Everything about Lake Tahoe can be described in superlatives. Only Crater Lake in Oregon is deeper; only the Great Lakes of the Northeast are bigger. The skiing is arguably some of the best in the state, as are some of the beaches. Sharing a border with Nevada, Lake Tahoe boasts casinos and nightlife, hiking trails and opportunities for kayaking. It’s probably easier to list the activities not available than to make a comprehensive list of what is. All of this put together means that the visitor has great choice when it comes to designing a Lake Tahoe vacation.
The area around Lake Tahoe can be divided by geography. The south of the lake is the more populated, touristy area; the north side tends to be less developed. Like everything about Lake Tahoe, there are exceptions to this rule, and the ski resorts in the north are lavish, well-maintained, and justly famous. Both sides have splendid opportunities for relaxation and for fun.
The summer season is tailor-made for outdoor activity. Hiking trails range in length from the 1.5 mile Cascade Falls hike in the Emerald Bay Area, to the 165 mile Tahoe Rim Trail that circumnavigates the lake. The ski resorts repurpose themselves in the summer as hiking and mountain biking destinations, allowing the athlete to take a ski gondola up and hike or cycle down a mountain or two. The needs of horseback riders are easily met by various stables in the area, allowing the visitor to experience the trails from a third perspective. In addition, there are kayak and canoe rentals at different beaches along the lake, where the visitor can also swim and sunbathe. The fireworks displays on the Fourth of July are wonderful, with the night sky punctuated by both the man-made pyrotechnics and the natural vistas of mountain, lake, and star-filled sky.
During the winter, athletic pursuits turn to snow play, skiing, and the like. With over fifteen ski and snowboarding resorts, there is something to suit every pocketbook and every taste. In addition, there are opportunities for snowshoeing, sledding, dogsledding, snow tubing, and snowmobile riding.
On the Nevada side of the lake, there are casinos, with big-name shows as well as gambling. On the California side, the nightlife is somewhat tamer but no less fun; restaurants, beer pubs, wine bars, and clubs fill the major resort areas. For many people, however, the greatest nightlife to be found is right outside the door of one’s tent or cabin – opportunities for star-gazing and campfires abound, and the simpler summer pleasures are waiting for the ready traveler.
During the winter, transportation to Lake Tahoe can be dicey, and travelers should keep in touch with current conditions. Because the lake is a four-season destination, it can be a crowded trip to and from Tahoe. Accepting the possibility of crowds will make for a more serene vacation.
There are many online resources available to help with trip planning. With so much to see and do, it’s not possible to cover all of Lake Tahoe in one vacation. Decide on a section of the lake, and then narrow choices down by activities – or choose a resort with many choices and be more spontaneous. Campgrounds and hotels book quickly, so some advance planning is essential.