Monday, March 30, 2015

Weekend Getaway: Truckee, CA

The first time Truckee landed on my radar was about a year ago when I overheard someone I work with say that she always stays in Truckee when their family goes skiing at Northstar. Truckee? Really? I had never really given much thought to this small town that you pass by on the way to North Lake Tahoe. After doing a little research, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that what I had always assumed was nothing more than a place to fill up on gas, was actually a charming place to settle down for the weekend. It didn't make Sunset Magazine's Top 10 ski-towns in the West without reason.

This was our first attempt at a weekend getaway with both kids (and no help from the grandparents!), so we were cautiously optimistic. The drive from Berkeley is about 3 hours without traffic, and lucky for us, we were driving up on a Friday morning and were blessed with the open road! To break up the drive and give the kids a chance to let loose, we stopped for a hike along the American River in Auburn.

The Lake Clementine Trail takes you under Foresthill Bridge - the tallest bridge in California at ~730ft.

The trail is fairly exposed, and it gets hot in Auburn! So plan accordingly.
The trail is marked every 1/10th of a mile. Between markers 9 and 10 (after you pass under the bridge), you will see the water start to calm and a trail path that leads down to a nice swim hole. I have read that it gets crowded during the summer months, but we had it all to ourselves in late March.
The trail down to the water is a little rugged, but we managed fine with the kids.

After dipping our toes in the water for a while, we hiked back to the car and made our way over to nearby Knee Deep Brewing. There's nothing more refreshing than a delicious beer after a hike in the heat and Knee Deep did not disappoint. Their brewing facility is located in an industrial space out by the airport, but the space was surprisingly welcoming with picnic benches and fresh flowers at each table. They had a food truck grilling up gourmet sausages, but they also allow you to bring your own food, so we had a nice picnic lunch and enjoyed a couple of very good beers (The Double IPA and Batch 138 IPA were excellent). 

If you are looking for a way to entertain kids during beer/wine tasting stops, we found that giving our 3.5 year old some juice in a plastic wine glass to be a big hit. We also bring along lots of snacks and activities such as coloring books.
Alas, our fun pit-stop had to end, and we were back on the road to Truckee! The stop in Auburn was well worth our time and thankfully left us with two sleeping kids for the last hour of the drive. After checking in to the large studio apartment we found on airbnb, we walked a couple of blocks down to the historic center of Truckee. There was a nice selection of boutiques, galleries, coffee houses, bars and restaurants. The vibe was laid-back and very friendly and inviting.

If your kids like trains, then they will enjoy watching them pass through town.
Bespoke was definitely my favorite boutique in town, featuring unique gifts at every price point.
In addition to the shops and restaurants, the Truckee area is an outdoor lovers paradise. Within blocks of the historic center of town, you will find miles of hiking and bike trails, as well as nearby Donner Memorial State Park and Lake Tahoe. We spent our first morning in town taking a leisurely walk along the newly constructed Trout Creek Trail, which begins about a block from downtown and runs above Trout Creek. The trail was stroller friendly, and we were the only ones enjoying it, making for a very serene walk just minutes from town. 

The vibrant green of this moss was so beautiful!
Another great option for some outdoor fun is the Truckee River. We were pretty worn out by the end of our second day in Truckee (our 1.5 year old being up until 4am the night before didn't help...yay for coffee!) but we decided to take a quick trip down to the river before settling in for the evening. It's amazing how being outdoors and exploring nature can reinvigorate you. The fresh air gave us new life and we spent the last hour of daylight happily climbing on the boulders in the river and skipping rocks. The views of the river and mountainside as the sun was setting were worth the trip alone! 

Skipping rocks and a glimpse of the moon.
A very enthusiastic "yay!" after throwing a rock in the river.

Truckee as the sun goes down.
One of my favorite things about Truckee is all of the FREE outdoor entertainment. The winter sports can add up quickly, but during the warmer months there are so many outdoor options that don't cost a penny! I couldn't fit all of our trip into one post, so stay tuned for details of our visit to Tahoe City and a very unique hike we took along Donner Pass.

You may also like:

Exploring Lake Tahoe in summer: 4 unique adventures

Visiting Tahoe City

What are your favorite things to do on a summer trip to Tahoe?

The details: Truckee is about 180 miles from Berkeley (about 3 hours without traffic, but can be much longer if you drive during peak times such as holiday weekends). Normally I would include food recommendations for areas that we visit, but unfortunately we were pretty underwhelmed with everything we ate. After a couple of disappointing visits to local restaurants (all with 4 or 4.5 stars on yelp) we decided to save our money and prepare our own food back at our rental. I would suggest renting a place with a kitchen, or preparing to spend a premium on food that might not meet your expectations. 

The facts: Auburn: Parking near the Clementine Lake trail head in Auburn was $10. Pints at Knee Deep Brewing were $4.50 each. Truckee: Gas/Toll: $35. Our rental on Airbnb was $365 for 2 nights (all fees included). If you don't care about being walking distance to downtown, you can probably save money by staying a few miles away.  Food before we gave up on eating out: $40. All the outdoor activities are FREE!

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