6 Questions… will be a series dedicated to answering the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of locations I have visited, serving to answer questions fellow travelers may have when planning their trip.
Who (is this suitable for): Lake Tahoe has a little something for everybody. Whether you are a hiker, a swimmer, a skier, or a foodie, this place has it all. Suitable for all age groups and fitness levels, Lake Tahoe is a great weekend getaway for anybody looking for clean air, and some R&R.
What (can I do while I’m there): As I said before, there is a little something for everybody here. Lake Tahoe has some incredible hiking trails that let you see dense forests, rock formations, and some pretty spectacular views of the lake. For a trail that will hit all of these natural landmarks, drive to the Nevada side of the lake, and park at the Secret Harbor parking lot. Grab your hiking shoes and your bathing suit, and make your way down the trail past the public restrooms. Continue past the first few break away trails, and stay straight until you come to the Secret Cove trail. This small trail will take you down to a small beach location with turquoise water, and amazing rocks on which to sunbathe. Be mindful that this beach is clothing optional, and to always respect those around you who opt to not wear clothing. To see more of the lake, hop back onto the main trail, heading south, until you see signs for Whale Beach, and head toward the water. Here you will see a beautiful and completely natural rock formation jutting out of the water. The formation looks like a giant humpback whale cresting the water, hence the its picturesque name! If you still want to see more, head back up to the main trail, and hike south until you see large boulders that jut out into the water toward a rock formation about 100 feet into the lake with a single tree on it. Make your way through the towering boulders to the edge of this cliff, and take in the best views of the lake you’ll find.
If you prefer winter sports, Lake Tahoe is famous for its glittering ski resorts, and après ski scene. There are multiple luxury resorts on the Nevada side of the lake in a town called Incline Village, my favorite place to stay. Another great location for skiing and all winter sports is Squaw Valley (this is where all of my ski friends like to head in the winter, so it must be good…right?).
When (should you go): Lake Tahoe is beautiful year-round. Skiing is going to be best during the traditional winter months. A word of caution on this, however, is that Lake Tahoe isn’t exactly the most accessible destination in the world. There are two main highways to get you there from the San Francisco Bay area, and one from Reno, Nevada, both of which are likely your airport options. There can be heavy snow in the winter, shutting down roads and creating dangerous driving conditions.
Conversely, you can also have difficulty getting there in the spring. All of the snow from the winter needs to melt off and go somewhere, so down the mountain it goes. This creates slippery mud on the sides of the mountains, causing rock and mud slides, which can also shut down the main roads. Always drive with caution to the lake, and use your best judgement. Don’t let all of this stop you from venturing there, though, as you can rent a car with chains for the snow, and find alternate routes for arrival (though they may take a little longer).
The lake is absolutely breathtaking in the summer, and is a little warmer for leisurely swimming. Lake Tahoe never really “warms up”, but the temperature is refreshingly tolerable in summer when you can hop out and bake in the sun after.
Where (to stay): There are some SERIOUSLY fancy hotels here. You have the Ritz Carlton, the Hyatt Regency, and Squaw Creek. All are beautiful, and will afford you every amenity you could ever need on your trip. There are also some really great Airbnb’s on the lake as well. They are all a little quirky, and have that “rustic lodge” look complete with knotty pine and “Welcome to Our Cabin” signs. I love the little bit quirkier spaces, so I highly recommend Airbnb for Lake Tahoe. My personal favorite place to stay is this cabin. It is incredibly comfortable and quiet, impeccably clean, and the owner is a dream host! Never used Airbnb before? Give my coupon code a try (www.airbnb.com/c/merahf3), and receive $40 off your stay! Who am I kidding, it gives me a little kick back too, and helps me travel more, letting me to tell you more stories about travel.
Another great debate within the Lake Tahoe community is the best town on the lake to stay, and I say it all depends on what you want. If you want casinos, tons of restaurants, and to be in a more party-centric part of the lake, then South Lake Tahoe is the place to be. If you crave a getaway from the world and home cooked meals at local eateries, then stay in Incline Village (I prefer the latter).
Why (do I recommend this place): Lake Tahoe is such a great place to just get away from it all. While I was there, I couldn’t help but notice how fresh the air felt, and how beautiful nature is. I really recommend Lake Tahoe for a chance to disconnect from the digital world (it can be difficult to find a good signal up there, but that was totally fine with me!), and to explore nature a little bit.
How (do I get there): If possible, do your best to fly into Reno, Nevada. I suggest this because it is only a short 1 hour drive to Incline Village from the airport via highway 580. It is an easier way to get to the lake, and I am ALWAYS in favor of less driving. Another option is to fly into San Francisco, and make the 4-hour drive to the lake via highway 80. A word of caution with this route is to really pay attention to traffic times. I unfortunately got a late start when I went, and got stuck in rush hour traffic, turning a 4-hour drive into a 6-hour trek.