Waddle Ranch, photo by Elizabeth Carmel

Waddle Ranch, photo by Elizabeth Carmel

Waddle Ranch Preserve provides important habitat for many birds and mammals. Recent resort and residential development in the Martis Valley and around Truckee have made Waddle Ranch Preserve increasingly important for these displaced species. After an unprecedented community fundraising effort, the Truckee Donner Land Trust and The Trust for Public Land purchased the 1,462 acre Waddle Ranch in 2007 for $23.5 million, protecting it forever.

In 2009, title to Waddle Ranch Preserve was transferred to the Truckee Tahoe Airport District. The Land Trust holds a conservation easement on the property, forever prohibiting development while assuring the public’s right to access and enjoy the property. The Land Trust and the Airport District manage the property jointly. Several forest thinning projects totaling nearly $2 million were conducted to restore forest health and reduce fire threat. Now disease-resistant sugar pines will be planted to restore forest composition.


field notes


Located in the heart of Martis Valley near Truckee, Waddle Ranch Preserve was home to indigenous people. Artifacts left by the Martis people are estimated to be two to three thousand years old. More recently, the Washoe Indian Tribe used the valley as a summer encampment until the 1910s.


Trails for hiking, mountain biking, trail running

  • Wildflowers as you cross the first creek you come to after the dam

  • View Waterfowl in Lake Ella and see Bald eagles fly overhead (if you’re lucky!). Woodland birds are frequently seen along Katy’s Walk

  • Forested area along Erika’s Trail with many misshapen trees

  • Picnic tables at Beacon Meadow and at Erika’s Trail viewpoint

  • Waddle Ranch Preserve is an excellent wildlife viewing area. Visitors have seen coyote, mule deer, mountain lion, and many other forest mammals

smartphone navigation


The Land Trust holds a conservation easement on the property, forever prohibiting development while assuring the public’s right to access and enjoy the property.



Waddle Ranch Preserve is accessed via Martis Dam Rd off State Route 267 in the Martis Valley, about four miles south of Interstate 80. This trailhead can be reached in an automobile between May and the first snowfall. A gate at the beginning of Martis Dam Road restricts vehicle access in the winter.

  • From State Route 267 turn north onto Martis Dam Road. Proceed to the trailhead located at the junction of Glider Port Road and Martis Dam

  • From here walk or bike across the dam and follow the signs to Waddle Ranch Preserve


Hike Description: There are numerous ways to tour Waddle Ranch Preserve. A suggested route is to ascend Erika’s Trail to Beacon Meadow (view of Martis Valley from the top of Erika's Trail). From Beacon Meadow proceed North to Lake Ella via Sawmill Road. At Lake Ella proceed East on Katy’s Walk. At the end of Katy’s Walk take Megan’s Trail back to Sawmill Road. Backtrack to Matt’s Trail, and take Matt’s Trail down to Martis Dam and the trail head. This hike is approximately six miles round-trip with moderate elevation gains; moderate difficulty due to uneven terrain, and elevation gain; approximately 4 hours round trip.


  • Trails are open to hiking, running, bicycling, and non-motorized winter use

  • Unauthorized motorized vehicles of any kind are strictly prohibited

  • Fishing, hunting and discharging firearms are prohibited

  • Fires of any kind, including camp stoves and smoking, are prohibited

  • Open for day use only

  • Waddle Ranch Preserve is open sunrise to sunset. Camping is by special arrangement only

  • Dogs must be on a leash so as not to disturb wildlife. Please pick-up after your pet and pack out the waste


ELIZABETHTOWN MEADOWS is a property adjacent to Waddle Ranch Preserve that consists of a beautiful meadow and surrounding forest.