Lake Tahoe is awesome! Beginning in late autumn and continuing through the winter and spring, the Sierra Nevada mountain region becomes a winter wonderland. Snow is measured in feet, not inches, and a normal winter will see accumulations of 30 to 40 feet in the higher elevations. Winter can last up to six months in the mountains, which is great news for winter sports enthusiasts. The temperatures stay relatively mild, usually above freezing during the day and only dropping into the 20s at night. During most days, the sun shines and adds the perfect finishing touch to the ideal winter vacation.
One of the highest, largest, deepest, cleanest and coldest lakes in the world, 1000 foot deep Lake Tahoe is situated at a mile high elevation in an alpine bowl of forested granite peaks. The drive around the entire circumference of Lake Tahoe is 72 miles in length and takes about three hours. It is recommended during the summer months only. During the winter, Highway 89, which runs along the west shore and connects South Tahoe and Tahoe City closes when there is too much snow. A delightful alternative to driving around the lake is to view it from a paddle wheeler on a summer cruise.
The early-mid years of the 20th century saw tremendous building and deforestation in the Lake Tahoe area. The building boom was brought under control in the 1960’s, and 85% of the land is now protected from development. The undeveloped land is owned either by the state or federal governments, and has been turned into National Forests and State Parks, further enhancing the appeal of this spectacular place.
The Lake Tahoe region straddles the Nevada/California border. The state line cuts through the lake lengthwise, so that the western shore is in California; the eastern shore in Nevada and some properties situated north and south of the Lake are in both States. One such hotel even has a dotted line running through its rooms to indicate in which State occupants are located.
During normal snow years, many ski resorts are open by Thanksgiving and some even operate through July 4. As a result, summer visitors can ski in the morning and enjoy a pleasant afternoon of river rafting. During any lulls in snowfall, ski resorts make snow. Most resorts have installed sophisticated snowmaking equipment on a large percentage of their terrain.
The North and South Lake Tahoe areas have the greatest concentration of ski resorts in North America, with 15 alpine resorts and 12 cross-country resorts offering a wide range of terrain and level of expertise. For the novice skier or snowboarder, lessons are offered at most of the resorts.
Also offered are packages, which include rental equipment, maps, lift tickets or trail passes, along with lessons.
Other popular activities include sleigh rides, dog sled rides, snowshoeing, ice skating, snowmobiling in the fall, winter, and spring; and in the summer: golf, hiking, bicycling, fishing, boating, ballooning, and river rafting. Superb casino gaming and entertainment are available year round. The Olympic games and World Cup skiing have both been hosted by Lake Tahoe. It is a world-class destination.
B- City Information:
Tahoe City: 6302 feet
Truckee: 5820 feet
If the weather is questionable, call (530) 583-6985 to check cable car operation schedules and weather conditions. In every season, sunscreen is a must because of the greater intensity of the sun’s rays at higher elevations. A jacket is also recommended, because the temperature is much cooler at Lake Tahoe’s elevation than in the valley.
North Lake Tahoe (North Shore) is less developed, and is where most of the large, expensive vacation homes are located. It has more of a wilderness feel than the South Shore and more opportunities for outdoor recreation, including things like mountain biking in addition to traditional outdoor sports.
North Lake Tahoe is a seasonally inhabited area that stretches along 40 miles of shoreline. It contains three residential communities as well as the Tahoe and Toiyabe National Forests and a number of state parks. The resort communities are known as the West shore; the North shore, and the Truckee River Canyon area.
South Lake Tahoe (South Shore) is much more populated and developed, with a concentration of casinos, miles of motels, shops, restaurants, etc. There is always lots to do in and around this area. It is also well known for its clubs, restaurants and night life.
If you’re going in the summer, plan to jet-ski, parasail, and take a hot air balloon ride right off the lake!
The Lake Tahoe area straddles the Nevada/California border. The state line cuts through the lake lengthwise, so that the western shore is in California; the eastern shore in Nevada and some properties situated north and south of the Lake are in both States. One such hotel even has a dotted line running through its rooms to indicate in which State occupants are located.
The drive entirely around Lake Tahoe is 72 miles in length and takes about three hours. It is recommended during the summer months only. During the winter, Highway 89, which runs along the west shore and connects South Tahoe and Tahoe City closes when there is too much snow. There is good public transportation to all points of interest. Summer and winter are the optimal times to visit the Lake Tahoe area.
Remember that there is the possibility of snow in the higher elevations throughout the year. Always check the weather forecast before driving into the mountains in order to be prepared.
Lake Tahoe, South Shore and North Shore Casinos
South Lake Tahoe casinos include Caesars, Harrah’s, Harvey’s, Horizon, and the Lakeside Inn.
North Lake Tahoe casinos include the Hyatt Regency in Incline Village and the Cal-Neva and Biltmore in Crystal Bay!.
Gambling Age: Persons under 21 years of age are not permitted by law to gamble. They can walk through the casinos, but cannot stop at any of the games. They are allowed to wait in line for a show or a restaurant table with their parents.
Airport: The South Lake Tahoe airport has flights to and from the major airports in California. The airport is located just south of the city on Highway 50. Several airlines fly into Reno International Airport. The Tahoe casino express operates a shuttle service between Reno International Airport and Lake Tahoe.
Airport: Tahoe-Truckee is a non-commercial airport for small private planes. It is located southeast of Truckee.
Road Conditions: Telephone 1-800-427-7623 for information on winter driving conditions and road closures.
Bus: South Lake Tahoe is serviced by greyhound on a regular, daily basis from all major cities. The terminal is located inside Harrah’s Hotel-Casino on Lake Tahoe Blvd. For information telephone (702) 588-4645.
Travel in the area: Van shuttles go back and forth between the hotels and the casinos daily at 1/2 hour intervals
California side trip: San Francisco is an easy 3.5 hour drive from Lake Tahoe. Take Hwy 50 west to Sacramento and then I-80 to San Francisco. This would be the best route from South Lake Tahoe. (You can also take I-80 all the way which would be the best from North Lake Tahoe.
C- Attractions/Things To Do:
North Shore Lake Tahoe
Cablecar at Squaw Valley USA
Calif. Hwy. 89, 6 mi. north of Tahoe City, Calif.
(530) 583-6955, (800) 545-4350
During ski season, the tram operates from 9 AM until 9 PM weekdays and from 8:30 AM until 9 PM weekends. Daily hours during the summer are 9:30 AM to 9 PM. The tram is closed from late September until mid-October.
Junction of Calif. highways. 89 and 28, Tahoe City, Calif.
Fanny Bridge spans the Truckee River where it empties from Lake Tahoe on its journey toward Pyramid Lake. Also at this site is the concrete dam with 17 gates used to raise or lower the level of the lake. There are a number of enormous rainbow trout living in the waters around the bridge
Junction of California Highways 89 and 28, Tahoe City, Calif.
(530) 583- 1762
Since 1986 the Federal Watermaster’s Office in Reno has regulated the level of the lake. Today the gatekeeper’s cabin is a museum showcasing Lake Tahoe’s past through natural history displays, stories of pioneers and priceless artifacts. Of particular interest are exhibits showing the effects of growth and pollution on the Tahoe Basin.
Marion Steinbach Indian Basket Museum
The museum is open Wednesday – Sunday, May 1 – June 15 and from Labor Day – October 1, and every day from June 16 through Labor Day. The hours are 11 – 5 . Although admission is free, donations are welcome.
The museum contains a collection of more than 800 baskets from native American tribes all over the country.
100 Ponderosa Ranch Rd., Incline Village, Nevada
9:30- 5 April – October, weather permitting. Breakfast hay wagons depart twice daily, Memorial Day through Labor Day, at 8 and 9:30 AM. Since much of the activity at the ranch is outdoors, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes and to bring along a jacket .
More than 500 million television viewers in 86 countries have relived the days of the wild West through the television series Bonanza. The Ponderosa Ranch at Lake Tahoe was selected as the setting for the show because of its spectacular scenery.
Step back in time to the post-Civil War era as you wander around the 12 acre downtown. It is authentic to the last detail, including the Silver Dollar Saloon advertising “meals 25 cents” the Old Time Photo Shop,and the gallows. Of particular interest is the variety of horse-drawn vehicles casually parked everywhere, as if their owners were in town shopping for the day.
The highlight of the ranch is the massive log structure used as the Cartwright family home. Outside, you can test your skill at the Moonshine Shootin’ Gallery, make new friends at the Petting Farm, pan for gold at the Lucky Bonanza Mine and ride a horse at the Pony Rides.
Watson Cabin Living Museum
560 N. Lake Blvd., Tahoe City, Calif.
Daily June 15 through Labor Day from noon – 4 . Admission is free, but donations are welcome.
Built in 1909, the Watson Cabin Living Museum is the oldest building in Tahoe City. Listed in the National Register of Historic Homes, the cabin contains the first indoor private bathroom in Tahoe City, as well as antiques and collectibles from the turn of the century.
In the Lake Tahoe Basin:
Sugar Pine Point State Park – 530-525-7982
This beautiful Park fronts Lake Tahoe for 1-3/4 miles and features General Creek Campground (operated year-round), the Ehrman Mansion, Sugar Pine Point Nature Center, and over 2,000 acres of conifer forest. The park offers picnicking, hiking trails, fishing, sunbathing, and interpretive programs. The Sugar Pine Point Nature Center is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm through Labor Day. Ehrman Mansion, one of the most beautiful historic homes on Lake Tahoe, is open for guided tours July through Labor
D.L. Bliss and Emerald Bay State Park
Six miles of Lake Tahoe’s most rugged shoreline highlight these popular parks. Both have campgrounds and opportunities for hiking, swimming, fishing, and interpretive activities.
Vikingsholm Castle, the most popular attraction, (west end of Emerald Bay), is considered the finest example of Scandinavian architecture in the United States. Guided tours are available daily, during the summer months from 10 am to 4 pm every half hour.
D.L. Bliss State Park has a beautiful beach on Rubicon Bay (and a trailhead for the Rubicon Point Trail that continues on to Vikingsholm).
Lake Tahoe Nevada State Parks:
Sand Harbor – 775-831-0494
Long sandy beaches, rocky coves, and panoramic lake views attract thousands of visitors to Sand Harbor.
Swimming and Scuba Diving – Gently sloping beaches, crystal clear waters, and interesting rock formations make excellent areas for swimming and scuba-diving.
Boating – The boat launch facility has two double ramps. A fee is charged. Parking is limited in the summer; when the lot is full, vehicles and trailers must park outside of Sand Harbor.
Spooner Lake and the Marlette/Hobart Backcountry
This area contains 13,000 forested acres of park land and several alpine lakes. The blue waters of Spooner Lake adjoin aspen groves and mountain meadows dotted with wildflowers. Swimming is not recommended.
The day-use facility is located on US Hwy. 50, 3 miles south of Glenbrook, just south of the Cave Rock tunnel.
South Shore Lake Tahoe
Aerial Tram at Heavenly Ski Resort
Heavenly Ski Resort, end of Ski Run Blvd., South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
During the summer season, the tram runs weekdays from 10 – 9 and weekends from 8:30 – 4 .
From this vantage point 2,000 feet above the level of the lake, the size and grandeur of the Lake Tahoe Basin is exquisite. Hiking along the ridge is popular during the summer. Sunset colors on the lake are spectacular!
Emerald Bay and Vikingsholm Castle
Calif. Hwy. 89, 5 mi. from South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
Tours are usually available daily from mid-June through Labor Day from 10- 4 but call ahead to verify specific times and admission prices.
Emerald Bay with tiny Fannette Island rests on a narrow arm on the southwestern shore of the lake. Its emerald green water is surrounded by sheer granite cliffs.
The castle is not accessible by car, but is a one mile walk from the Emerald Bay parking lotThe 38-room mansion is a replica of an 11th-century Viking castle
Fallen Leaf Lake
Junction of Calif. Hwy. 89 and Fallen Leaf Rd., South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
Fallen Leaf Lake is frequently not accessible during winter months because of heavy snowfall.
The second-largest natural lake in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Fallen Leaf was an appendage of Lake Tahoe many years ago. Three miles long, Fallen Leaf Lake is considered by many scientists to be a microcosm of Lake Tahoe. Because it is smaller, researchers are studying the effects of pollution on the lake as they believe the same effects will appear in a similar way later in the larger Lake Tahoe.
Hornblower’s Tahoe Queen
Marina Village, at the foot of Ski Run Blvd., South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
Departures are from 10:30am- 7 pm The 2 pm trips on Monday and Tuesday are gaming cruises with personnel onboard to teach the rules and strategies of 21, craps, roulette and poker. Telephone for rates with and without dinner
Hornblower’s Tahoe Queen, an authentic paddle wheeler, sails from its pier in South Lake Tahoe across the lake and into Emerald Bay daily throughout the year.
Tallac Historic Site
Calif. Hwy. 89, South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
weekends 11- 3 from Memorial Day weekend – mid-June. The rest of the summer season Wed – Sunday 10- 4 Call ahead to verify hours and days of operation
Admission is free
Following the discovery of silver in Nevada, Lake Tahoe became a popular summer retreat for wealthy residents of San Francisco, Virginia City and Sacramento. In 1880, Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin built an opulent resort including a casino and two hotels on this site. For more than 30 years it was one of a kind. As the area became more accessible via automobiles, other lavish estates appeared all around the lake.
Taylor Creek Visitor Center
Calif. Hwy. 89, South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
weekends from 11- 3 Memorial Day weekend – mid-June. The rest of the summer season through Labor Day weekend: Wed. – Sun. from 10- 4 September schedules vary, so call ahead for hours and days of operation
Adjoining the Tallac Historic Site, the area around Taylor Creek Visitor Center gives the visitor ample opportunities to experience the Taylor Creek ecosystem and to understand its relationship to Lake Tahoe. Mt. Tallac rises 9,735 feet in the background.
D- Family Fun Attractions:
1265 Deerlodge Road, Reno, NV 775-969-3111
Located in the juniper covered hills north of Reno. Observe a tiny burrowing owl or kit fox as they bask in the sun next to their burrows; or the black bear that may lumber out of his den to take a dip in his pool. Open April thru October: 10 – 4:30; Closed Mondays, except holidays.
6000 Bartley Ranch Road, 775-828-6612
The park features more than 2 miles of hiking trails, a horse arena and the historic one-room Huffacker School House. The Western Heritage Interpretive Center features traveling exhibits and other cultural themed programs and displays. The park is a former ranch with lots of open space and also has historic farm equipment.
North of the University of Nevada on N. Virginia St.
775-784-4811: Current Shows & Hours and current events in the night skies
Daily entertaining & informative films & star shows as well as telescope viewing weekly. Don’t miss the out-of-sight gift shop with such fun things as glow in the dark constellation maps, astronaut Freeze-dried foods & much, much more!
Galena Creek Park
18350 Mount Rose Highway, south of Reno, 775-849-2511
Hours: 8AM – 5 daily
440 acre park nestled in the forest with Galena Creek flowing through. Hiking, self guided nature trails, picnic areas and a group picnic facility. Family programs are held in Campfire Meadows at the north end of the park.
775-329-6008, West of Booth Street just off Idlewild Drive in Reno
barbecue pits, swimming, fishing, a beautiful rose garden, wedding garden, & much more. For the children there is an amusement park including Merry-go-Round, Flying Planes, Roller Coaster, Tilt-a-Whirl & famous train. Rides open daily: May thru Labor Day 11 – 6. Sept. thru May – Sat., Sun, & holidays, weather permitting.
National Automobile Museum
775-333-9300, 10 Lake Street (Corner of Lake & Mill Sts.)
A collection of 200 antique, vintage, classic, & special interest automobiles, located in downtown Reno. Don’t miss the interest automobiles, located in downtown Reno. Don’t miss the great gift shop with the hard to find unusual gifts!! Open 9:30 to 5:30PM Mon-Sat except Christmas & Thanksgiving. Open 10 to 4:00PM Sundays
Oxbow Nature Study Area
775-334-3808, 3100 Dickerson Road along the Truckee River.
Nature walks, bird watching areas & nature observation platforms.
Hwy 28, Incline Village, 775-831-0691
Open Mid-April thru October – 9:30-6. Home of “Bonanza” & “Bonanza, the Next Generation,” Cartwright Ranch House Tour, petting farm, Mystery Mine, shooting gallery, breakfast hay rides, vintage cars, gun collections, & more. Closed winters.
10200 N. Virginia, 775-677-1101
Open April 1 – October 31. Hrs: 10 – 5 daily. See more than 200 animals, 40 different species. Located 8 miles north of Reno in the beautiful North Valley area at the front of majestic Peavine Mountain. Sierra Safari has become Nevada’s largest non-profit wild animal attraction.
18-hole miniature golf courses, roller coaster, and Adventure Raceway – 3 race car tracks for all ages and more.
E- Events & Entertainment: