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A Summer in Truckee, California


We arrived in Truckee in late May after road tripping from Denver Colorado to the west. We pulled into the small railroad town after driving up a mountain pass from the deserts of Nevada. Truckee sits north of Lake Tahoe surrounded by mountain passes on all sides to get to it. It's nestled between mountainous terrain flowing with rivers, lakes, reservoirs, open spaces, and blanketed with dense evergreen forests. Truly a beautiful place. We drove up to the house that we rented a room in from a second homeowner located in Tahoe Donner Association, heading up a smaller mountainside behind the main street of Truckee. 

The neighborhoods are filled with beautiful log cabins, mainly all second homes for the wealthy 'Bay Area' locals.

It's a ski destination, a fly fishing hotspot, and a lake vacation getaway. It's a vacation hotspot for the city folk to experience the nature and outdoors of the Sierra Nevadas in this small charming town of Truckee, separated from but still close to the chaos that surrounds the more infamous Lake Tahoe. Truckee town itself is gorgeous, full of history, built up along the Truckee River and Railroad.  

It's Still Mud Season In May!

There was still about 5 feet of snow just up from the summeresque town at our house. The winter prior to our arrival had been a BIG snow year meaning the snow wouldn't melt in higher alpine until late August. Most of the snow melted by mid late June around our house. We hiked up the Tahoe Donner Association Ski hill and skied down, then I got a $5 friday ski ticket for Squaw Ski Area. Squaw has a really prestigious reputation apparently, but I had no idea when I went. Finding out its reputation later, made sense because people I had the pleasure of sitting on the chairlift with were super entitled for having skied Squaw all winter. It was a normal, smaller ski mountain to me, however it was in an amazing place with views of Lake Tahoe! I also skied it in June, which is crazy. 

Working in Truckee

Andrew and I both moved to Truckee on a whim of finding a place to live and jobs all within a week or so! I found a horseback riding instructing job for a kids summer horse camp, and Andrew found a job as golf course maintenance. Both offering a higher pay than anywhere in the Rockies, but for a good reason because California is much more expensive to live in. We were both only a bike ride away from work. I ended up switching jobs in August and working at a local coffee shop in Truckee, super fun to get to know locals in an area! Finding work in Truckee is pretty easy as there's an affordable housing shortage. I believe they built affordable apartments costing upward of $2500 for a 1 bedroom? 

Our Backyard- Donner Lake & Pass 

Infamous for being the spot where a group of pioneers traveling over the pass ended up in a blizzard and resorted to cannibalism to survive. Now it has a road with many cars speeding and zipping up the pass from the Bay Area,  down into Truckee (people drive SO FAST in California). Donner Pass was a great sunset or sunrise spot, hiking spot, and Donner Lake itself that sits below the pass is freeeeeezing but a really nice local lake close to Truckee to hang out at. The best part are free docs that sit along the lake shore. All free with parking just next to them. They feel private because they are small enough for people to claim a whole doc for themselves. A great summer hangout! 

Reno Nevada

Truckee is about 30 minutes away from Reno Nevada. You drive through a canyon that winds through the evergreen covered mountains and slowly turns to desert as you descend out of the canyon. It's a beautiful drive, but again people drive SO FAST so it's kind of terrifying. We actually did all of our grocery shopping and filled the car with gas in Reno. It was probably 1/2 the price of Truckee! It's a locals tip to do all of your shopping in Reno to save a ton of money. Definitely worth it! And Reno itself is kind of cool, it has a real vibe to it! 

Lake Tahoe

By July the weather had warmed up enough that it was HOT. Like 80-90 degrees some days, so swimming in a lake had never sounded better. Donner Lake was pretty freezing all summer long to the point its was always way too cold to actually enjoy swimming. Lake Tahoe on the other hand warmed up to a surface temperature of 70 degrees, which feels incredible on a hot summer day. We found the best spots by hiking down a ways from the highway to Skunk Harbor and Secret Cove. Both amazing spots, usually you can find parking on the side of the highway, and Secret Cove is actually a NUDE spot! Mainly boaters hang out here because the hike down from the highway is steep and sometimes long and hot. Swimming in Lake Tahoe was a magical experience. Hanging out by the lake for a couple hours, jumping off rocks and laying out on the warm rocks was soothing for the soul. It feels like you are swimming in crystals it is so clear. Out of this world! 

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Biking Around Truckee

There are great bike trails all around Truckee. It's a HUGE mountain biking spot, with trails that wander through every forest. A lot of them I didn't even know how to find or where to look for. I don't have a mountain bike so I stuck to paved trails.

My favorite trail in Truckee was biking along the Truckee River from downtown toward Glenshire, which also goes further. People here don't use leashes on their dogs, and dogs frequently run away as theres lost dog signs all over the place. Also people don't know how to walk on a bike path, so watch out for rogue walkers.

Another awesome bike path was along highway 89 starting at Squaw in the valley/Truckee River canyon and heading up the river to connect to Lake Tahoe at Tahoe City. And lastly in the fall I LOVED biking alone the east shore of Lake Tahoe on a brand new bike path, from Incline Village down to Secret Cove. SO beautiful and a great spot to swim along the path. Also tubing along highway 89 was AWESOME and a summer long activity after the water flow runoff calms down.

Summer Hiking around Truckee & Lake Tahoe

We got in plenty of awesome hiking days in the summer! We tried to explore most of the Sierra Nevadas around us as possible and did a pretty good job, reaching north of Truckee and south of Lake Tahoe facing toward Yosemite. Here are some of the trails we did.

1. Rifle Peak had TONS of snow as we ascended up. We didn't make it to the top, but the views of Lake Tahoe were incredible! Rifle Peak

2. Donner Pass Hikes

The tunnels are kind of creepy, I'm sure theres tons of Rats and gross things down there. Pretty cool to be in a long tunnel though. Other hikes around Donner Pass are beautiful, great views, and you can go for miles and miles as it connects to tons of other trails. The Pacific Crest Trail goes through Donner Pass. 

3. Donner Pass-- Castle Peak and Basin Peak

This was a great trail, because Andrew found a $100 BILL ON THE TRAIL within 1 mile of hiking. We did Castle Peak, and decided to add in Basin Peak that is connected to Castle Peak by a Ridgeline. The views were incredible, not a lot of people, especially on the loop we decided to do. It was challenging, rewarding, fun climbing, and a unique and what felt we had the entire mountain range to ourself. This was a favorite hike of mine!

4. Sierra Buttes Fire Tower & Yuba River 

Fire Tower Lookout

The Sierra Buttes was amazing! We saw this from the road camping near Gold Lake just east of the mountain. The Sierra Buttes are SO cool. Famous for mountain biking trails around the hills below the rocky cliff peaks. Sierra City and Downieville are further west past Sierra Buttes. Both super cool old historic towns deep in the narrow valley with the Yuba River flowing through the towns. The Yuba River runs along highway 49 and is amazing. Surrounded by lush forest, it is like a crystal gem in a lush jungle. The landscape here takes your breath away. The Yuba can get gnarly in the spring run off, to the point people are drowning in the River. But later in the summer when it is 90+ degrees out and the river is at a normal run, it is AMAZING to swim in. 

The Yuba River

5. Frazier Falls Trail N. of Truckee

Frazier Falls is a BIG waterfall. It is a short trail, but super rewarding views from the top of the falls watching it flow over, to the side looking at the huge falls. Also there is a lot of camping nearby, so it was nice to camp then go and hike to the falls in the morning. 

6. South Lake Tahoe, Round Top Mountain & Winnemucca Trail

This area and Round Top Mountain Trail were BEAUTIFUL. Round Top mountain was a perfect peak to hike, not too difficult or long, and a beautiful loop trail with wildflowers, views of Yosemite from the south side of the peak, and dramatic drop offs that make you feel like you're on a cool peak.

With free dispersed camping in Hope Valley, we set up camp then went out to hike this peak in the afternoon, summiting before sunset. We got back to camp before sunset and went for a swim and fish in a creek that ran along our campsite and watched sunset. It was magical! 

7. Mt Tallac & Gilmore Lake Loop 

Near Fallen Leaf Lake on South Lake Tahoe, this super popular area can get busy. But the Mt. Tallac Peak was very rewarding and offered incredible views of the Lake Tahoe and Desolation Wilderness, which is a really cool rocky geologists dream of a wilderness.  

Fly Fishing

If we weren't hiking or working, we took advantage of the many rivers around Truckee! Our 'backyard' was filled with different rivers to through a line in. Andrew killed it here, taught me a lot, and we caught a lot of fish. This made my summer in Truckee! 

Leaving Truckee

Leaving Truckee was bittersweet. My job situation had taken a less passionate turn, as working  at a coffee shop with high schoolers isn't my life dream. I didn't really have any other opportunities for the future in Truckee, so we made the collective decision to leave. Despite the beauty, charm, and good setup we had in Truckee, our time was perfect there and we left on a positive note. It was a beautiful summer! The lakes, rivers, mountains, and amazing Mexican food will forever be in my heart.

Truckee Summer Video

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