There’s nothing more depressing than a Back To School Sale. If you’re a kid it’s the harbinger of doom, and for adults it means summer’s nearly over and you haven’t even gotten sunburned yet. But don’t mothball your bathing suit just yet; there are still a few months of glorious summer fun awaiting you, especially in Lake Tahoe. I could write a book to all the adventures to be had at Lake Tahoe (in fact, I have), but here are some of my favorite picks for summer adventures on and around the lake.
Hiking trails for all levels of experience crisscross the mountains surrounding Lake Tahoe. Some of the most popular short-and-easy hikes in the area are Eagle Falls/Eagle Lake, Emerald Bay/Vikingsholm, Nevada Shoreline, and Shirley Lake. Before setting out, you may wish to contact the local visitor centers or sporting-goods shops for a map and more in-depth information on particular trails, or hire a guide. I highly recommend Tahoe Trips & Trails for guided hikes. Everything is provided: food, drinks, transportation, and super-friendly guides.
If just the thought of biking up a mountain tires you, I have a solution: Take a gondola to the top. The Northstar Resort Mountain Bike Park is one of my favorite mountain biking destinations. The park offers one of the most extensive lift-accessed trail network in country, with trails to match any biking skill level, from newbie to are-you-insane? It’s a wonderful way to spend the day, cruising down the fire roads or bashing down the singletrack. They even offer free mountain tours for beginner and intermediate level and above riders, and a Ride 101 class for $15 for beginners. Bike rentals are available as well.
KAYAKS, CANOES & PADDLE BOARDING
Nothing beats getting out on the lake on your own to paddle around, whether it’s on a kayak, canoe, or the latest craze—stand up paddle boards. And plenty of water-sports companies around the lake are open throughout the fall, offering rentals, lessons, and guided tours. On the South Shore Zephyr Cove Marina rents pedal boats, kayaks, and canoes, as does Camp Richardson Marina. On the North Shore at Kings Beach I recommend Tahoe Paddle and Oar, and West Shore Sports is the best place to learn how to use a stand up paddle board.
The Tahoe Queen, an authentic Mississippi River paddlewheeler, is something of a Lake Tahoe institution. Thankfully, it’s come a long way from my childhood days when it was more of a funky novelty. Fully restored, three stories high, and sporting expansive picture windows and an open top deck, the Tahoe Queen offers scenic history cruises across the lake to Emerald Bay, as well as sunset and dinner-dance cruises. This summer, they added the Mark Twain Cruise, which features Twain—who once described Lake Tahoe as “the fairest picture the whole earth affords”—and a cast of historical characters. .
TQ’s sister, the MS Dixie II, is a 570-passenger paddlewheeler that does Sunday brunch cruises in addition to scenic tours and dinner-dances. Whichever you choose, kids will be fascinated by the sight of the giant paddlewheels spinning and churning through the water (the lake’s not too shabby, either). Both cruises depart from South Lake Tahoe (888/896-3830; www.zephyrcove.com).
A fantastic way to spend a warm summer day in Tahoe is hopping in a raft or inner tube and floating down the tame stretch of Truckee River from Fanny Bridge in Tahoe City to the River Ranch Lodge a few miles downriver. The 2- to 3-hour outing is safe for the entire family, with only a few stretches of very small rapids. You can rent rafts from the Truckee River Raft Co., or just buy a cheapo raft or plastic inner tube at Target.
After you haul out at the River Ranch Lodge, sit at their beautiful outdoor patio overlooking the river and enjoy lunch or a cold beer. If you prefer a more exciting whitewater experience, Tributary Whitewater Tours offers daily excursions (in season) down the Truckee River amid Class 2 to 3-plus rapids.
With its world-class golf courses, mild summer weather, and magnificent scenery, Lake Tahoe is a golfer’s paradise. One of my favorite places to play is Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort’s golf course (it’s a tight, tricky course with lots of ball-eating trees). They also have the best golf package deals in North Shore, such as their Stay & Golf FREE Lodging Package starting at $80 per person—it includes lodging & two rounds of golf with a cart. For Lake Tahoe that’s an incredible deal. Heck, they even have a golf-n-sushi package: 18-holes of golf and a $25 voucher good for dining at Mikuni Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar at the Village at Northstar.
I can’t imagine a better way to spend a summer day in Lake Tahoe than relaxing on a beautiful sailing yacht, sipping a cold beer or chardonnay while soaking in the sunshine and incredible scenery. Tahoe Sailing Charters offers scenic 2-hour afternoon or sunset cruises aboard the Tahoe Cruz, a sleek 50-foot Santa Cruz–class yacht with a 12-foot beam and plenty of elbowroom. Complimentary refreshments and snacks are included. The Tahoe Cruz sails daily from the Tahoe City Marina on Lake Tahoe’s North Shore.
If you have your own tips and recommendations on your favorite things to see and do at Lake Tahoe that you’d like to share, feel free to add your own comments to our blog below. We’d love to hear from you.
For more insider tips on California activities and tours, California vacation spots, California tourist attractions, California vacation packages, and California inns, B&Bs, lodges, hotels, and restaurants, explore LocalGetaways.com, where you’ll always find best California travel deals.