Dive into Truckee's History
Did you know that Truckee is one of California’s Cultural Districts? The town was designated as such partially because of the vibrant and important history in the area. From the petroglyphs to the train tunnels, there’s so much history hidden within the mountains and valleys of our special town. Read on to find out the best ways to enjoy the local history with the family this summer!
Transcontinental Railroad 150th Anniversary
This summer is special because it is the 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad completion. There will be celebrations, talks, guided hikes, and more happening through August. This is such a great way to learn about the history of Truckee, because without the railroad, Truckee might not exist! During August, check out some of the Historical Railroad Talks scheduled, like ‘Vigilantism in America and the Effect on Truckee’ or ‘Red Light District in Truckee’, and make it out to the Truckee River Regional Park on August 31st for the celebration’s final picnic, which includes rides on the Truckee River Railroad, history discussions, and a BBQ lunch.
Even if you can’t quite make it to any of the events, there are ways to enjoy the anniversary of the railroad. You can kick back with a copy of Images of America: Truckee by Sherry E. Jennings from Word After Words Books and a Golden Spike cocktail, created by bars in Truckee specifically to commemorate the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. You can also stop by the Truckee Donner Railroad Museum which has a timeline of life, individuals, industry, and railroading in and around Truckee through the display of artifacts and exhibits, creation of documentary films, scheduled lectures, educational services, and other related amenities all in Historic Downtown Truckee.
Donner Summit & Donner Summit Historical Society
This is not your typical museum, it’s an en plein air museum and totally Truckee style! Donner Summit contains so much history that has changed the course of history. Visit the Donner Summit Historical Society office at 21501 Donner Pass Rd. or online for brochures, maps, interactive history lessons, and more. We love incorporating these brochures, which are adapted for smart phone and easy to use on the trails. It’s like having a historical guide hiking with you around the summit! When you get to Donner Summit, be sure to check out the train tunnels, petroglyphs, rainbow bridge, and the Lincoln highway—so fascinating!
Pioneer Monument and Museum
We love making a day of visiting the Donner Memorial State Park on Donner Lake’s east shore. We suggest to get there early during the summer for easy parking. When you arrive, head to the museum first. The museum, which just opened in 2015, features artifacts and stories of the Emigrant Experience--including that of the Donner Party, the Land of the Washoe, Chinese construction of the railroad and early motoring adventures over Donner Pass. Next, step outside the museum for a self-guided tour that goes past the Donner Party's Murphy family cabin site and the Pioneer Memorial, which commemorates the challenges that the Donner Party faced. This California Historical Landmark sits atop a 22-foot pedestal which is the same height as the depth of the late October snow that trapped the Donner Party emigrants. It’s a sight to be seen! Since parking is $10 a vehicle, we always stay for the day on the east end beach. Make sure to bring your coolers, beach towels, and beach toys!
Olympic Museum & High Camp
A great way to get in some history while also relaxing at the top of the world. Enjoy beautiful views of Lake Tahoe and Granite Chief Wilderness as you ride up the Aerial Tram to High Camp. Once you’re up there, check out the Olympic Museum (which is free with your Tram ticket!) to find a unique collection of memorabilia from the 1960 Winter Olympics that took place at Squaw Valley, showcasing news articles and video presentations, authentic Team USA uniforms, equipment from the 1960 winter games, and current and former Squaw Valley athlete memorabilia. Afterwards, hang out at High Camp by taking a dip in the pool, roller skating, hiking, disc golf, lawn games, and geocaching!
Although it doesn’t take long to enjoy it, the Veterans Hall is one of our favorite historical sites to visit. Besides the INCREDIBLE view of downtown Truckee and the Truckee River, this site includes the Rocking Stone, a sacred site of the early Washoe. The Rocking Stone, which is 17 tons, is a natural formation that is named for the easy rocking that stone did with minimal pressure by passerbys. This rock is one of only 25 rocking stones in the world. Though it rocks no more, it’s a great site to see. We suggest you add this to your list of things to see this summer because the views from the top of the tower are incredible!