Situated slightly north of Lake Tahoe and a little west of Reno, I’d driven past this small city on route I-80 many times. But it was not until this past summer that I actually stopped and explored it. The day of our visit was dry and hot and the sun intense as it can only be at high altitude, the heat draining our energy; still, we took our time, stayed hydrated and enjoyed visiting Truckee.
The town’s original name was Coburn Station, after one of its saloon keepers. It was renamed ‘Truckee’ after a Paiute chief named Tru-ki-zo. This friendly chief greeted the first Europeans migrating to California and legend has it that he rode toward them yelling, “Tro-kay”, Paiute for “Everything is all right”. The unaware travelers assumed he was yelling his name.
The area’s main historic claim to fame is that it was near here the ill-fated Donner Party was forced to camp during the winter of 1846, unable to make their goal of reaching California’s Sutter Fort. Poorly outfitted for the cold and snow, the group resorted to cannibalism (of those who had already died) to survive. Only 48 of the 87 members of the Donner party lived through that difficult winter.
Truckee was on the Transcontinental Railroad route and its excellent train service helped the area grow. Amtrak still stops in Truckee on its popular Chicago to San Francisco route.
Chief Trukizo and those who now live in Truckee enjoy pleasant four season weather. The summers are dry and warm and winters are mild, though with lots of snow. The town’s location near the Sierra Nevada crest at 1,798 meters (5,899 ft) provides conditions that often drop nearly a meter of snow in a 24-hour storm, with week-long storms yielding up to 3 meters of snow. This climate makes Truckee an excellent place to live or visit if you’re interested in four-season outdoor activity. Winters are popular with skiers and snowboarders, while summers are enjoyed by hikers, cyclists, mountain bikers and fishermen.
Besides the outdoor activities, the historic core of Truckee is well preserved and is a popular place to spend a few hours, as did we. Many of the buildings built around the turn of the early 20th century remain and have been converted into establishments that cater to tourists. The town is pretty and interesting, especially if you like window-shopping and small cafes.
Here’s some of what we saw during our day in Truckee:
(Click on thumbnails to enlarge, right arrow to advance slideshow)