Lake Tahoe, 15 minutes away, gets all the attention, but Truckee has a gem of its own: Donner Lake. While not as big and broad as Big Blue, Donner Lake offers up a good bit of watery fun too. One of the best places to access Donner is West End Beach. In summer months during the day, there is a modest admission fee to enter the 10-acre west end area, but the sandy beach and roped-off, kid-friendly swim area is the place to take youngsters to build sand castles and splash in the water all under the watch of life guards. Operated by the Truckee Donner Park and Recreation Department, West End Beach also has paddleboards, kayaks and pedal boats available to rent. There is plenty of free fun once into the beach area: two playgrounds for kids to get their kicks on, a sand volleyball court, tennis court, a basketball court and horseshoe pits. A snack bar serves up soft drinks, hot dogs and ice cream. Get there early and stake out a picnic table and grill. There are shady group picnic areas available by reservation. Local's only tip: If you can wait until after the summer operating hours, access to the beach is free, but gates close at sundown so do your grilling quickly.
Truckee-Donner Recreation & Park District
15962 South Shore Drive, Truckee, CA