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Tools For Planning Day Hikes in Truckee and Lake Tahoe

July 21, 2020
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When there are hundreds of miles of trails to explore, where do you begin? Start here. We’ll help you plan your next hiking adventure in Truckee from start to finish so that you are ready to hit the trails.

Know Before You Go: Recreate Responsibly, Leave No Trace, and Tread Lightly on Truckee’s trails. Avoid crowded trails and peak hiking times, and have a backup plan if trailhead parking is full. Summer and fall in the Sierra is wildfire season. Plan your trip with this Visitor's Guide to Wildfire Season and follow these tips to Prevent Wildfires in Truckee and Lake Tahoe.

When to visit

The best time to go hiking in Truckee is in the summer and fall. Spring can be lovely but it’s not uncommon for ski season to extend through May. As for winter, well, there’s a reason Truckee is a world-class ski destination...

If you’re adventurous, try visiting during the “shoulder season,” the spring and fall months in between peak tourism. There are fewer crowds and more local deals, but trail conditions can vary widely. In May - June you might find snow, mud, and creek crossings on a hike. Or you could find fields of wildflowers, flowing waterfalls, and bright green aspens. Likewise, September and October can be stunning but you run the risk of early snowstorms.   

Where to go hiking

Online hiking guides & apps

There are many online hiking guides for Truckee and North Lake Tahoe. Here are a few places to start looking for trails to hiking on your trip:

Off the beaten path hiking trails in Truckee

Here is a list of lesser known trails and hiking destinations where you can enjoy solitude, fresh air, and spacious scenic vistas. This is a short list to provide ideas. There are many more off the beaten path trails to explore, all you need is a map and some creativity! 

  • JP's Trail in Cold Stream Canyon
  • Donner Lake Rim Trail
  • Rowton Peak in Serene Lakes
  • Point Mariah in Serene Lakes
  • Carpenter Valley Road
  • Warren Lake
  • Mount Lola
  • Dry Lake in Waddle Ranch
  • Hawks Peak in Tahoe Donner  
Emigrant Trail Truckee hiking
A quiet section of the Emigrant Trail

Mapping Tools

Your Truckee hiking trip starts with knowing where to go. There are a variety of tools online to help you discover new trails and map out your route. These two GPS mapping apps are our favorites, one is even a Truckee based company! 

#1 CalTopo - I used CalTopo for years before I learned that it’s based right here in Truckee! It’s one of my favorite tools for creating maps and discovering new trails. You can use it online or in the app. There are tons of advanced features and overlays like weather forecast, and fire history, slope angle, and public lands. Hikers that love diving into the nitty-gritty details of a map, will have fun exploring Caltopo.

#2 GAIA GPS - Another easy to use mapping tool is GAIA GPS. I like to download maps to my phone before a trip that way, even if I’m in an area without cell service, I can see where I am and navigate along on the trail.

Learn how to read topographic maps in this guide from GAIA GPS.

Truckee hiking views
Scenic views from Rubicon Peak

Local Guidebooks

It’s always a good idea to pick up a guidebook for detailed trail descriptions and area info. Even though there are a plethora of online hiking resources, there’s no real substitute for the weight of a book in your hand. It makes for great campfire reading plus if you don’t have cell reception, it’s a trusted backup should your phone fail to connect.  Here’s where to buy a guidebook for hiking trails in Truckee:

Truckee sunset
A calming sunset from the top of Donner Peak

What to bring on a Truckee-Tahoe hike

Carry the 10 essentials

Whenever you set foot on a trail, you should carry the following 10 essentials:

  1. NAVIGATION – Map, compass, and GPS system
  2. SUN PROTECTION – Sunglasses, sunscreen, and hat
  3. INSULATION – Jacket, hat, gloves, rain shell, and thermal underwear
  4. ILLUMINATION – Flashlight, lanterns, and headlamp
  5. FIRST-AID SUPPLIES – First Aid Kit
  6. FIRE – Matches, lighter and fire starters
  7. REPAIR KIT AND TOOLS – Duct tape, knife, screwdriver, and scissors
  8. NUTRITION - Food
  9. HYDRATION – Water and water treatment supplies
  10. EMERGENCY SHELTER – Tent, space blanket, tarp, and bivy

Download a printable list of the 10 Essentials

Where to shop for hiking gear

Truckee has a variety of well-stocked outdoor gear shops that can help you prepare for your trip. They carry supplies for all types of adventures from hiking to mountain biking to backcountry skiing. Stop by one of the outdoor gear shops below and pick up the ten essentials for your trip.  Many also rent outdoor gear like camping tents, sleeping bags, etc.

Shop online or in-store with these outdoor gear shops in Truckee for hiking, mountain biking, trail running gear, and more:

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