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Paul Hamill Photography Lake Tahoe

Truckee Tahoe Bucket List – 16 things to do in Truckee and Tahoe

Check off these 16 local Truckee and Tahoe bucket list adventures.

Sometimes, all you desire from your time at Lahontan Golf Club is some peace, quiet and the opportunity to recharge. We get it. We also know that the occasional itch comes along to get out, about and off toward those places and events that are close at hand yet hard to forget. In that case, we’ve assembled 16 selections — from hiking to salmon viewing — to consider for the next few months. Enjoy.

Photography by Paul Hamill Photography

Story by Scott Mortimore

1 – Chimney Beach Hike

Paul Hamill Photography Lake Tahoe

It’s a 40-minute drive there, a 10-minute hike down (20 minutes back) to the lake and a lifetime memory of sunny skies, clear blue waters and a secluded beach with a chimney serving as its centerpiece. Continue south from the Chimney and you’ll reach another not so Secret Cove. Clothing is optional at Secret Cove. Tip: roadside parking on Nevada SR 28 is limited so arrive early.

2 – Fishing the Truckee

Western fly fishermen are well aware of the Truckee River’s return to blue ribbon status. Tip: Consider hiring a local guide your first time out on the river.

3 – Climb the Tahoe Via Ferrata

Ever dreamt of scaling a wall of granite but that pesky concern about staying alive kept you from punching that item off your bucket list? With Tahoe Via Ferrata, you can now pursue that dream without the nightmare. On Squaw Valley’s famed Tram Face, professionally trained guides safely navigate novices aged 10 and up through vertical routes that expose you to the thrills and adrenaline of rock climbing and deliver the kind of rush that makes for a day you won’t soon forget. Details at

4 – Wildflowers

This past winter was kind to those in search of wildflowers. Top sights include the Mount Rose Wilderness and Tahoe Meadows, Martis Valley, the Norden area, Page Meadows south of Tahoe City, Lacey Meadow, the Marlette Lake trail, and — pictured below bottom — Sagehen Creek whose 5-mile round trip trail sets off just 7 miles north of Truckee on Highway 89. Tip: all that water is as appealing to mosquitoes as it is to flowers.

5 – Rainbow Bridge Overlook

Chances are, you’ve already seen this stunning vista, even if it wasn’t in person. The location is often featured in car and adventure ads. Beyond the west shore of Donner, you’ll climb historic Route 40. Just below the summit is this graceful span dating back to the 1920s. Tip: combine this journey with a trip to the train sheds.

6 – Martis Peak Fire Lookout

Fire lookouts were built to take in 360º views and this 100-year-old lookout is no exception. You’ve got forests to your north, the Sierra crest to the west and a plate of blue Tahoe everywhere else. Getting there is easy, both by car and foot. From Martis Camp, take Highway 267 toward Brockway Summit, and turn south. There may be a closed gate. If so, enjoy the short hike. If it’s open, the hike gets even shorter.

7 – Surf Tahoe

Seriously. There’ve been more and more sightings of surfers on Tahoe than ever before. Mind you, it’s usually on the chilly (okay, frigid) side of the calendar but when the forecast is for whipping winds and the lifts are closed, break out the wet suit and head for the North Shore (Tahoe, not Oahu). That should add some significant color to your bucket list.

8 – Paddle board to Thunderbird Lodge from Sand Harbor

It’s one thing to see Tahoe from above and beyond; it’s another to be gliding over it as whale-sized boulders and schools of fish pass beneath you. A pleasant day and good workout runs from Sand Harbor past Bonsai Rock to Thunderbird Lodge and back. Tip: Lather up liberally with sunscreen and consider a hat and sunglasses.

9 – Backpack the PCT

Many of the homes at Martis Camp sport views of the Sierra Crest, home to the Pacific Crest Trail. In 20 minutes, you’re at Donner Summit and already have some significant elevation to head either north or south. Hike as much or as little as you care or simply pack your bag with newspaper, step out of the car, and strike a pose for your latest profile picture.

10 – Kokanee Festival

In September, trees aren’t the only things to change colors. Tahoe’s land-locked Kokanee salmon go bright red as they make their annual upstream travail to spawn at Taylor Creek, just a few miles south of Emerald Bay. There are festivals, trails and an underwater observatory that brings wide eyes to kids of all ages.

11 – Donner Museum

In a large, log cabin near Donner Lake is a fascinating museum recounting one of America’s most tragic (and triumphant) chapters. Situated on the grounds of where the Donner Party was stymied by epic snows in October 1846, this is also a great day trip idea for picnics, beach time and strolls through the woods. NOTE: The height of the statue base indicates the depth of the snow, which was 22 feet. After futile attempts to cross the summit, the Donner party was forced to encamp for the winter in 1864.

12 – Eagle Rock Hike – Views

One of Tahoe’s most immediate balcony views, Eagle Rock is a volcanic outcrop between mile markers 67 and 68 on SR 89. The gently rising half-mile climb rewards hikers with amazing panoramas. Tip: bring the camera!

13 – Historic Downtown Truckee

If the idea of packing up and hitting the road for a long day doesn’t suit your fancy for the moment, take the five-minute trip to Truckee instead. The shopping’s amazing, galleries dazzle, and dining ­— whether breakfast, lunch or dinner — is first rate. Tip: got some quarters to burn? The parking meters love ‘em.

14 – Pyramid Lake

At the opposite end of the spectrum (and other end of the Truckee River) from Lake Tahoe is this desert lake whose stark beauty has served as the backdrop of many spaghetti westerns. It’s also regained its world-class fishery status with reintroduction of its native strain of cutthroats that serve up an occasional 20-pound bomber. Thirty minutes north of Reno.

15 – Searching for Sierra Gold

When the first frosts hit, pockets of red and gold foliage contrast beautifully with the pine forests. One stunning scene is found between Spooner Lake and Marlette Lake, a hike that can be anywhere from a gentle hour to a full-day loop. There’s also Hope Valley, beyond South Shore, and just up the road on the side of Highway 267 is an island of yellow aspen surrounding a shack from days gone by. A prime setting for those holiday card photos.

16 – Chasing Waterfalls

The summer of 2019 will be one of the finest on record for savoring waterfalls. Some perennial faves include Eagle Falls and Cascade Falls near Emerald Bay, Glen Alpine Falls above Fallen Leaf Lake, the roadside cascades near Rainbow Bend, the series of falls on the Shirley Canyon trail, and — further afield ­— Frazier Falls near Graeagle.