We visited Lake Tahoe in March 2018. This was the first time visiting Lake Tahoe for both myself and Fiona. Lake Tahoe is located just South of Reno and runs right through the state of California and Nevada.
First off, the lake is huge! It’s 22 miles long, 12 miles wide and 1,645 feet deep, which makes it the second largest freshwater lake in the US. It was also formed about two million years ago.
As with all our destination reviews, we try to share with you highlights from our own experience and also some top tips to help you maximize your trip. It’s worth mentioning that we’re not skiers, so we didn’t include any of Lake Tahoe’s awesome ski resorts. However, feel free to comment below if you have recommendations since we’re hoping to give skiing a try on our next trip.
This was our first stop and ended up being one of our favorites. The area has a large parking lot, a couple of beaches, and a really nice path around the harbor where you can enjoy different angles of the lake. We purchased a day pass for $10 and ended up coming back in the afternoon for a second round of the scenery.
2. Snow Shoeing with the Tahoe Adventure Company:
We booked the Blue Moon Snow Shoeing tour after reading some great reviews online, and it was awesome! We were fitted with Snow Shoes and taken up into the mountains, with views of Castle Peak in the distance. As the sun set, the Blue Moon made an appearance. We were able to soak in the views of the moon while enjoying a nice cup of hot apple cider.
Our guides, Tucker and Eric, filled the tour with interesting insights, facts, and stories about Lake Tahoe history. They were super organized and really professional. The hike was around three miles, took approximately three hours (including set up time), and cost $70 per person. If you’re in the area, we highly recommend this experience!
3. Emerald Bay:
This is one of the most popular spots in the area, and we totally understand why. Emerald Bay is located on the California side of the lake, around 12 miles from South Lake Tahoe. The views from here are incredible! The area is also designated as a California State Park which means there are lots of hiking trails nearby. There’s a main parking lot for the Park, however, that was pretty crowded when we arrived. We actually found it easier to stop at one of the safe parking spots along the road for a more peaceful view.
We stayed at the Lake Tahoe Hyatt Regency which is located on the North side of Lake Tahoe. We ended up using 20,000 Hyatt points per night, which I transferred from my Chase Ultimate Rewards points
When we got to the resort, we were given two glasses of champagne and a s’more’s kit, which I was actually really excited about. The resort has fire pits outside, so it was nice ending the evening with some hot smores.
The resort has a couple of nice restaurants, a spa, pools, and even a casino if you’re feeling lucky. There’s also a really nice beach and incredible views!
5. Kings Beach:
This is another picturesque beach, located on the Northern Shores of Lake Tahoe. It’s a good stopping point for a walk along the beach, and also has a number of boutique stores, restaurants and places to stay.
1. Fly into the Reno / Tahoe airport:
The Reno-Tahoe international airport is the closest airport to Lake Tahoe, and is a short and easy drive over. It’s a quiet airport which made it easy to pick up our rental car and get straight on the road. Door to door, you can expect to reach the northern side of the Lake in around 45 minutes.
2. Research areas to stay before booking:
We drove through most of the main areas in Lake Tahoe and noticed they each had a different vibe. The northern areas tended to be more laid back. The west side of the Lake seemed geared toward camping and outdoor activities. And the areas near South Lake Tahoe definitely had a livelier feel with more options for eating and drinking. There were several large casinos in that area as well. As a bonus tip, we were really impressed with the Driftwood Cafe in Heavenly Village, which is located in the southern part of the Lake, so definitely check it out if you’re in the area.
Wherever you stay, the top spots are easily accessible by car.
3. Check the weather forecast before traveling:
Winter time means often heavy snow for Tahoe, and apparently, it stays most of the year round. One of our tour guides on the trip mentioned how ski resorts were even open on 4th July last year.
It’s worth checking the forecast ahead of your trip, and pack warm clothing and layers particularly if you decide to try out the snowshoeing hike. We also packed our Stabilicers, which came in handy when hiking in some of the snowy areas. We did a separate gear review on them, so be sure to check that out if you’re interested.
4. Stop at one of the many parking areas along the road for some great photo opportunities:
We love taking photos and capturing video of our trips, even more so now that we have our drone. Everywhere we looked there were great photo opportunities, and you don’t need to pay high parking fees to make the most of these. There are many safe, free, parking spots along the road which are perfect for a quick stop. Just be sure to look out for any parking restriction signs.
Also, if you enjoyed the aerial footage in the video, then you should check out our Lake Tahoe drone video.
Have you been to Lake Tahoe? What are your favorite spots?