Fall is known as “locals’ summer” in Truckee-Tahoe, often with beautiful weather, changing leaves, and fewer crowds. Because of the huge winter we had, wildflowers are still popping up in meadows and on ridge trails as well. You can hike or bike on world-class trails, paddleboard Donner Lake, camp under the stars, rock climb the towering granite slabs on Donner Summit, play a round of golf with beautiful vistas in the horizon, or lounge on the beach. When the colors start to change, there’s peaceful awesome autumn adventures to be had. Below are some of our favorite activities.
There are so many trails of varying levels of difficulty and terrain in Truckee and on the Summit that you could almost hike a different trail in Truckee all season. A beautiful, moderate hike is Coldstream Trail. Park at the end of Coldstream Rd. (behind Donner Memorial State Park) and hike up along the stream to enjoy views of the flowing water and boulders mixed with stands of aspen and evergreen (pictured above). Another moderate hike (with one steep section) is the Donner Lake Rim Trail, built and maintained by the Truckee Donner Land Trust (TDLT). The Donner Lake Rim Trail takes you on a four-mile loop to the Drifter Hut, which sits on a ridge top with views to the northwest of Castle Peak and Frog Lake Cliffs, as well as a full Sierra panorama to the south. The return follows The Far Side trail and at its highest point, 7,818 ft, you will be treated to phenomenal 360 degree views. There are approximately 700 ft in elevation change.
If you’re looking for a flat/easier trail that also has some single track along the Truckee River, take the Legacy Trail from the Bike Bridge parking on East River Street. Cross the bridge and turn left and follow the Legacy Trail for about 1/8th of a mile and you’ll see a trail leading down to the single track that takes you along the Truckee River. There are trails back up to the paved trail if you want to avoid some rocky sections. Truckee Donner Land Trust and Truckee Trails Foundation websites are excellent resources to discover details about Truckee trails. You can also sign up for their mailing lists to receive the latest trails information and docent-led TDLT hikes.
Mountain biking is another way to check out beautiful fall foliage (and still some wildflowers this year) and cover more distance than on foot. Contrary to what many think, mountain biking isn’t just riding down steep granite. There are many flowy, beginning and intermediate trails where you can enjoy the beauty of our Tahoe National Forest and changing leaves and get in a good workout at the same time. With the popularity of e-mountain bikes, more people are getting out and riding more regularly than ever before in Truckee. Not sure if a mountain e-bike is for you? Bike Truckee has e-bikes that you can demo and trails nearby in the Sawtooth Trail area. Many sections of the Emigrant Trail are beginner-friendly. Tahoe Donner has a great network of trails of varying difficulty accessed by parking at the Alder Creek Adventure Center. Have a group or want to try a guided ride? Contact Dirt Gypsy or Tahoe Adventure Company for set rides or private offerings, including shuttling. For bike sales and rentals, check out these businesses on Truckee.com.
Truckee-Tahoe celebrates with many annual fall festivals that include food, drinks, music, games, costumes, animals, and more! Check out our Truckee.com events calendar for all of the offerings, but here are some not to miss.
A somewhat underground activity, a group of bike enthusiast-revelers take to the streets of downtown Truckee the first Thursday night of every rideable month. Search up “Truckee Bike Night” on Facebook or Instagram at the start of the month to find out the theme and details. The September 7 Truckee Bike Night theme is Burning Man and the October 5 Bike Night will likely be an Oktoberfest theme, but it’s never set very far ahead. Light up your bike and head to the meeting place at RMU. The fearless leader is Truckee resident, engineer, and semi-pro rider, Fred Stamm. There is usually pre-ride music starting at 7:00 p.m. and then bikers take to the streets @ 8:00 in a pack, circling downtown and behind on Jibboom St. and going through the roundabouts (several times in a row) and yelling “Bike Night!” as they go. There is usually a dedicated after party at Alibi, RMU, or another location that will be disclosed in social media. (Photo above (c) Ryan Salm Photography)
Touring Truckee’s Galleries & Studios
Did you know that Truckee is one of seven designated Cultural Districts in the state? Our town is full of gifted artists and artisans. We even have our own makerspace, the Truckee Roundhouse, where you can take sewing, welding, woodwork, pottery and more classes, or get a membership to use their tools and space for your own creations. You could spend more than a day perusing stunning art photography, paintings, jewelery, pottery, knit and woven art, collages, and the many public art sculptures and murals throughout town. Many of the galleries are collectives of artists, so you can view the work of several different artists and media. For a list of art galeries and studios, click here on Truckee.com.
Donner Lake Witches Paddle
Although the witches paddle tradition started in the Northwest, in a few short years, the annual Witches Paddle on Donner Lake has quickly become a favorite Halloween tradition. Dress up as a witch, warlock, and grab your SUP or kayak (paddleboards are the traditional means, but hey – it can be windy at the end of October and however you can get out is great) and join the coven of witches for a paddle around the lake. Many little witches and goblins have also started to join in with their parents. Started by Angela Milash, this is an unoffical event that can be found on Facebook by searching Donner Lake Witches Paddle. It usually takes place on the closest Saturday to Halloween, which is October 28 this year. (Above pic by Ben Tang.)
Golfing (or Lounging at the Clubhouse)
The picturesque scenery, well-maintained courses, and the stunning backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains make Truckee a prime destination for golf enthusiasts. There are several highly-rated golf courses within the Truckee town limits, and many more nearby. Whether you’re looking for top-tier courses or more budget-friendly options like the public Ponderosa Golf Course maintained by Truckee Donner Recreation and Parks District, Truckee offers a diverse range of choices for golfers of all levels. Not everyone in your party is into golfing? That’s okay – non-golfers can enjoy a glass of wine or a soft drink and great food options with beautiful scenery to enjoy one of Truckee’s beautiful fall days. For a list of Truckee’s golf courses, click here on Truckee.com.
Paddleboarding & Kayaking
Without the high 80s temps we can have in the summer, Donner Lake is often glassier earlier in the afternoon (and mornings are often perfect paddling weather). Yes; it can be colder, but use precautions and even a short wetsuit if you’re more comfortable. The lake is less crowded and the Aspen along the shoreline can be spectacular. Don’t have your own SUP or kayak? Click here for sales and rentals on Truckee.com.
Truckee-Tahoe’s reputation for rock climbing is well-deserved, with its stunning granite formations providing a playground for climbers of all levels. Donner Summit, in particular, is renowned for its accessibility and diverse range of routes, making it an ideal destination for both beginners and seasoned climbers. The opportunity to explore those iconic granite slabs and take in the breathtaking views is sure to create lasting memories for families and climbing enthusiasts alike. Tahoe’s Via Ferrata provides a guided set climb among towering peaks that’s suitable for the entire family or all levels. There are also several Truckee shops that provide gear, like Tahoe Sports Hub and Tahoe Mountain Sports. Visit Alpine Skills International for guided tours.
Shopping at the Truckee Certified Farmers Market
Located at the Truckee River Regional Park every Tuesday morning from 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., this longtime running Truckee farmers’ market brings you local fresh fruits and veggies, meats, baked goods, and artisan crafts. The market runs through October and you can also get delicious ready-made food to enjoy in the park from MOGROG food truck. There is also a baby play group that meets weekly during the market under the big tree in the park, directly across from the market.
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