This easy trail located just off of Highway 89 north in Truckee offers seemingly endless miles of adventures. When you start at the Donner Memorial Picnic Area, the trail takes you through lush meadows, quiet forests, all the way up to Prosser Creek Reservoir. It’s a great place for an easy family hike, a mountain bike ride, or trail run. There are a variety of routes along the trails providing endless options to explore.
Out and Back (OAB)/Lollipop*
Donner Camp Picnic Site (about 2.8 miles north of Highway 80). There is ample parking at the picnic site, and you can walk or jog the interpretive historical loop as a warm-up or use it as a 1/3 mile “track” for interval training.
As long, or short, as you want to make it. The OAB nature of this trail provides for endless options from a distance standpoint. The short interpretive loop is a .4 mile hike. From the Donner Camp Picnic Site, you can actually follow the trail all the way to Stampede Reservoir which is about 12 miles in one direction or 24 miles round trip. The map below is my favorite route from this starting point and is about 5 miles.
This depends on the length of your run, but this route is what I would call “Truckee Flat”. By this, I mean that they basically consist of short rolling hills and/or gradual climbs/descents through the course. The route depicted in the map has about 450+/- ft. of elevation gain.
The trailhead for the Emigrant Trail starts at the Donner Picnic parking lot. It immediately meanders over a boardwalk and through a beautiful, lush meadow. It continues on single track through more meadows, and up over and down a few minor hills. As indicated on the map below, the trail intersects with a paved road which leads to the Prosser Campground. There is a sign posted on the north side of the road that indicates the continuation of the Emigrant Trail.
I’ve included this route as a lollipop option which diverts from the Emigrant trail itself. At the point indicated below where the option exists to turn right, you can continue on the Emigrant trail for pretty much as long as you’d like. Just past this intersection, the Emigrant trail intersects with Highway 89, at which point, you’ll need to walk/run on the Highway for a short distance, until the trail picks up on the other side of the bridge here.
Best Time to Go
Really any time. Early mornings tend to have fewer mountain bikes but more runners. Mountain bike traffic increases as the day gets later but it’s never overwhelming. Given the non-technical and relatively flat nature of the trail it’s considered to be more of a novice mountain bike route so the speed demon riders tend to go elsewhere. In peak summer months, it gets hot and dusty mid to late afternoon, so early mornings are better from a temp standpoint.
Emigrant Trail Map
*out and back & lollipop options for purposes of this write-up, however, there are several options to loop up with other trails to create various loops
Keep exploring! Click here to find more trails in Truckee and North Lake Tahoe.
Mone Haen is a Truckee-based ultrarunner and regular TMS contributor