Donner Lake Vista Point, Truckee, California

Hey, remember that August I housesat in Lake Tahoe for a month? Whelp, I think it’s about time I finally wrote about it. Here are all the fun things to do in Truckee in the summer!

Back in the spring of 2019, I saw a posting for a girl, Krista, who was looking for someone to watch her dog in Lake Tahoe while she and her boyfriend went down to Chile for a month. Since I already had plans to be in Korea for all of September, I thought, why not? I usually have a layover in California when I’m flying to Asia, so might as well just stretch out what would normally be a few hours into a thirty days!

After Skyping with Krista so we both confirmed the other wasn’t a psycho, I booked tickets to Reno and began to look up what exactly there was to do in Truckee and Lake Tahoe anyway. I actually really lucked out with this housesit as Krista left me her car to get around and, of course, I stayed at her apartment in exchange for hanging out with her very cute pup, MJ!

Both unfortunately and fortunately, I wound up being tied to my laptop for most of the trip. It was the first time I had one place to myself for a month in quite a while, and I guess it just sparked a huge streak of productivity in me. I think I published at least 10 posts that month, and I was on top of all my freelance work. In fact, because I knew how much I wouldn’t want to work while in Korea, I got a bit ahead!

On top of that, MJ did not enjoy being left behind anytime I ventured away and Tahoe isn’t the most dog-friendly in high season, so we spent a good chunk of time cuddled together on the couch and binging the entirety of Love Island Series 5.

Luckily, one of my friends, Liza, who lived in NorCal actually agreed to come visit with her husband! This got me out and about, and actually most of what’s on this list I did while they were here during my last weekend!

I know, I know, this isn’t a very comprehensive guide to Lake Tahoe, which is why I’m more focusing on Truckee in the northern part!

Fun Things to Do in Truckee in the Summer

1. Hike Eagle Rock

For a ridiculously easy hike with stunning views, drive over to Eagle Rock! Like I was at my absolute laziest in Tahoe, eating puff Cheetos as though it was my job, and I’m telling you this hike was short. It’s only 1km up and you get a gorgeous view over Lake Tahoe. Dogs allowed on leash.

Annoyingly, I lugged my camera here; clearly saw my photos when looking through to export them to my laptop, and when I went to edit they were nowhere to be found! I might be going crazy. Sadly I just have these two phone photos to show for my mini hike.

Donner Lake Memorial State Park, Lake Tahoe California

2. Visit Donner Lake Memorial State Park

In case you missed by all the places and roads called “Donner” around Lake Tahoe, this is the area where the Donner Party was stranded for the winter and maybe (probably) resorted to cannibalism to survive.

First pay a visit to the museum to learn more about their trip and what went wrong. Outside is a statue to commemorate them, and it’s perched up high so that you can get a visual of how intense the snow was when they were trapped.

After, follow one of the trails to walk along Donner Lake and enjoy the views! I took MJ for a walk here and was allowed to leave her right outside the museum while I popped in for all of 10 minutes to check out the inside.

3. Hang out at West End Beach

On the west side of Donner Lake is West End Beach, which is a nice spot for swimming and kayaking and other water sports. I do think there’s a fee to go in, but we were there close to sunset and didn’t have to pay anything to go.

Donner Lake Vista Point, Truckee, California

4. Drive up to Donner Lake Vista Point

For another pretty view of Donner Lake, drive up to this vista point! Make sure you get the one on the side of the lake because the other side doesn’t have anything. Once you park, you just have to walk down a little bit (like a minute) and you’ll get these views. It actually took us three tries to get here haha.

5. Find somewhere to stargaze

I really should’ve tried more to do some star photography! I actually ordered my Jobi tripod with the intent to since I could easily see the stars just walking out onto my driveway, but… I don’t know. I have no excuse!

Anyway, if you love stargazing, I’d look up some good areas to do so. North Lake Tahoe is so peaceful, it’s crazy how clear the sky is!

Downtown Truckee, Lake Tahoe, California

6. Shop around Downtown Truckee

Downtown Truckee, along Donner Pass Road, is a very cute area with lots of boutique shops and restaurants. Before we got dinner at Old Town Tap, we popped into a few. Ddidn’t buy much (or anything) because things here are much more expensive than they would be elsewhere.

Kayaking Baldwin Beach, Lake Tahoe California

7. Go kayaking at Baldwin Beach

So… we made a bit of a horrible mistake. Of course the one weekend I was sightseeing is also Labor Day weekend, aka one of the busiest weekends in Tahoe. There was a ton of traffic all around the lake, and getting to any of the beaches was impossible. Finally, we came to Baldwin Beach and only had to wait maybe 15 minutes or so at the entrance before we were allowed in to park. Lucky for us, we made it just in time to rent kayaks for a bit and explore the area!

Baldwin Beach isn’t the most popular spot, which is probably why we managed to get in there towards sunset on a busy weekend. I imagine it’s just locals there during the low season, so if you want a lesser known beach to enjoy, definitely go here.

Kayaking was, of course, a ton of fun (always did love it), and I had some time to swim around after we returned our boats. They’ll even give you a little recommended course to check out the marsh area. All in all, not too shabby of a way to end the day!

Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, California

8. Check out Emerald Bay

Emerald Bay is by far one of the most popular spots to visit in Tahoe, and it’s about an hour drive from Truckee on a normal day. We stopped by on our way back from Baldwin Beach to check out the different view points, and then I went back the next day to do the next activity below!

Vikingsholm, Lake Tahoe, California

9. Don’t miss Vikingsholm

Back when I started working on my post about castles in the US, Vikingsholm constantly came up on different lists. Naturally, I knew I needed to visit while I was in the area! Turns out castle is a bit of a stretch, but it’s still a fun visit regardless. You have to park at the top of Emerald Bay and then walk down about a mile before you get to the area. The walk down is fine but the walk back up kind of sucks.

If I were to go again, I’d bring some beach things and prepare to hang out the whole day. You can rent kayaks here and I think at least circle Fannette Island. Do a little tour to learn more about Vikingsholm, which is a very cool mansion from 1929 and inspired by Scandinavia, and then check behind to for a tiny bit of hiking. I’m not sure but you might be able to connect to Lower Eagle Falls.

Carnelian Bay, Lake Tahoe, California

10. Take in the views from Carnelian Bay

Another relaxing place to come is Carnelian Bay, which is maybe a 15 to 20 minute drive from Truckee. The beach area is called Carnelian West Beach and in that area is Gar woods Grill & Pier, Waterman’s Landing, and Old Post Office Cafe. You can also do a little mini golfing at Magic Carpet Golf. If you want to stay here, there’s Tahoe Trip and Tahoe North Shore Lodge.

11. Drive over to the hot springs

Before she left, Krista recommended that if I wanted to a little day trip, I should go check out Sierra Hot Springs, which is a resort from the 1870s. Not really sure why I didn’t make the drive over, but I didn’t.

West Shore Market,  Lake Tahoe, California

Foodie Things to Do in Truckee

Old Town Tap, Lake Tahoe, California

12. Grab some pizza at Old Town Tap

While Liza and David were here, we went into town and wound up at Old Town Tap! We split a pizza, a salad to be healthy, and then tried some of the ice cream. If you want a drink, they’ve got craft beer and “creative cocktails.”

13. Try the sushi at Drunken Monkey

You know how sometimes you just crazy sushi? Well, when I first got to Truckee, that’s what hit me! Krista recommended Drunken Monkey, so while they were getting things together to leave, I hopped over there for some spicy salmon rolls. Tahoe isn’t exactly known for seafood, so it’s not the best sushi I’ve ever had in my life (I mean… I lived in Asia for 3 years), but it’s pretty good for the area!

Fire Sign Cafe, Lake Tahoe, California

14. Get some brunch at Fire Sign Cafe

While Liza, David, and I were driving around Tahoe, we stopped at Fire Sign Cafe for a late brunch. Our wait was around 40 minutes over Labor Day weekend, but apparently it’s this busy year round. The plates are massive!

Sandwich from West Shore Market, Lake Tahoe, California

15. Buy a sandwich at West Shore Market

Across the street from Fire Sign Cafe is West Shore Market. We got sandwiches and snacks for later in the day (wound up eating them after kayaking at Baldwin Beach). Snackwise, it’s a lot of the fancier version of regular snack food at higher prices, so I’d stock up a Safeway in Truckee instead of here. However, their sandwiches are excellent, so definitely get one for later!

Siam Cuisine,  Lake Tahoe, California

16. Get some Thai takeaway at Siam Cuisine

Craving some Asian food? Siam Cuisine has realllly good takeaway Thai. Pretty sure this is pad thai, and it doesn’t look pretty but it was so good. Wish I had thought to order from here earlier but Krista got it the night she came back and before I left for the airport.

Bonus: you can get a quick eye wax next door lol.

Wild Cherries Coffehouse, Lake Tahoe, California

17. Get your caffeine fix at Wild Cherries Coffeehouse

For a cute coffee spot in Truckee, check out Wild Cherries. It’s right in town, so I believe we stopped by before she dropped me off at the bus stop for San Francisco.

18. Try these other places

Some other restaurants I had noted because Krista recommended them but didn’t wind up visiting include Dark Horse Coffee, Moody’s Bistro, Best Pies Pizzeria, Alibi Ale Works, and Coffeebar Truckee. Also, my friend, Alex was in Truckee for a Donner Lake wedding, so you can check out where she and her friends ate during their stay!

Other Tours & Activities in Tahoe

If you’d like even more to do, I’m not the best person to ask. But here are some fun tours I found on Viator that might be up your alley!

Wild West Tour from Lake Tahoe with Train Ride

Learn more about the Wild West that goes from South Lake Tahoe to Virginia City, Nevada. It also includes a train ride on the Virginia and Truckee Raildroad. Just keep in mind South Lake Tahoe is a good hour’s drive from Truckee, so factor that in! Book here

Lake Tahoe Circle Tour

If you want to get a full tour of Lake Tahoe, than you’ll want to book this tour which circles the whole lake. I’m not sure of specifics but I’d be prepared to depart from South Lake Tahoe again. Book here

Truckee Painting Class

If you’re visiting Truckee with friends, why not sign up for one of those painting classes? This one takes place at the Painted Vine! You can purchase alcohol separately. Book here

Historic West Shore Kayaking Tour

So this kayaking tour starts in Tahoe City (a 20 minute drive from Truckee) and takes you around Tahoe’s west shore. While you kayak, you can learn more about the Donner Party as well as more local history! Book here

Baldwin Beach, Tahoe, California

Quick Tips for Visiting Truckee & Lake Tahoe

Where to Stay in Truckee

So obviously, I’m also not an expert on where to stay since I housesat the whole time! But I found some places around the same area I stayed if you want to take a look.

As for hotels in Truckee, there are quite a few cool ones including the Redlight Historic Hotel and Speakeasy, Donner Lake Cabin, and Cedar House Sport Hotel.

A little further south outside of Truckee, is One Village Place and Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe.

Furthermore, there are lots of locally-owned Airbnbs in Truckee, like this Donner Lake retreat owned by Helen who lives in nearby Rohnert Park, private guest suite owned by Christopher and his wife who are locals to Truckee, and this studio condo owned by Jennifer from Sacramento who works for the California State Railroad Museum Foundation.

Summer Weather in Truckee

If you’re unfamiliar with NorCal weather, it’s much cooler than you’d think. When I first visited, I actually needed to borrow a sweatshirt! Tahoe, in the mountains, is even cooler, so don’t come expecting sweaty days in bathing suit! Yes there’s swimming, but you’ll definitely want to get dried off by the time the sun sets. I’d bring a light jacket or sweater, especially if you get cold easily.

Getting to Truckee

The closest airport to Truckee is the Reno-Tahoe Airport about an hour away. If you come in through here and rent a car, it’s an easy drive over! I think there’s a Truckee airport but the flights are way more expensive than to Reno.

How to Get Around

By car. You absolutely need a car! Just check out the rental prices at the Reno Tahoe airport. Also stock up gas in Nevada because it’s way cheaper than California!

Costs in Tahoe

So expensive! Krista was telling me her rent in Tahoe was pretty similar to San Francisco, and I just noticed everything was so much pricier from eating out to getting gas and more. Note how I didn’t eat out much! I actually just went to Safeway or Trader Joe’s in Reno for groceries to cook at home. Just be prepared for pretty high prices compared to anywhere else in the US.

And there you have it! A bunch of fun things to do in Truckee in the summer. Have you been?

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  1. Great post! Thanks! My family and I are heading to Truckee this Labor Day weekend (yikes) lol! Hope to hit most of the spots you mentioned. :)

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