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Railroading and the High Sierra go together like peanut butter and jelly. Without this mode of transportation, California as a whole would not have grown and prospered as it has over time. The iron horse allowed goods and people to easily summit the Sierra Nevada, while at the same time, more easily move gold, silver and lumber from the mountain tops to seaports and cities like San Francisco and Sacramento.  

Choo-Choo Your Way to the Slopes

Amtrak train arriving at the Truckee Depot next to the Truckee Railroad Museum – Image appears courtesy: Truckee Donner Railroad Society

If images of Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye hopping onto a train in the movie “White Christmas” flash through your mind when you think of railroading, you’re in luck. The High Sierra is home to one of the few places where you can visit world-class ski resorts within 15 minutes of a train stop in Truckee, California. You can thank the Transcontinental Railroad for quick and easy access to a long weekend getaway. Back in the 1800’s, to make the final journey over the Sierra Nevadas, Truckee was established as the staging location for additional engines to help push over the summit.

Railroads Are Still A Gateway To High Sierra Skiing

The extra power may no longer be needed, but these tracks are still used as your gateway to all ski resorts in the North Lake Tahoe region. The closest large ski resort to Truckee is Northstar. With over 3,000 acres and averaging 300+ inches per year, it’s a great option when taking the rails from the Bay Area. If you’re looking to branch out even further, there’s plenty of affordable shuttles from downtown Truckee to each of the ski resorts in the region like Squaw Valley. Just as far as Northstar it’s home to 6,000 acres and the 1960 Winter Olympics. Need a day off from skiing/snowboarding? Then be sure to check out the Truckee Railroad museum located next to the train depot. A great option for families & train enthusiasts to get a glimpse into the history of railroading in the region. And, if you’re in town during the summer then head over to Truckee Regional Park for some good ‘ole fashioned fun on a kids train. 

See the “Golden Age” of Railroading in Action

Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad Railroading in the High Sierra
Image appears courtesy- Visit Yosemite | Madera County

To truly enjoy the “golden age” of railroading, the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad is a must. With a portion of the grade originally carved into the mountain by the Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company in the early 20th Century, this stretch of track has been restored giving visitors a chance to experience history in person. For that time period, it was built as the most efficient way to move rough cut lumber out of the mountains for finishing and transport all the way to the bottom. Vintage Shay locomotives provide the motive power for the one-hour narrated excursion over tracks once used for logging trains at the turn of the century.

From seeing historic trains to a fun and easy way to the slopes, railroading in the High Sierra is like nowhere else in the country!


Author: Alex Silgalis

Alex Silgalis is an outdoors travel writer who enjoys snowboarding, mountain biking, or having a cold one from a local mountain brewery. See more of Alex’s work at

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