Five Kid-Friendly Hikes In Truckee


All around Truckee lie areas of breathtaking natural beauty, offering families with young children the easy opportunity to explore unspoiled wilderness without traveling great distances. To help us compose this list, we talked to the experts themselves, our children! Here are the five places they love the most.

When hiking with children, remember to always carry extra water, jackets and snacks.  Keep the distances short and brush up on your geologic and animal information so you can comment on what they see as they walk along.  Family hikes can foster self-reliance and an appreciation for all that nature has to offer.


Johnson Canyon Overlook

With little elevation gain and gorgeous views of Donner Lake, Johnson Canyon Overlook is a great place to take kids. The trail is a little over 2 miles, roundtrip and only has about 450 feet of elevation gain. From Glacier Way in Tahoe Donner, follow the Donner Lake Rim Trail out to the picnic area/overlook for amazing views across the top of the canyon, Donner Lake, and out across the Sierra Crest. We love this because for such a short and easy-going hike, the views are incredible. It’s also a great way for kids to easily learn the geography of the area. See if they can find Northstar, Castle Peak, the Donner Lake Train Tunnels, and maybe even the Truckee River.


High Camp Loop

Photo:    Squaw Valley

While there are numerous trails to wonder at Squaw Valley’s High Camp, the High Camp Loop is our favorite. This is a gentle trail and approximately 1.23 miles, which is perfect for taking the kids. It’s also a fun experience with children because you get to take the Aerial Tram up the mountain and enjoy incredible views of North Lake Tahoe and Granite Chief National Forest. The trail begins at High Camp, traverses the ridge to the top of the Mountain Meadow Chairlift. Hikers then loop down through the upper mountain’s spacious open bowls to High Camp, which serves as Squaw Valley’s beginner ski and snowboard slopes during the winter. Want an even more memorable experience? Hop on a free guided hiking tour with North Face. These guided hikes run daily on a 1.5 miles trail around High Camp.


Perazzo Meadows

Perazzo Meadows usually doesn’t come up first in a search of Truckee day hikes…and we don’t know why. This trail follows along the Little Truckee River, giving hikers beautiful wildflowers, wildlife, and perfect picnic spots while being removed from busy highways and neighborhoods. Though this is little bit of a drive, about 18 miles from Truckee, it’s totally worth it to escape the summer crowds for a day. Truckee Donner Land Trust (who acquired the land in 2008) says that Perazzo Meadows is, “a great place for a relaxing family outing. There are picnic tables, birds, and beautiful wildflowers along the river and in the meadow.” Learn more about the trail and find directions here.


Summit Lake


The Summit Lake Trail is one of the many gems hiding on Donner Summit. This trail is a bit longer (about 4.7 miles, roundtrip), but is great for kids because of the low elevation gain and the opportunity to swim in the beautiful, alpine lake. Depending on snowmelt, along the trail you’re likely to spot a few waterfalls and creeks, as well as beautiful foliage, wildlife, and views of Donner Summit. We suggest bringing a hammock and a picnic lunch to enjoy a summer day at the lake. The trailhead is at the Boreal exit on I-80, which is also the start to many other incredible Donner Summit trails. Find more information about the trail here.


Sawtooth Trail System

Another hidden gem in Truckee is the Sawtooth Trail System. With access from the Sierra Meadows neighborhood and over 11 miles of trails, this area is great to explore with kids because of the sheer number of trails, loops and easy mountain biking. One major highlight of the trail is the Truckee River Overlook, right above the Granite Flat Campground. It’s around 3 miles roundtrip to get here on the Sawtooth Loop trail. To find it, turn onto fire road 06 from Thelin Street in Sierra Meadows. There will be a larger parking area along the road and to your right. There are SO many trails that spurt off in every direction from here, but most will lead you through short loops or back to Road 6. Look for a medium sized, well established trail to the right and stick to the right whenever the trail forks. There are a few maps dispersed throughout the trail system, or you can use this one to find your way around.