Top Ten Easy Runs in Truckee

The Best Easy Runs in Truckee: Our Top Ten.

Truckee is a runner’s paradise. There’s something for everyone – trail runners, ultra marathoners, road runners, people who’ve been running for a day or their entire life. Maybe your visiting Truckee, just getting into running, or looking to mix up your running routine with a new trail. Regardless, Truckee has many options for those looking to go for an easy run. Check out this list of the Top Ten Easy Runs in Truckee and let us know what your favorite run is in the comment section below.

Donner Lake

Surface – road / trail

Distance – 6.75 mile loop

Elevation – 300 feet

Getting there

From downtown Truckee, head west on Donner Pass Road. Continue over the highway overpass and through the four-way stop. Donner Lake will be on your left ahead. Park at any of the public docks and begin your run.

This is a local favorite in Truckee and a must-do for runners. Park at one of the public docks on the north side of Donner Lake and start your run in either direction. You can run around the lake for a scenic loop or out and back to your favorite dock. Regardless of your choice, you’ll be treated to gorgeous panorama views of Donner Lake and the mountains that make up Donner Summit. This run is mostly paved, following Donner Pass Road, but there is a short section of trail as you run through Donner Lake State Park.

Coldstream Canyon

Surface – trail / dirt road

Distance – 2.5 miles

Elevation – 270 feet

Getting there

From Truckee, head west on Donner Pass Road towards Donner Lake. Turn left onto Cold Stream Road and follow it until the pavement ends. Park here and start your run on the dirt road. Pick up the trail to the left shortly after.

Located behind Donner Memorial State Park, Coldstream canyon offers a variety of options. Run along the trail that parallels Cold Creek as an out and back or connect to JP’s trail for a longer, steeper run.

Click here for detailed information and map of JP’s trail.

Coldstream Canyon Loop

Sawtooth Trail

Surface – trail / dirt road

Distance – 3 mile loop

Elevation – 330 feet

Getting there

From downtown Truckee, head south on Bridge Street and continue onto Old Brockway Rd. Turn right onto Palisades Drive and navigate through the neighborhood to Thelin Drive. Turn right onto the 06 Fire Road and the parking area is on ahead on the right.

The Sawtooth Trail takes you through a peaceful forest on the edge of the Sierra Meadows neighborhood. It’s a great place to look for wildlife; bears are often seen along this trail. There are a wide variety of route options thanks to numerous interwoven dirt roads and trails. You can even run all the way to Tahoe City from the Sawtooth Trailhead! That being said, it’s also easy to get lost so make sure to bring a map and know your route.

Click here for an in-depth review of the Sawtooth Trail.

Legacy Trail

Surface – paved path

Distance – 3.95 miles one way

Elevation – 290 feet

Getting there

There are several parking areas that access the Legacy trail; two are illustrated on the map below. The first is at the end of East River Street in downtown Truckee. Park next to the river and cross the bridge to get on the Legacy Trail. The second is on Glenshire Road, shortly before you pass Berkshire Circle.

The Legacy Trail is a multi-use path stretching from the Truckee Regional Park to Glenshire. It follows the Truckee River and takes you through a variety of habitats. This is the perfect run for road runners who don’t want to worry about auto traffic. Set up a car shuttle and run the 3.95 miles one way or run out and back as far as you feel like going. It gets plowed in the winter which makes it a great year-round running option!

Johnson Canyon

Surface – trail / dirt Road

Distance – 2.42 miles

Elevation – 600 feet

Getting there

From Truckee, take Highway I-80 west towards Sacramento. Take exit 180 for Donner Lake. Take your first right onto Billy Mack Road and continue to the small parking area.

This is a great run if you want to do some uphill training. It’s fairly steep but the grade is quite manageable. From the trailhead, you can run a short loop (detailed below) or connect to the Donner Lake Rim Trail and continue towards Castle Peak or the Tahoe Donner trails system for longer options. As you gain elevation on your way up the canyon, the views of Sugar Bowl and the crest get better and better! Make sure to bring your camera.

Martis Valley

Surface – trail

Distance – 4.25 miles

Elevation – 250 feet

Getting there

From Truckee, head south on Hwy 267 towards Kings Beach. Shortly after you pass Martis Dam Road (on your left) you will see a small parking area to the right. Park here at the upper lot or, when the gate is open, continue to the lower lot.

This is a favorite among Tahoe Mountain Sports staff. It’s a short and sweet loop with breathtaking views of Northstar and the crest of the Sierras. This is a great spot to look for wildlife; the meadow is often alive with many types of birds. This is a great trail for beginner trail runners. There’s not much elevation change making it relatively compared to others on this list.

Click here to read an in-depth review of trail running in Martis Valley.

Martis Valley Loop

Sagehen Creek Trail

Surface – trail

Distance – 5 mile loop

Elevation – 350 feet

Getting there

Take Hwy 89 north from Truckee towards Sierraville. The small parking area can be easy to miss. Keep an eye out for the creek, the parking lot is to the right immediately after you cross a small bridge. I recommend plugging this google map location into your phone to help find it.

This stunning run takes you along a creek, through the forest and winds up at an expansive meadow alongside Stampede Reservoir.  It’s a gorgeous trail, especially if you go early in the morning to avoid the crowds and catch the mist coming off of the reservoir. There is a loop option that is mapped below, but it can be quite tricky to figure out where to pick up the loop once you get to the reservoir. I recommend sticking to the north side of the trail and doing it as an out and back.

Click here for an in-depth review of Sagehen Creek Trail.

Commemorative Overland Emigrant Trail

Surface – trail

Distance – 4 miles

Elevation Gain – 400 feet

Getting There

From downtown Truckee, take Hwy. 89 north towards Sierraville. Go past Alder Creek Road and keep an eye out for Donner Party Picnic Area, ahead on the right. Park here and start your run.

The Emigrant Trail takes you through a piece of local history, traveling along the route of settlers in the 1800s. There’s a short interpretive path that begins at the Donner Picnic area and takes you to the Donner camp, where members of the Donner Party famously overwintered. You’ll enjoy the rolling hills and sweeping views of Prosser Reservoir.

Drunken Deer

Surface – trail

Distance – 6.8 miles out and back

Elevation Gain – 1097 feet

Getting There

From downtown Truckee, take Hwy. 89 north towards Sierraville. Go past Alder Creek Road and keep an eye out for Donner Party Picnic Area, ahead on the right. Park here and start your run.

Drunken Deer takes you over rolling terrain and moderate hills in quiet, forested scenery. As you climb the hill at the western end of the trail, you’ll get treated to beautiful views of Tahoe Donner. You can take this trail out and back as far as you want or connect it to the Emigrant Trail (to the south) or the Animal (to the north) to make it a loop.

PCT from Boreal to Old 40

Surface – trail

Distance – 6.8 miles

Elevation Gain – 1097 feet

Getting There

There are two main parking areas to access this section of the PCT: one is at the end of the Boreal Road, the other is at the top of old Hwy 40, near the ASI building. Both are illustrated on the map below.

This is such a fun section of the PCT! You’re in for a little taste of everything with this run: sweeping scenic vistas, rocky outcroppings, lakes, and quiet forests. The part of the trail closest to Hwy 40 is quite rocky, making it a great place to work on technical footwork.

Click here for an in-depth review of the PCT from Boreal to Old 40.

All maps are approximate and were made with Caltopo.

Want to know what the best runs and races in Truckee and Lake Tahoe are?

It’s all in our Ultimate Guide to Trail Runs!



Siobhan works at Tahoe Mountain Sports and currently manages TMS blog content. She loves everything about living in the mountains, from snowy winter days on skis to the hot, dusty trails of the Sierra's in the summer. Favorite activities include skiing, trail running and backpacking.


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