Cottonwood Restaurant enjoys spectacular views of historic downtown Truckee from "Hilltop", one of the oldest ski lodges in the western United States. Originally called "The Pavilion", the building that houses Cottonwood was constructed in 1928 by volunteer labor and made mostly from railroad ties salvaged from abandoned rail lines. It served as the warming hut for the Town of Truckee ski hill, which featured a 140 foot scaffold ski jump and a steam powered toboggan lift thought to be one of the first mechanical winter sports "lifts" in the West.
Hilltop was the site of many Winter Carnivals in the early part of the 20th century and became one of the main venues attracting visitors on numerous Southern Pacific excursion trains from Sacramento and San Francisco through the 1950s. In 1945, dormitories were constructed to replace the railroad Pullman cars as accommodations and the Pavilion was converted to a restaurant. After numerous iterations, it opened as Cottonwood in 1989. Many historical photographs adorn the walls and tell the tale of Sierra Skiing, and other artifacts are on display including dozens of pairs or skis representative of the era.
Operating now as a dinner house, Cottonwood features outdoor dining on an expansive deck in summer months and features live acoustic music two evenings per week free of charge.