Donner Lake vacation rentals
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Your guide to Donner Lake
All About Donner Lake
Located on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in northeastern California, Donner Lake sits less than half an hour northwest of Lake Tahoe, which straddles the Nevada border. With its cerulean water and stretches of sandy beach fringed by towering pine trees, Donner Lake is a haven of calm. The lake’s small size makes exploring by kayak or stand-up paddleboard popular activities, and these waters are home to some of the biggest lake trout in California, attracting anglers from far and wide.
The neighboring town of Truckee has a small, historic downtown dating from the 1840s, when travelers made their way along the Truckee Basin to settle on the California coast. Today, Main Street’s 19th-century brick buildings house a string of family-owned boutiques and local breweries. The lake also boasts easy access to the world-famous waters of Lake Tahoe, which are popular with sailors, hikers, and wildlife-spotters — the region is renowned for black bears and mountain lions.
When is the best time to stay in a vacation rental in Donner Lake?
The ski season usually lasts from mid-November until early April, and there are plenty of nearby spots to try out your skills or just take in epic vistas from the lifts. Cross-country skiing is also a popular activity here. In the summer, people head to the Eldorado National Forest around an hour away to discover its miles of hiking trails with far-reaching views. The winter and summer seasons are the busiest times of the year, while spring and fall offer a quieter time to stay at rentals on Donner Lake — and the cottonwood and quaking aspens turn shades of ochre and gold before they shed their leaves. An annual triathlon draws athletes each July, while September brings the Truckee Tahoe Air Show and Family Festival with live music and acrobatic displays.
What are the top things to do in Donner Lake?
Donner Memorial State Park
This tranquil alpine park extends along the eastern and southern end of the lake and offers eight miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking, while the waters are home to kokanee trout. The 23-foot tall Pioneer Monument commemorates 19th-century emigrants who made the move west, and the Visitor Center provides an insight into the region’s Native American communities and construction of the transcontinental railroad.
Less than 15 minutes’ drive from Donner Lake, year-round outdoor activities are on offer at Boreal Mountain. Skiers and snowboarders head here to explore over 350 acres of fresh powder and make the most of the only night skiing in the area, while mountain biking trails and renowned skate parks offer plenty of warm weather fun.
Around 20 minutes southeast, Lake Tahoe is one of the most scenic spots in northern California and the largest alpine lake in the United States. Visitors line its sandy shores and head out on sailboats on summer days and marvel at the surrounding snow-capped peaks in winter. On the southwestern shore, Emerald Bay State Park features a granite cliff and jaw-dropping panoramic views, and there are miles of hiking trails to explore throughout the Sierra Nevada Mountains.