Thousands of years ago, glaciers hundreds of feet tall carved out the valley east of Donner Pass and created Donner Lake, a long, finger-shaped lake with 8 miles of shoreline. This gorgeous lake is a highlight of Truckee, 10 minutes from downtown with 37 public piers along the north side.
Visit the Donner Memorial State Park for scenic picnic areas, beaches, hiking trails and to learn about the fated Donner Party at the Visitor Center.
The largest alpine lake in North America, Lake Tahoe, is only a 20 minute drive from Truckee. It’s 22 miles long, 12 miles wide, and so deep - 1,645 ft at the deepest point - that you could fit the Empire State Building under the water with 200 ft to spare! There’s plenty of fun to be had on and in the water or along the 72 miles of shoreline.
Lake Tahoe has one outlet - the Truckee River which begins in Tahoe City and flows northeast for 121 miles to Pyramid Lake. The river is a popular spot for fly fishing, kayaking, and whitewater rafting and supports a healthy fish population, including native Lahontan cutthroat trout.
The Legacy Trail in Truckee and Tahoe River Bike Trail along Highway 89 provide over 10 miles of paved trail next to the river, a place to go biking, push a stroller, or take your dog for a scenic walk.
Donner Summit, Pacific Crest, Sierra Nevada Mountains
Drive to Donner Summit along Old Highway 40 for rocky crags, weathered peaks, and sweeping views of Donner Lake and the U-shaped valley below, carved by a thousand-foot tall glacier during the Pleistocene. The fascinating history of Donner Pass also includes the Donner Party’s tragic attempt to cross in 1846, the first transcontinental railway, the first transcontinental automobile road, and the first chairlift in California at Sugar Bowl Resort.
Today, Donner Summit is a premier climbing and hiking destination as well as an important stop along the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,653 mile long trail stretching from Mexico to Canada.