckee’s historical celebration of the area’s past. Anyone who loves history will not want to miss seeing the exhibits and displays at this location. 

See Related: Things to Do in Antioch, California

Places to Stay in Truckee

If you’re looking for hotels and accommodation options, here are some of the top picks in the region.

1. The Cedar House Sport Hotel Top Recommendation

The Cedar House Sport Hotel is located in Truckee, 26.1 miles from South Lake Tahoe Massage. It offers a restaurant, free private parking, free bikes and a bar. Free WiFi access is available throughout the property and family rooms are equipped with an iPod docking station. All units are fitted with air conditioning and a flat-screen TV. Some units include a seating area where you can relax.

2. Hampton Inn & Suites Tahoe-Truckee

A warm welcome awaits you at this Truckee, California hotel. Guests can relax in the outdoor pool or work out in the gym, then enjoy a free breakfast. Hampton Inn & Suites Tahoe-Truckee rooms include a microwave and refrigerator. The rooms also have a coffee maker and hairdryer. Free Wi-Fi is included in every room.

3. Best Western Plus Truckee-Tahoe Hotel

Best Western Plus Truckee-Tahoe Hotel provides a peaceful environment in the heart of the Tahoe National Forest. Just 10 minutes’ drive from Northstar, Sugar Bowl and Squaw ski resorts, this hotel offers easy access to outdoor activities. Guests can enjoy the seasonal outdoor pool or unwind with a workout at the fitness centre. A daily hot breakfast is served each morning.

How to Get Around

With so many places to visit in Truckee, California, planning how to get around and navigate the town is vital. Truckee offers visitors access to the public transit service known as TART.

The TART bus stops at various locations, including Regional Park, Gateway Shopping Center, Crossroads Shopping Center, Donner Memorial State Park, and Downtown Truckee.

Dial-a-Ride service in the area is also available, offering door-to-door service year-round for the public, with priority service for seniors and persons with disabilities.  Transportation services provide travelers access to shopping, dining, recreation, and the downtown area. 

Though not necessary when visiting Truckee, car rentals are available for visitors wanting to explore the area on their schedule instead of relying on public transportation. Car rentals in the area are available from Dollar Car Rentals and Enterprise

Truckee is served by Greyhound and the North Lake Tahoe Express, offering access for travelers to come to the area and leave to explore other notable cities and towns, including Tahoe City, South Lake Tahoe, Kings Beach, Soda Springs, and Doth Lake Tahoe. The Truckee Tahoe Airport provides service for daily private and charter flights. 

Is Truckee Worth Visiting?

Truckee is worth visiting, showcasing a unique blend of natural beauty and rich historical significance. Visitors can enjoy a variety of unique adventure activities, from exploring ski resorts and hiking trails to relishing in local boutiques and art galleries. It’s a destination offering outdoor adventure and cultural immersion, catering to travelers seeking a memorable experience.

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Kyle Kroeger
WRITTEN BY

Kyle Kroeger

Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He's a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he'd heard.

Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he's learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.

He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time. Read more about his portfolio of work.

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