Top Things to do in Truckee California in Winter

Enjoy Northstar Ski Resort the best ski resort
A day enjoying the bluebird sky while skiing down a perfectly groomed run is divine. Credit: Catherine Parker

This gateway community in the Lake Tahoe region is located along Interstate 80. With its convenient location, it’s a frequent stop for those driving in from the Bay Area. With outdoor activities including several ski resorts, Truckee is a popular base for a winter visit. Its historic downtown, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and named after a Paiute Indian chief. The transcontinental railroad opened the West Coast to emigrants following the path of the Emigrant Trail. Today Truckee’s historic downtown is lined with quaint shops and its historic depot. Here are the top things to do in Truckee California in Winter.

Top Things to Do in Truckee California in Winter

Go to the Donner Memorial State Park
Stroll through Historic Downtown Truckee
Stop in the Truckee Welcome Center
Visit the Truckee Railroad Museum
See the Old Truckee Jail
Take the Kids to the KidsZone
Go Ice Skating at the Outdoor Rink
Take a Walk through a Winter Wonderland
Go Sledding
Spend the Day at a Mountain Resort
Try Cross County Skiing
Donner State Memorial in Truckee. Top Things to do in Truckee California in Winter
Learn about the ill-fated Donner Party in Truckee. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Donner Memorial State Park

Settlers from Missouri drove their wagons across the plains to be stranded by an early, heavy snowstorm in November 1846. Unable to continue, the emigrants had to hunker down with few supplies and build shelter for the winter. Nearly half of the Donner Party perished and the remaining used drastic measures to survive.

There is a monument to the Donner Party. Snowshoers will find over 8 miles of trails, open in winter. This is one of the top things to do in Truckee California in Winter. 

During the summer, Donner Memorial State offers hiking and camping. It also features 2 miles of frontage along Donner Lake and Donner Creek, popular with fishing.  

Located at 12593 Donner Pass Road. Parking is $5 in the winter and $10 in the summer. Visitor Center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Park is open from dawn to dusk. 

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historic Truckee railroad depot Top Things to do in Truckee California in Winter
The Truckee Welcome Center in the historic railroad depot. credit: Catherine Parker

Historic Downtown Truckee

With Truckee’s railroad history, its historic downtown features a walkable area with locally-owned shops and restaurants. Walk down West River Road or Donner Pass Road for shopping and dining. Jibboom Street is another option. This is one of the top things to do in Truckee California in Winter. 

Truckee Welcome Center 

This is your destination for information on the entire region. It is in the historic Truckee Railroad Depot

Located 10065 Donner Pass Rd. Open daily from 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. 

Truckee Railroad Museum 

This is a must for train buffs; the Truckee Railroad Museum is housed in a former Southern Pacific Railroad bay-window caboose. Visitors will learn about the overland railroad route along with Donner Pass. 

The Truckee Railroad Museum is steps from Truckee’s active Amtrak station. 

Located at 10075 Donner Pass Rd. Open Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Old Truckee Jail Museum 

Built in 1875, the jail was used until May 1964. It has been fully restored. 

Located at 10142 Jibboom St. in downtown Truckee. Open Seasonally from Memorial Day until Labor Day on the weekends from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free to walk by in the off-season. 

KidZone Museum 

Perfect for little kids, the KidZone Museum is an interactive kid’s museum. Activities include an art area, a Sierra Settlers area dedicated to the Transcontinental Railroad construction and a nature play area. There is an area just for babies as well along with an indoor play structure. 

Located at 11711 Donner Pass Rd. Open Tuesday to Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. General admission is $12 for everyone over 1-years-old. 

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The youngest enjoys playing in the snow,
Take some time and play in the snow in Truckee. credit: Catherine Parker

Top Outdoor Winter Activities in Truckee

Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, exploring the outdoors is one of the top things to do in Truckee California in winter. Visitors can visit one of its many ski resorts, its outdoor ice rink or go snowshoeing, cross-country and sledding.

Ice Rink at Truckee River Regional Park 

This popular public park offers an outdoor ice rink open during the winter. Rentals are also available. There is a playground in the area, depending on the snow depth. 

During the summer season, the Truckee River Regional Park features a skatepark and the Salty Gebhardt Amphitheater. The Legacy Trail starts in the park as well. 

Located at 10500 Brockway Rd. Ice Skating is open Wednesday 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., Friday 3 – 7:45 p.m., Saturday and Sunday noon to 7:45 p.m. Adult non-resident admission is $13.50 and youth non-resident admission is $11.50. 

Winter Hiking in Truckee

Several trails are plowed in winter, so walkers can enjoy the outdoor scenery without strapping on snowshoes. In total, Truckee offers 26 miles of plowed trails in the area that are also dog-friendly.

Truckee River Legacy Trail

This paved trail is plowed in the winter, perfect for scenic strolls. The route is 10 miles long and is an in-and-out trail. The easiest spots to find the trail is at the Truckee River Regional Park and at the end of East River Street in downtown Truckee. 

Trout Creek Trail

A paved and plowed 3-mile roundtrip trail links Tahoe Donner with downtown Truckee. Visitors will find parking at Tahoe Donner.

sledding in lake Tahoe
Sledding in Lake Tahoe is a top thing to do. credit: Catherine Parker

Tubing and Sledding Around Truckee

Sledding and Snow Tubing are some of the top things to do in Truckee California in Winter. Several of the ski resorts offer snow tubing. Other spots of bring-your-own sled spots. Sleds are sold in the grocery stores in the Tahoe area.

Sno-Park at Donner Summit

This area is plowed and offers year-round restrooms. 

Located Boreal ski area turnoff, near the Pacific Crest Trail parking area. Purchase a sno-park pass in town for $15. 

Resorts with Tubing and Snowplay Areas

Most resorts offer tubing in 90-minute sessions, including a tube. Some resorts suggest reservations for busy periods, like holidays and school breaks.

  • Palisades Tahoe Resort
  • Northstar California Tubing Hill 
  • Boreal Mountain Resort Tahoe Tubing 
  • Sugar Bowl Sugar Rush 
  • Soda Springs Tube Town
  • Donner Ski Ranch Snow Tubing
  • Tahoe Donner Snowplay Area 
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Enjoy Northstar Ski Resort best ski lessons for kids in Lake Tahoe
Spend time in Northstar’s terrain park, and let the kids show you some new tricks. Even better, take a video of their new trick. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Where to Ski and Snowboard near Truckee 

Skiing and snowboarding are some of the top things to do in Truckee California in winter.

Northstar California Resort 

NorthStar California offers nearly 3,200 skiable acres and 100 runs. It’s a favorite with families with its premier ski and snowboarding school.

Its village is centered around an outdoor ice rink with live music, fire pits, plus dining and shopping. The Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe offers the only true ski-in, ski-out property in the Lake Tahoe region. 

Located at 5001 Northstar Dr., Truckee.

Palisades Tahoe 

As the location of the 1960 Winter Olympics, this resort is the largest in the Lake Tahoe area with 3,600 skiable acres and over 170 runs. This is a bucket list resort and offers some of the best runs on the West Coast. 

The aerial tram offers spectacular views of the entire region. Visitors will also find tubing, cross-country skiing along with dining at the resort. 

Located at 1960 Squaw Valley Rd., Olympic Valley.

Sugar Bowl Resort 

With ties to Walt Disney in the early years, Sugar Bowl Resort is still independently owned. With 14 lifts this resort is smaller than the larger Lake Tahoe resorts, however, skiers will find 1,500 skiable acres and a vertical drop of 1,500 feet. Its 94 runs are a favorite with locals and those driving in from the Bay Area. 

Located at 629 Sugar Bowl Rd., Norden. 

Boreal Mountain Resort

As home to the Woodward Tahoe, Boreal Resort attracts those wanting to expand their ski and snowboarding skills, especially in terrain parks. It offers 380 skiable acres with 41 runs serviced by eight lifts and appeals to teens and young adults. 

Located at 19749 Boreal Ridge Rd, Soda Springs.

Donner Ski Ranch 

Donner Ski Ranch is independently owned and operated, making it a less expensive place to ski and snowboard. With nearly 450 skiable acres, Donner Ski Ranch features 750 feet of vertical drop and 52 runs serviced by eight lifts. 

Donner Ski Ranch offers front and backside skiing. Families and those new to skiing like this resort for its varied green terrain. 

Located at 19320 Donner Pass Rd., Norden.

Tahoe Donner 

A bit of a local resort, Tahoe Donner features 120 skiable acres with a vertical drop of 600 feet. Visitors will find 17 runs with five lifts. 

Located at 11603 Snowpeak Way, Truckee. 

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Cross Country Skiing
With rental gear, cross-country skiing is fun to try. credit: Catherine Parker

Where to Cross Country Ski and Snowshoe in Truckee

With rental gear available in Truckee, cross-country and snowshoeing are excellent ways to enjoy the outdoors in Truckee. Truckee even offers a Cross Country Ski Resort,

Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Center 

It offers groomed trails, lessons and rentals.

Located at 15275 Alder Creek Rd., Truckee.

Royal Gorge Cross Country Ski 

This is the largest resort in North America to cross country ski. It offers six trail systems featuring eight different warming huts across 6,000 acres. Lessons and rentals are available. You can also snowshoe at Royal Gorge.

Located at 9411 Pahatsi Rd., Soda Springs.

Getting to Truckee

For those driving out after a snowy weekend, Interstate 80 Donner Pass experiences shutdowns due to chain control. Vehicles will need snow tires, tire chains and/or 4WD or AWD to proceed. At times due to unsafe conditions, the interstate shuts down. Most travelers wait it out in Truckee. Before heading out check out road conditions at for tire chain requirements.

Truckee offers Amtrak train service. There is also a regional airport in Truckee.

Catherine Parker has a passion for travel and seen all 50 U.S. States. As a former flight attendant with one of the largest airlines, there isn't a North American airport that she hasn't landed in at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting architectural and cultural icons. She is based out of Central Texas dividing her time between writing and restoring a pair of 100-year-old houses. She shares her life with her three kids and her husband.

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