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As the days lengthen and warm, we’re all ready to get back on the dirt!  The earliest areas to become snow-free are the low-elevation, west and south facing portions of Martis Valley.  Waddle Ranch Preserve is a favorite of Truckee Donner Land Trust staff for early season hiking.  A former working ranch, this expansive 1500 acre property managed jointly by the Land Trust and the Truckee Tahoe Airport District was protected from extensive development in 2008, maintaining contiguous wildlife migration through to the Mount Rose Wilderness.  Numerous logging roads cross the property, and many generous members of the community volunteering with the Land Trust built five miles of sweet single-track trails.  These trails make a nice loop and provide regional connectivity with adjacent neighborhoods and forest lands. 

Our staff's favorite loop starts at the Northwest Access Trailhead located on Martis Dam Road. From the parking lot, cross the dam and ascend Matt's Trail to the junction with Erika's trail.  Make a right on Erika's and go to the junction with Sawmill road.  (Make sure you enjoy the views at the overlook about one-half mile along this trail)  Make a left on Sawmill Road to its terminus at Lake Ella.  Lake Ella has several benches and picnic tables and is the halfway point.  From Lake Ella, backtrack to the junction with Matt's Trail, and descend to Martis Dam. Download or print the map here before you go.

Waddle Ranch Preserve delivers excellent wildflower viewing in the meadows and some of the best birdwatching in Truckee at Lake Ella.  A kiosk on the lakeshore highlights many of the commonly viewed native birds.

The Land Trust and its partners - Truckee Trails Foundation and Truckee River Watershed Council - are putting the finishing touches on a new trail linking Waddle Ranch Preserve with the Northstar Drive signal.  This new trail passes two spectacular meadows, and crosses two of the three forks of Martis Creek.  Opening this summer, it will be complete with bridges and boardwalks to keep your feet dry, and will have several picnic areas.  

The trails on Waddle Ranch Preserve are open to hikers, runners, and mountain bicyclists and are very popular with trail runners and dog walkers alike.

*Photo by Elizabeth Carmel

Greyson Howard