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Paul Hamill Lake Tahoe Photography

Things to do in Tahoe and Truckee

We’ve got a little secret to share. Make that 66 little secrets.

In the Tahoe-Truckee area, there’s no shortage of places to go, things to do, beaches to find, and beers to be savored. In fact, the selection can be downright daunting, if not enjoyably so. Luckily, the team at Martis Camp Realty (with 170 total years combined living in the area) have helped you by compiling a volume of valuable must-do experiences related to all things awesome in the area. With that in mind, put this list in hand, and dive into a summer where you can discover our top three favorites in categories that cover a whole lot of precious territory.

All photos courtesy of Paul Hamill Photography »

Written by Scott Mortimore

Breakfast Joints
If you’re looking for something more substantial than a coffee and croissant, then consider these classic breakfast stops.
1. Squeeze Inn – Equal parts coffee bar, café and source of supreme omelettes, this renowned local institution is a must. And well worth the wait on a sunny morning.
2. Donner Lake Kitchen – Wake up to the day with omelettes and pancakes in a homey, rustic venue on Donner Pass Road since the 1970s. Lunch, wine and beer, too.
3. Jax At The Tracks – This original 1940s downtown diner has an all-day menu that’s as attractive as the retro scene itself.

Coffee Shops
For many, a day can’t begin until the coffee’s been poured. Or maybe it’s just gathering up with good friends. Either way, here are some fine spots to get the day underway.
1. Pacific Crest Coffee – The dream of two local skiers who raced internationally, a journey that refined their tastes (and love) for great coffee. Tasting room and espresso bar, too.
2. Coffee Bar – This is a go-to for visitors who venture slightly off main street as well as locals on their way to work and play. Just the right amount of clamor and calm.
3. Dark Horse – Dark Horse Coffee Roasters on River Street complements its fine grinds with occasional live music, an atmosphere that invites connection all day long.

Paul Hamill Photography Lake Tahoe

Sharing the best sightseeing spots around here is a lot like letting you in on the hottest spots on the sun. Nonetheless, here are some mighty fine destinations.
1. Emerald Bay – parking is precious, but the views are priceless at this classic vista point that gazes down on the lake’s only island.
2. Sand Harbor – lay back and close your eyes on this long, golden beach and you’d swear you’re in the Caribbean. Then you hop into the water and reality kicks in.
3. Thunderbird Lodge – a historic waterfront estate built in 1936 by one of San Francisco’s wealthiest families. Stunning scenery – inside and out!

Remember all that white stuff that came our way last winter? Well, see what happens when that snowpack transforms into a series of spectacular waterfalls.
1. Shirley Canyon – This beautiful hike above Olympic Valley offers two forms of beauty: the all-natural kind; and the option of a tram ride up or down.
2. Eagle Falls – these roadside falls are stunning in themselves but throw in a backdrop of Emerald Bay and the scene ranks as one of the world’s finest.
3. Glen Alpine Falls – weave your way to the end of Fallen Leaf Lake in South Tahoe and you’ll end up at these cascades just a stone’s throw from the road.

Paul Hamill Photography

Paddleboarding or Kayaking
All that snow we had this past winter is transforming itself into a playground that’s ideal for those who like to take to the water.
1. East Shore Lake Tahoe – Sand Harbor area – get your parking spot early and hit the water while it’s still glassy at this venerable recreation spot.
2. Donner Lake – bring your own watercraft or rent on site and set forth on a plate of water that sits beneath the Pacific Crest.
3. Truckee River – lots of water this year for everything from easy floating to full on kayaking/rafting.

Hiking Trails
Now that you’re fueled up for a day of adventure, it’s time to burn some of that off on trails not far from your front door.
1. Castle Peak – ascend that towering fortress of rock that you see off I-80 by Donner Summit and you may well encounter an amazing display of flowers.
2. Rifle Peak – this 3.7-mile roundtrip trail above Incline Village is a grinding ascent that rewards you with great birding and flower opportunities.
3. Monkey Rock – aptly named for a granite rock resembling a monkey, this moderate 2.6 mile hike near Incline offers breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe.

Seems most family scrapbooks feature a photo of at least one wide-grinned person clutching an unsuspecting trout. Need that shot? Then off you go.
1. Truckee River – with dedication from conservation groups, this river is well on its way to returning to blue-ribbon status. Hefty trout means keep the camera handy.
2. Local Lakes – Boca, Prosser, Donner – Donner’s depths unleash monster lake trout while the quieter waters are ideal for trout fishing as well as occasional bass.
3. Alpine Lakes – strap on a backpack and picnic and head upward to lakes with pan-sized trout that are big on appetites.

Biking Trails
Whether it’s leg power or e-power means nothing to us. It’s all about getting out and heading up. And these trails will deliver all of that.
1. Donner Rim Trail – this 23-mile complex of trails serves up stunning views of Donner Lake, Mt. Rose, and the Pacific Crest.
2. Flume Trail – one of America’s most amazing rides with epic Tahoe views. Accessed from either Spooner Lake or Tunnel Creek near Incline. Shuttles available.
3. Legacy Trail – a family and dog friendly 10-mile, paved trail that runs along the Truckee River.

We know those go-to spots for fine pastries and that perfect loaf of bread to pack in your picnic basket. You can either follow your nose or take note of these tips.
1. Cornerstone Bakery – When in Truckee, do as the locals do – head for the quaint brick building with an amazing array of baked goods.
2. Sierra Bake House – Friday’s only – prepping with local, organic ingredients and producing blissful bakery goods since 2018.
3. Tahoe House Bakery – make your Tahoe trip even tastier with coffee, breads and gourmet specials made fresh in Tahoe City.

Grab a towel, some sunscreen, a good book, a great picnic, an old frisbee, and head off to any of the many nearby beaches, including these classics.
1. West End Beach – Donner – aside from having a fine stretch of sand, this beach also offers a playground, grass, and water sport rentals.
2. Sand Harbor – with legendary sand bookended by boulder coves, this spot ranks high year after year. Boat launching and Shakespeare-at-Tahoe as well.
3. Chimney Beach – just south of Incline is a trail winding its way to a beach with great sands, amazing views, and an old chimney from long ago days.

Paul Hamill Photography

Just beyond the gates of Martis Camp are places that broaden your mind, challenge your limits, and leave you with a sense of satisfaction. And exhaustion.
1. Tahoe Via Feratta – cinch up your sense of adventure and join guides who’ll show you the ropes on navigating the boulders above Palisades Tahoe.
2. Train Tunnels – an ideal retreat from a hot summer afternoon are the intriguing (and cool) train tunnels tucked into the bouldered face of Donner Pass.
3. Wake Surfing Lake Tahoe – crank up some Beach Boys, grab your board, and hop behind a wake surfing boat to bring new life to your Lake Tahoe adventures.

Wild Flowers
Chasing blooms in the Sierra is a hit or miss proposition. Fortunately, with the varying elevations of the Sierra, there’s almost always an opportunity to discover a technicolor treat somewhere close by.
1. Sagehen Creek Trail – head north on Highway 89 for eight miles and find your way downstream for a great display of flowers, culminating in a meadow adjoining Stampede Reservoir.
2. PCT – that range to the west of Truckee and above Donner Lake is lined with a delicious blend of flowers that this year are likely to unfold almost up ‘til autumn.
3. Donner Peak – fields of yellow mule ears run rampant en route to this peak above Donner Lake. Shorten the hike by parking near the summit.

Craft Breweries
One of the finest ways to improve on a place as active, alive and beautiful as Truckee-Tahoe is to create a craft beer scene that’s equally attractive.
1. Alibi – a long list of delicious craft beers in a lively gathering space that also serves up food, coffees, kombucha, and a tasty lineup of music.
2. Truckee Brewing Company – located on Pioneer Trail, this favorite of local beer fans serves up fine food as well, both indoors as wells as patio settings.
3. The Good Wolf Brewing Co – there’s nothing shy about these small batch, hop forward inspirations that’ll leave you howling in delight.

Ice Cream shoppes
We all have a dirty little secret: our love for ice cream. For those who can’t contain that love (us included), we offer these wonderful solutions.
1. Little Truckee Ice Creamery – the love and craft and ingredients in these handmade ice creams explain why – year after year – locals vote them the “best ice cream in North Tahoe/Truckee.”
2. Buds Ice Cream – this classic scoop shop is located in Truckee’s historic downtown, an ideal respite from a day of shopping.
3. Summit Swirl Frozen Yogurt – this family run fro-yo shop is on highway 89, just south of I-80, making it an ideal place to load up on some chilly sweetness for that trip to the lake.

While there are many museums to explore in Tahoe-Truckee, these three provide vastly different displays and stories to dive into.
1. Gatekeepers – Tahoe City – this fascinating and quaint museum documents the role of the dam at the outlet of Lake Tahoe. Also, one of America’s finest displays of Native American basketry.
2. Nevada Museum of Art – located in downtown Reno, this modern museum features nationally-acclaimed exhibits held within its award-winning design.
3. Donner Lake Memorial – you needn’t go far to explore a museum that documents local flora and fauna, not to mention a recounting of the ill-fated Donner Party adventures.

Paul Hamill Photography Lake Tahoe

Best Place to Take a Photo in Tahoe and Truckee
Whether you’re looking for a family photo to hang on the wall, a selfie to post online, or a breathtaking landscape shot to share with your friends, these places will surely provide an ideal backdrop.
1. Rainbow Bridge up at Donner Summit – just shy of Donner Summit is this classic bridge made famous from car commercials and envied by Instagrammers.
2. Anywhere along East Tahoe – if you’re a photographer, be sure to ride shotgun as you weave your way around Tahoe’s east shore, encountering an endless menu of photo opportunities.
3. Eagle Rock – West shore Lake Tahoe – a short, simple, and moderately steep climb that takes you above the treetops and encountering a full-frontal panorama of the lake.

Picnic Spots
There are days where slowing down and enjoying the moment is just the right plan. Adding some picnic goodies and a great view make that moment even more memorable.
1. Wheeler Sheep Camp – the old Basque sheep camp north of Truckee, just off Hwy 89, makes for a great place to explore and picnic – you can even reserve the historic Basque oven to cook up lunch or dinner.
2. Along the Truckee River – the river is lined with immense amounts of public land, much of it flower-lined and ideal as the perfect picnic spot.
3. Stampede Vista – just beyond the dam at this reservoir is the Stampede Scenic overlook, the ideal place to slow down and settle into a delicious picnic.

We know of parks where the sun likes to play, where kids like to ride, and where families can pleasantly re-connect. Here are a few top selections.
1. West End Beach, Donner – a small admission gains entry to this park with beach, water toys, playground, beach volleyball, basketball and tennis courts.
2. Truckee Regional Park – not far from town and a short bike ride from Martis Camp is this shaded haven with skatepark, kiddy train, sports fields, tennis courts and disc golf.
3. DL Bliss State Park – closed for this summer for enhancement projects, put this site on your list of must-see parks that include the highest lighthouse in the United States.

No boat? No problem. Got your own boat? Even less of a problem. Around here, you’ve got the most critical ingredients to a great day of boating: big views and big water.
1. Lake Tahoe – it’s one thing to see Tahoe from the road or a viewpoint but seeing it by boat reveals scenes that won’t soon fade from memory.
2. Donner Lake – a playground for watercraft of all sorts – canoes, kayaks, fishing boats, and wakeboard beasts – all plying the blue waters beneath the Pacific Crest.
3. Stampede – life is a lot quieter at this reservoir at the end of a lovely drive. Its waters reward you with great fishing and water skiing and wakeboarding.

Wine Bars
Eventually, the time comes – whether it’s after a day on the lake or an afternoon of art – where a glass of fine wine is just right for the moment. These wine bars are among the area’s finest.
1. Uncorked – this downtown shop features a large selection of limited production wines from around the world. Complemented by its Petra Restaurant.
2. The Pour House – if you’re looking for an excellent last-minute bottle of wine, along with cheese, crackers and deli goodies, then the Pour House is a fine choice.
3. Pianeta – the wine bar in this romantic setting is as popular and attractive as the restaurant surrounding it.

Paul Hamill Photography Truckee

Mankind cannot live on bread alone (or wine, cheese, and Lasagne alla Bolognese for that matter). Eventually, one’s appetite yearns for a trip to the shops. And when
it does…
1. Downtown Truckee – master the art of window shopping and shopping-shopping in this historic downtown where you’ll find an array of shops all within a pleasant walk from one another.
2. Northstar Village – designed to replicate the atmosphere of a European village, here you’ll find shops down alleyways and surrounding the village center skating rink.
3. Tahoe City – art galleries and high end shops rub elbows with sporting goods and hardware stores on this historic lineup of shopping on Tahoe’s west shore.

There’s an abundance of dining options in the area, ranging from casual and convenient to exquisite and elegant. Here are a few of the local faves.
1. Pianeta – since 1998, Pianeta has been a dining icon in Truckee, serving delicious Italian foods and homemade pastas in a romantic setting in the heart of Truckee.
2. Old Town Tap – here’s a lively option with fresh, delicious Italian fare plus pies, cocktails, craft brews and on-tap wine.
3. Village Pizzeria – a family-owned pizzeria dating back to 1981, the gourmet pizzas baked up here are – according to locals – the stuff of legends.

All photos courtesy of Paul Hamill Photography »