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Truckee's Outdoor 20 Mile Museum Is a Journey Back in Time

Siobhan Kenney
May 5, 2021
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History buffs need to look no further than the 20-Mile Museum along Old Highway 40 for a picturesque journey through time. The historical highway is a landmark of Truckee and must-do scenic drive. The outdoor museum, a collection of roadside interpretive signs, is a great way to learn about local history and makes for a fun family activity. Spend a day (or two!) taking in the sights and exploring the 20 Mile Outdoor Museum along Old Highway 40. 

What is the 20 Mile Museum?

The 20 Mile Museum is a collection of interpretive signs along Old Highway 40 that makes Truckee’s history come to life. There are dozens of signs throughout the 20-mile section of Donner Pass Road from Cisco Grove to Donner Lake, each one telling a different story about local history. 

When you pay a visit to this outdoor museum, you’ll learn about:

  • Ice harvesting
  • The transcontinental railroad
  • Native American petroglyphs and grinding stone
  • The history of skiing on Donner Summit
  • And much more!

Visit Truckee's Rainbow Bridge at night.

Happy 95th Birthday Rainbow Bridge!

Truckee's iconic Rainbow Bridge turns 95 this August. The bridge is a stop along the 20 Mile Museum and a must-see for anyone driving Old Highway 40. It's a highlight of the scenic drive, blending seamlessly into the landscape while remaining a bold and beautiful feat of engineering. Want to learn more about Truckee's Rainbow Bridge? Click here for the history, fun facts, location, and more of this incredible structure.

Drive down Donner Pass Road from Donner Summit for views of Rainbow Bridge

Experience the 20 Mile Museum Virtually!

The Donner Summit Historical Society is a wealth of information for the region. Their printable brochures offer a way for everyone to learn about Truckee's history from anywhere in the world! If you're ready to take a virtual tour of the Historical Old Highway 40 Scenic Bypass and the 20 Mile Museum, tap the links below:

  • Drive along Donner Summit's Old Highway 40 Scenic Bypass and learn it's history along the way!
  • Tour each of the stops in the 20 Mile Museum! This two page driving guides is packed with information on local history - page 1 and page 2.

Where can I find the 20 Mile Museum?

Start at Donner Lake to visit the 20 Mile Museum from east to west or Cisco Grove from west to east. You can find a map of the approximate locations of each sign in this brochure (page 1 and page 2). As you drive up towards Donner Summit from Donner Lake, the road winds up a series of hairpin curves past rock climbing cliffs and scenic viewpoints. Photo-worthy doesn’t begin to describe this drive. Make sure to pack your camera and take advantage of the numerous paved pull-offs for endless picture opportunities!

How long does it take to visit?

That depends! If you want to view every sign, we recommend setting aside a day or two. Another idea is to see how many signs you can view in a specific area. Each sign also lists nearby activities like hiking and rock climbing so you can easily fill a day simply by visiting a few signs.

Donner Pass Road Improvements

Before planning a visit to the Old Highway 40 outdoor museum, stay up to date on the current road rehabilitation project which may result in closures or delays during your visit. The project involves widening the road, enhancing pullouts, and constructing 4 foot shoulders with bike lanes in both directions for safer driving and biking. View the current status on our Truckee Travel Alert.

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