Best in Dirt: Truckee, CA

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A Trail Runner’s Jackpot


Emma Garrand on the Tahoe Rim Trail, 165-mile loop around sparkling Lake Tahoe. Photo by Paul Roach.

Go if … you want endless trails with varied terrain and a town that retains its authentic western flavor with preserved wooden storefronts and gold-rush historic sites. Isolated from the rest of California by the Sierra Nevada crest, this town of 16,000 is located just 30 miles from Reno, Nevada. With views of Lake Tahoe, Truckee boasts a full event calendar with art tours, bluegrass music and a Shakespearian festival.

Truckee is etched in American history for the building of the Transcontinental Railroad through the rugged Sierra Nevada, considered one of America’s greatest engineering feats of the 19th century. “The town’s variety of trails and small-town atmosphere would make anyone feel blessed to live here,” says local runner Lucia Lake.

Best Trails The popular Emigrant Trail is an out-and-back over 15 miles each way along gentle singletrack rolling through Jeffrey Pine forest and high-desert areas of sagebrush and Mule’s Ear.

The 2500-mile Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), one of the country’s longest trails, stretching between the Mexican and Canadian borders, passes near Truckee. For a long haul, start at the Squaw Valley Ski area and head south on the PCT for great views on Tinkers Knob and Anderson Ridge. The 15-mile Donner Lake Rim Trail (, brainchild of the Truckee Donner Land Trust, includes six miles of the PCT, and has another eight-mile section under construction. This high-country trail wraps around the rim of freshwater Donner Lake, climbs along Gregory Creek to the forest around Summit Lake, and wildflower with views of snow-covered peaks.

Race The Squaw Valley Mountain Run (, part of the Trail Runner Trophy Series, is a 3.6-mile climb in Squaw Valley, starting at 6200 feet and finishing at 8200 feet atop Mount Pluto. This local’s favorite has been held the first Saturday of August for the past 28 years. Runners enjoy great views of the High Sierra and Lake Tahoe at the summit of the race.

July’s Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Race ( includes 50K, 50-mile and 100-mile races along alpine singletrack (between 6800 and 9214 feet) through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. “The race is a glimpse of heaven,” says race director David Cotter.


> Go when Refreshing cool temps between June and September are caused by chilled mountain air settling into the Truckee basin, making for summer averages between 40 and 79 degrees.

> refuel A quaint spot to rest your weary legs and sip on a post-run cup of joe is the locally owned Truckee Book and Bean ( coffee shop and bookstore. Wild Cherries Coffee  House (11429 Donner Pass) serves delicious coffee, hearty turkey pesto panini sandwiches and creamy smoothies.

> Pitstop The Granite Chief ( mountaineering shop has all the information and gear needed for alpine adventures, including directions to trailheads and recommended trails.

> Resources The Truckee Chamber of Commerce ( has information on attractions, restaurants and events. Trail locations and recommended routes can be found at

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