Western Trips

Western Trips

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Visit Truckee California and It's Historic Hotel


The name for the town of Truckee California was in honor of a Paiute Indian chief of that name who helped guide thousands of emigrants in their westward journey through 40-Mile Desert. The Forty Mile Desert is a California Gold Rush name for Nevada's Lahontan Valley. The actual story is that the chief's name sounded like "Tro-kay" to the white men and they dubbed him "Truckee".

truckee california hotel
The Truckee Hotel
Today's Truckee California, the charming and historic town in the high Sierra Nevada, had it's beginning connected with the building of the transcontinental railroad. In the year 1868, the the western end of the rail yard was constructed as rail track was laid east along the Truckee River towards Nevada and a16-stall roundhouse was constructed.

With the transcontinental railroad completed, Truckee rose to be an important rail operations and maintenance town. The town's railroad station is located right in the center of Truckee's Historic District on East River Street. Truckee's history has been preserved in it's historic buildings all along the historic district. Some of these buildings have been around for well over a century.

The Truckee Hotel / A Long History

The town of Truckee California has a fascinating history. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Truckee is known for the emigrants traveling westward to California. It's history also includes logging and the tragic story of the stranded Donner Party. History tells us that the first wagon party to successfully cross the Sierra's was the Stephen's Party. The party consisted of ten families who crossed Donner Pass in 1844.

the truckee hotel
The Truckee Hotel
The Truckee Hotel was built in 1873, about four years after the opening of the transcontinental railroad, and is located across the street from the rail tracks. First named the American House,  the history of today's Truckee Hotel has all to do with a gentleman named Stewart McKay.

Stewart McKay, born in Nova Scotia, arrived in Truckee California in 1873 and owned and operated what was called the Whitney House which later became the Truckee Hotel.McKay was also a sawmill owner and developer who created an 80 acre summer camp for visitors on the west end of beautiful Donner Lake.

The old Truckee Hotel was once a stage stop on the Dutch Flat Wagon Road. This was a wagon road which began in the 1860's and crossed Donner Summit in the Sierra Nevadas. The wagon road was wide enough for two teams to pass without difficulty. Historians may note that this wagon road became a part of the Lincoln Highway, the first automobile road over Donner Summit.


truckee ca historic district
Truckee CA Historic District
The Modern Growth of the  Truckee-lake Tahoe Area

Truckee experienced good growth from the beginning of the transcontinental railroad line into the 1900's and through the 1920's.

By 1915, Truckee became a favorite area for winter sports, featuring a huge ice palace for ice-skating and dancing, a toboggan slide and ski jump. The Truckee Ski Club was formed and its members participated in many competitions. Special excursion trains brought thousands of visitors to the area to enjoy the fresh air and to frolic in the snow. The movie industry brought crews to the area to film winter scenes. Famous movie actors became a familiar site on the streets of Truckee.

After the 1920's came the Great Depression. Truckee began a thirty year span of little growth and development especially during and after World War ll. Everything changed for the better in 1960.  Winter Olympic games were held ten miles to the south of Truckee at Squaw Valley. This catapulted the  Truckee-Tahoe area as a major destination resort for year-round recreation. Today, tourism is Truckee California's  number one industry.

See our Western Trips articles on the links below... 

A Visit to Nevada City California 

Things To Do in Grass Valley Califoria

See These Carson City Nevada Historic Sites

Two excellent books regarding Truckee California and the Donner Pass area include....To Truckee's Trail by author Celia Hayes and Donner Pass: Southern Pacific's Sierra Crossing by John R. Signor.


Visit Truckee California and the Truckee Hotel 

If you're looking for an historic hotel with old west charm, you might want to add the Truckee Hotel to your vacation planner.

The Truckee Hotel is centrally located to many North Lake Tahoe ski areas such as Squaw Valley, site of the 1960's Winter Olympics, as well as Northstar, Sugar Bowl, Alpine Meadows, Tahoe Donner, Royal Gorge and more. The Truckee Hotel address is 10007 Bridge Street, just east of the train depot.

old truckee jail
Old Jail Museum
Any season of the year there's plenty of attractions in Truckee California. The beauty of the mountains and nearby Donner Lake offer outstanding photo opportunities. River raft on the Truckee River, ski at the nearby world class resorts, hike the many trails around Truckee which fit all skill levels. Experiencing the old west history of Truckee, it's old historic buildings and it's unique shopping and dining are all popular with tourists year round.

When you visit Truckee you may want to make a stop at the Old Jail Museum which is operated by the Truckee Donner Historical Society.  The Old Truckee Jail is located one block north of the historic district.


Truckee is located close to Reno Nevada via Interstate 80 and to the towns and cities of North lake Tahoe. Truckee, California is located 100 miles east of Sacramento and about 32 miles west of  Reno, Nevada. Whether your travels take you to Truckee and the surrounding area for a day trip or an extended vacation, you'll likely be in for a great time.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Western Trips)

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