Many people pass by the Donner Lake/Truckee area heading east on Interstate 80 on the way to Reno or other parts east, but have never stopped to see what it is about. We hear about the area every winter on the weather reports because when it is snowing chains are often required at “Donner Summit”. For westbound winter travelers Truckee is the place to install chains and drive through the Cal Trans checkpoint before heading west over the summit. The Donner area is also famous for being known as the place where the Donner Party tried to cross the Sierra Nevada’s in the middle of winter. Many in the group perished as they were ill prepared for the snow that was there.
If that is your only knowledge of the area, then you are missing out one of the jewels of California. The Truckee area is a great place to stay and play. It’s a cute little town with a lot of history. Historic Old Town Truckee has many restaurants and shops to choose from. It is also the gateway to enjoying other destinations. More on that later.
Our family has been vacationing in the Donner Lake area for the past 20 years. It’s a beautiful area. The lake is very pristine and clear. It’s not nearly as famous or as big as it’s neighbor Lake Tahoe. What it lacks in size and notoriety it makes up for with it’s charm and beauty. It is very quiet and peaceful. A great place to relax with the family or friends. There are many cabins to rent in the area. Lake front cabins range from $1500 a week to $5000. Many cabins are large and perfect for multi family or large groups. There are also cabins to rent that are not on the like that are much more affordable. Most of these cabins are not really cabins, but spacious, luxurious homes. There is nothing like waking up and walking down to the dock and enjoying the sunrise. The air is cool, the lake is like glass. There are very few boats out except for a few fishermen. You can find cabins on VRBO.com or our preference is Donner Lake Vacations. If something smaller is more to your liking, the Condos at Donner Lake Village are another excellent choice. One or two bedroom condos with direct lake access on their own private docks. They are also just a steps away from the Donner Lake Marina where you can rent boats, jet ski’s, kayaks, paddle boards and more to enjoy your time on the lake.
Summer and winter are the big seasons for the area. June through Labor Day are the busy months. Reservations usually need to be made months in advance. Most homes only rent out by the week during this time. Some offer a floating 2-3 day rental. Some are also pet friendly. In Winter time, the busy season is December through early April. Many of the rentals are available for a ski lease.
Summer time activities for the area include hiking, boating, fishing and golf. The Truckee area is home to some of the best and most scenic golf courses you can find any where. There are at least 4 championship public courses within 10 minutes of downtown Truckee. Your only 45 minutes from Reno. 15-20 minutes from the north shore of Lake Tahoe, an hour from South Lake Tahoe. If you like fishing, there are a number of nearby lakes. There a lot of hiking trails nearby. Donner Lake is roughly at the 6000 foot elevation level. Donner Summit is over 7000 feet. If you like to bike, it’s a good challenge to go from lake level to the summit.
Winter time is when the location can be most advantageous with numerous ski resorts within just a few miles. You are 15 minutes from Squaw Valley, Northstar, Sugar Bowl, Boreal and Tahoe Donner to name a few of the skiing locations. It’s a much easier drive through Interstate 80 than using Highway 50 to the Lake Tahoe area.
Next time you are thinking of a place to go, consider the Donner Lake/Truckee area. It’s only 90 minutes from Sacramento. Definitely worth the drive.