Welcome to Lake Tahoe, the jewel of the Sierra! This stunning alpine lake is not only a sight to behold, but the entire Tahoe basin is a treasure trove of fantastic beaches, trails, and summits waiting to be explored. Wondering where the locals go? If you’re new to Tahoe, we’ve got you covered with a mini bucket list of must-see spots.
Emerald Bay State Park
Let’s start with Emerald Bay State Park, situated on the southwest shore of the lake. This protected bay boasts its own historic mansion, Vikingsholm, with the added pro tip that it’s well worth a tour, and a tiny island called Fannette Island, which is the only island in the entire Tahoe basin. If you have a kayak or paddle board, be sure to explore the island for yourself and check out the remnants of what was once a tea house.
On the northeastern side of the lake, you’ll find Sand Harbor, one of the most beautiful beaches in the area. It’s gorgeous, with white sandy beaches, a boat launch, and plenty of boulders at the water’s edge to explore. It’s a state park, and there’s a visitor center with food and a small gift shop, as well as rentals for paddle boards, kayaks, and even jet skis. The park caps capacity daily, and no walk-ins are allowed once the gates are closed. But here’s a local’s secret—the gates open again around 4 pm, and you can enjoy a prime parking spot and a few hours late in the day with fewer crowds. If you want to make an entire day of it, plan to get there bright and early during prime summer time!
Sand Harbor also happens to be the backdrop for the performances of the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, a delightful summer series worth attending at least once.
Palisades, formerly Squaw Valley, was the venue for the 1960 Winter Olympics. Today, it’s a world-class ski destination, but outdoor enthusiasts enjoy the resort year round. In the late spring and summer months, it’s a premier spot for hiking and biking. If you’re just exploring the area, hop onto the gondola for a lift to High Camp, home to panoramic views of the lake and plenty of places to nosh.
At 9,735 feet, Mount Tallac is one of the highest peaks in the Sierra Nevada mountain range and probably one of the most recognized. It’s in the Desolation Wilderness southwest of the lake, and it’s a pretty serious hike that climbs from a starting altitude of 3,500 feet up to just over 9,700 feet. It’s about a 10-mile loop, but it’s a steep climb upward with very few flat parts. Once you make it to the top, however, the views are all the reward you need.
As legend has it, Tahoe City’s Fanny Bridge is named for all of the behinds seen from the road as people lean over the side of the bridge to peer into the water below. The bridge isn’t really the destination, but it’s absolutely worth parking the car and spending some time here as you meander through town to take in the stunning lake views and plenty of local character.
No matter which season you visit, there’s plenty of fun to be had. If you’re looking for recommendations, whether you’re here on a visit or planning for a longer term investment, I’m happy to help!