The Memorial Day Weekend kicks off summer in Tahoe and ends when fall colors descend on the Sierra. The next four months are the height of summer in Tahoe-Truckee and it’s time to get out there.
There’s so much to do over the summer, it’s impossible to fit it into a single weekend. So, we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite activities from freebies to family friendly to the wilder side (and this list is far from complete).
For more information, check out each edition of The Weekly or stop by one of the Visitors’ Centers. Many of these destinations are served by public bus service.
FREE (OR REALLY CHEAP)
Drive around the Lake
We know everyone does it. Plan on spending the day for this drive with lots of places for sightseeing and pictures, great restaurants and fantastic shopping. Pick up a copy of the “Around Tahoe” CD with a driving tour around the Lake to guide you. Stop the car and pull off the highway to take in the view and your pictures.
Take a hike
There are hundreds of trails throughout the Tahoe Basin and Truckee area from Donner Summit to the Carson Range. Local visitors’ centers offer information on hikes, or pick up one of the dozens of hiking books at a local bookstore. Please, wear good shoes, be prepared with food, water, sunscreen and layers (the weather is unpredictable in the Sierra).
Take the trolley
Ditch the car, you’ll never see all of the sights that way. There’s an extensive network of bus and trolley routes that encircle the Lake.
Employ pedal power
Truckee-Tahoe is bike-friendly with miles and miles of paved bike paths on the North and West Shores, and even more bike lanes encircling Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Donner Lake and many other areas.
There’s something about sitting around a campfire, roasting s’mores and spending hours with friends and family that’s filled with magic. There are scores of area campgrounds (they fill up fast), wilderness camping in some back-country areas or try boat camping at Emerald Bay.
Ride the trails
Mountain biking is quite popular with locals, and there are all kinds of terrain from easy dirt roads to gnarly single-track.
Head to Emerald Bay
No visit to the area is complete without heading to Emerald Bay. You can drive by and marvel at this wonder from vista points, hike down to the beach or take your boat for a slow drive around the bay.
Hike to Eagle Falls
This is possibly the most well-known hike in the area. The trailhead is at Emerald Bay off Highway 89 with magnificent falls only a 5-minute walk away. Don’t stop there, however. Make the 1-mile trek to Eagle Lake for a great picnic spot. Everyone knows about this great spot, so visit early in the morning during midweek.
Climb Eagle Rock
This volcanic plug towers above Lake Tahoe along the West Shore. Park along Highway 89 for a short hike up for panoramic views of the Lake.
Hike the Rubicon Trail
The historic Rubicon Trail, once an overland trail to the foothills, is now a popular hiking and 4WD trail. There are two sections, one popular for 4WD enthusiasts and the other a lake-side trail starting at D.L. Bliss State Park. Pick up the trail from the beach at Calawee Cove and head 4.5 miles to Emerald Bay.
Peer over Fanny Bridge
Everyone does it. Fanny Bridge is situated over Lake Tahoe at the Tahoe City Dam. You can walk across the dam, as well as peer.
Head to Commons Beach
Commons Beach in Tahoe City is the hub for summer fun. This is a great family beach with playgrounds, picnic areas and swimming. Free movies are offered on Wednesdays and free concerts on Sundays in the summer. Also, keep an eye out for the old jail near the parking lot.
Enjoy the Arts
North Tahoe Arts Center in Tahoe City is the area’s only public art center featuring rotating exhibits by local artists. They host the must-see ARTour in July.
Kings Beach is beach central
Wide, sandy beaches run nearly the length of Kings Beach and are popular spots for sun lovers. The North Tahoe Beach is at the west end with the Kings Beach State Recreation Area in the center of town. Playgrounds, sand volleyball, parasailing, kayaking, personal watercrafts and much more are available. Enjoy the free concerts on the beach every Friday starting in July and don’t miss the famous 3rd of July Fireworks.
Look for ghosts
The tunnels at Cal Neva have been used by movie stars, musicians, mobsters and the like to traverse the property. It’s said to be haunted and tours are offered.
Science is fun
University of California, Davis, operates a science education center, the Thomas J. Long Foundation Education Center, in the Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences on the Sierra Nevada Campus in Incline Village. Exhibits include a virtual research boat, biology lab and 3-D visualization lab. TERC also operates the Historic Fish Hatchery outside Tahoe City with a demonstration garden, research projects and more for the entire family.
Don’t miss Sand Harbor
Sand Harbor is a stunning jewel with sand beaches and shallow waters that warm quickly for great swimming. There’s a picnic area, boat launch and it’s the home to the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival.
Ride the Flume Trail
One of the most popular, and well known, mountain bike trails is the Flume Trail. Pick up the trail at Spooner Lake State Park. For a tamer ride, enjoy the trek to Marlette Lake.
Drive through Cave Rock
Visitors can drive through one of the area’s natural wonders – Cave Rock. The area is named for the small caves above Highway 50 that were cut by waves when the lake was 200 feet higher during the ice ages. Cave Rock is not a rock, but the neck of an old volcano.
Enjoy a fish eye’s view
The Stream Profile Center, which places visitors at eye level with aquatic life at Taylor Creek, is found along the nature trail at Taylor Creek Visitor Center in South Lake Tahoe. Be sure to visit in October for the running of the Kokanee Salmon.
Reach for the top
Cyclists love the Truckee-Tahoe area for its breathtaking views at every turn. One of the most popular rides is to the top of Mount Rose, which has fantastic views of Lake Tahoe. It’s also a great drive. When you reach Tahoe Meadows, turn off in the parking lot and take a walk on the interpretive nature trail or pick up the Tahoe Rim Trail.
Truckee River Canyon
The stretch of Highway 89 between Tahoe City and Truckee is one of the most peaceful and beautiful bike rides. The paved path runs to Olympic Valley, where you can continue on Squaw Valley Road and ride through the valley. Or, you can follow the bike lane to Truckee.
Visit the Rocking Stone
The legendary rocking stone, one of only 25 known rocking stones in the world, sits above downtown on Keiser Avenue. Through it no longer rocks (it was cemented in place), the site has great views of downtown and the Truckee River.
Drive up Old 40
Drive up Old Highway 40 to the Donner Summit Bridge with spectacular views at the overlook of Donner Lake, Old Truckee, mountain peaks and the magnificent rock walls for which Donner Pass is famous (keep your eyes open for rock climbers and cyclists). On the summit, the small communities of Serene Lake, Soda Springs and Norden are beautiful spots for cycling, enjoying lunch or hiking.
Head to the river
The Truckee River Regional Park is one of the area’s gems. The park offers hiking and biking trails, a skate park, rodeo arena, picnic areas, disc golf and free concerts every Wednesday from June to August.
Go where kids rule
The KidZone Children’s Museum is a great place for kids up to age 7 with interactive exhibits, science and art classes, the BabyZone for newborns to 18 months and the Jungle Gym for toddlers and up.
Climb the face
Rock climbers love Tahoe. Whether they’re climbing a rock face or heading to a boulder field, opportunities for climbers are everywhere. Sounds fun, but looks too technical to try on your own? Don’t worry. Many local guide services are ready to take you out and show you the ropes.
ON THE WATER
Visit Fannette Island
Fannette Island in Emerald Bay is the only island in Lake Tahoe and features the remnants of a stone tea house. You can reach the island by boat or kayak only, and hike to the top (closed until June 15 for nesting birds).
Dine on the water
There are many wonderful restaurants located on Lake Tahoe to enjoy lunch or dinner. Or, pack a picnic and take the boat out on Lake Tahoe, Donner Lake or any waterway, drop the anchor and enjoy a meal on the water.
Boating and sailing are among the most popular activities at Lake Tahoe, Donner Lake and Prosser, Stampede and Boca Reservoirs. If you don’t have your own, don’t worry, most marinas offer rentals.
Area lakes offer beautiful shoreline scenery you might miss in a speeding boat. So, bring a kayak or standup paddleboard, or rent one, and head out on the lake. Morning is the best time on Lake Tahoe with little wind. Check local rental shops for equipment and a lesson.
Get out the toy box
Water toys are a great way to enjoy the water. Rent a personal watercraft or enjoy an Aqua Trike (think a bike for the water).
Take a boat cruise
Boating on the Lake is a summer must, but if you’re don’t have a boat or any boat skills, don’t worry. There are many wonderful tours offered from wooden boat tours of the East Shore to cruises on the West Shore and Emerald Bay to sailing charters. Or, take the Lake Tahoe Water Shuttle with stops on the North and West shores starting in late June.
Float the Truckee
The Truckee River offers a gentle float for 4.5 miles from Tahoe City to River Ranch. You can rent rafts from local companies or bring your own. Don’t forget the sunscreen, water and snacks.
Spend the day at Donner Lake
Access the beach next to the Donner Memorial State Park, launch your boat or kayak and enjoy the day relaxing at one of the 37 public piers around the lake.
Ride the rapids
The Truckee River from Hirschdale to Floriston offers exhilarating Class I, II and III whitewater rapids. Local guide companies offer trips down the Truckee River on the Boca Run daily during the summer.
TAKE TO THE SKIES
Take a balloon ride
Hot air balloon companies in South Lake Tahoe offer spectacular balloon rides above the Sierra that take off and descend from a barge on Lake Tahoe.
Soar above it all
Soar Truckee offers breathtaking gliders rides over Lake Tahoe and Truckee. They can make the ride mild or wild (hold on to your stomach).
Fly above the Lake
Parasail over Lake Tahoe from one of the many companies around the Lake. Ride the boat out on the Lake, then glide off the back on a parasail. Don’t forget to take a friend, or two, or three.
STEP BACK IN TIME
Tour Vikingsholm Castle
This stunning Scandinavian-style castle sits just off the beach in Emerald Bay. The former summer home of an heiress is now part of Emerald Bay State Park and is open for tours.
Tour Ehrman Mansion
Ehrman Mansion is a historic home that is part of Sugar Pine Point State Park and is maintained as a museum and example of the opulent tradition in Tahoe summer homes. Tours are offered throughout the summer.
Hike to Rubicon Point Lighthouse
D.L. Bliss State Park also is home to the old Rubicon Point Lighthouse that was once the highest elevation lighthouse in the country. The trailhead is at the beach at Calawee Cove.
Revel in maritime history
The Tahoe Maritime Museum in Homewood features an unmatched collection of wooden boats, historic photos and artifacts, interactive exhibits and much more.
Learn Tahoe history
The Gatekeeper’s Museum next to Fanny Bridge in Tahoe City features historic photos, Native American baskets and local historical memorabilia.
See pioneer life
The 100-year-old Watson Cabin serves as a living history exhibit showcasing pioneer life on Lake Tahoe. Look for the cabin in the heart of Tahoe City above Commons Beach.
Tour Thunderbird Lodge
Thunderbird Lodge is the former Whittell estate and provides a peek into the Old Tahoe lifestyle. This magnificent lakefront home features the Lighthouse Room, Old Lodge, 600’ underground tunnel (with a former lion cage), Card House and Boat House, home to the “Thunderbird” a 1939 wooden boat. Shuttle, boat and kayak tours are available starting in mid-June; no car access.
The Tallac Historic Site in South Lake Tahoe was once the summer retreat for three of the Bay Area’s socially elite families. Today, stroll through the estate, summer mansions and staff quarters, and enjoy the many summer activities and festivals on site. The site includes the Baldwin, Pope and Heller estates (the latter called Valhalla). The former Tallac Resort was once the summer home of the Washoe.
Revel in Olympic glory
Visit the Olympic Heritage Museum celebrating the VIII Winter Olympic Games held in 1960 located at Squaw Valley’s High Camp. The symbolic Tower of Nations and Olympic Flame greet visitors at the entrance to the valley. You’ll need a ticket to ride the Aerial Tram.
Get thrown in the slammer
Visit the Old Jail Museum on Jibboom Street in downtown, one of only a few surviving 19th century jailhouses of its kind in the West and one of the few remaining original buildings in Truckee.
Visit Historic Downtown Truckee
The area surrounding the Truckee Depot is a bustling shopping district with Commercial Row across from the Depot and Brickelltown a few blocks to the west. Historic homes and buildings date back to 1868. Unique shops and superb restaurants are now the main attraction. Pick up a map for a self-guided walking tour at the Depot. Also, enjoy the Truckee Railroad Museum located in a caboose next to the Depot.
Learn the Donner Party’s fate
The ill-fated Donner Party suffered through the harsh winter of 1846-47 camped around Donner Lake and Truckee. The Donner Memorial State Park features exhibits and artifacts on the Donner Party at the Emigrant Trail Museum and the towering Pioneer Monument, built to commemorate those who came to California in the mid-1800s.
NOT TO BE MISSED
The Tahoe-Truckee area is home to dozens of golf courses with spectacular views and unmatched courses. It would take weeks to play them all; you’d better get started.
For an exhilarating, fun-filled and dirt-clogging thrill, an ATV tour is the way to go. Local guide companies offer tours in Truckee and Lake Tahoe. This area also is fertile ground for dirt bikers and 4WD enthusiasts.
Shop, shop, shop
Shopping can be considered a sport with stores catering to every fancy. Driving along Highway 28 on Lake Tahoe‘s North Shore, keep your eye out for the many shops spread along the communities of the North Shore including Tahoe Vista, Kings Beach, Crystal Bay and Incline Village.
Roll the dice
Tahoe shares its shores with California and Nevada, with lots of gaming options on the Nevada side. Crystal Bay is home to the Tahoe Biltmore, Crystal Bay Casino, Cal Neva and Jim Kelly’s Nugget. In Incline Village, head to the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe.
Meander through the Village
The Village at Squaw Valley is filled with specialty shops, restaurants and much more. There’s a mini-golf course through the Village, rock climbing wall, bungee trampoline, free movies in the summer and loads of events and festivals.
Head to High Camp
Squaw Valley’s Cable Car takes visitors to High Camp, at 8,200’, offering a swimming lagoon and spa, roller skating, dining, hiking and more, all with sweeping views of the Sierra and Lake Tahoe.
Head up the mountain
Northstar offers hiking trails, scenic lift rides and one of the most extensive mountain bike parks with more than 100 miles of trails.
Stroll through the Village
Shopping, dining, fine art, roller skating, a ropes course and bungee trampoline are among the attractions at the Village at Northstar. Enjoy Star Tours, the Wine Walks and many special events throughout the summer.