When my mom planned a family trip to Lake Tahoe, I was pumped to say the least. I mean, a giant alpine lake?! Where do I sign up? After a quick flight from Denver to Reno and a drive through the winding road into North Lake Tahoe, the area crushed my wildest expectations. With only four full days of exploring, I made sure to squeeze in all the dope ish on my list, while also finding some time for relaxation and quality time with family and friends.
We traveled over Memorial Day Weekend, meaning the area was hectic. If I were to go again, I would sincerely avoid holidays. Despite the crowds, we still had a great time at the lake. Whether you want to swim, fish, sail or just plop down in a beach chair for a week, Tahoe has something for everyone. Here’s an overview of our four fun-packed days in Tahoe!
Hyatt Sierra Residences
We were fortunate enough to stay in an incredible resort at the Hyatt Sierra Lodge Residences on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe. The residences have full kitchens and bedrooms, with your own private porch overlooking the tranquil site. Alongside our condo ran a creek gushing with new snow melt. An early walk along the green, winding trails followed by coffee on the porch to the sound of the creek was my favorite morning ritual. Next door is the Hyatt Regency Hotel, which has a large pool, private beach and even a casino if you’re into smoke-filled boxes and losing money.
there are plenty of lodging options in Tahoe. Find a condo or Airbnb with a kitchen, so you can save money and cook in a few nights, which was what we did.
Day 1: Catamaran Tour
On Sunday, we booked a tour on the Sierra Cloud Catamaran through the hotel and I was pleasantly surprised with the experience and the service. No one was without a full cup of wine or beer in hand, thanks to the doting crew who went to lengths to ensure everyone had an excellent time. They brought around fresh-cut fruit and a cheese and cracker platter, while the captain shared his extensive knowledge of the area. As we sailed along the lake, he pointed out notable sites, like the Thunderbird Lodge Lakeshore, and went into detail about each of them. As someone usually averted to hotel-planned excursions, I highly recommend this tour!
Cost: $80/ adult; $40 for children for a two-hour cruise with (seemingly endless) libations and snacks
Day 2: Sand Harbor State Park, Nevada
On the second day, we headed to Sand Harbor, a renowned state park and beach about 20 minutes from the hotel. The park is a popular destination, so get there early to save your spot on the sandy beach or rent a kayak and cruise out among the boulders jutting from the sparkly waters. We spent a good amount of time scrambling across these massive crowns of granite nestled along the crystal-clear shores. It’s insane to be tip-toeing through sparkling turquoise waters that look like they belong somewhere in the Caribbean, while snow-capped mountains tower in the nearby background.
Cost: $12.00 park fee
Evening: Sunset at Eagle Rock – Homewood, CA
Andrew and I took a short hike up the Eagle Rock Hiking Trail to watch the sunset. I’d read the trailhead is somewhat hard to find and not marked well. But I put the name into Google Maps, and the GPS took us right there. Eagle Rock is a volcanic outcrop rising from the lofty Tahoe pines. The short (less than a half mile), winding trail afforded panoramic views of the lake that looked as if we’d backpacked miles to get there. We were the only souls at the summit on that calm, windless evening and it seemed as if the lake and horizon melted together and stretched out forever, an endless band of blue. The incredible sunset flooded the sky with pinks and purples and light danced off the stillness of the lake.
Day 3: Emerald Bay State Park
This was a must-see on my list. It’s likely that most photos you’ve seen of Lake Tahoe are of the iconic Emerald Bay State Park. The park was about an hour from our hotel, on the California side of the lake. We arrived early and grabbed a parking spot at the Vikingsholm trailhead and took the one-mile trail down to the beach. The trail is somewhat steep, but paved in parts and nothing I’d consider difficult. From the beach, we rented kayaks and paddled out to Fannette Island, where there is a tiny, ancient tea house structure at the top of a small (but steep) walk up the rocky hill.
Cost: $10 for parking at the Vikingsholm Lot; $10 for a tour of the Vikingsholm Historic House; $35/ hour for two-person kayak rental
Day 4: Sunrise at Bonsai Rock
A short drive from our hotel (right after Sand Harbor) is Bonsai Rock. I woke around 4:30 and drove to the site, where I hiked (straight) down the side of the road down to the shore. It was a steep descent, so I’d recommend wearing sneakers and making sure your hands are free to hold onto rock crags and branches to pull yourself along. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get as close as I’d wanted to Bonsai Rock, due to high tide.
I put up the tripod in a rather precarious spot and snapped some incredible sunrise photos. The water was rough this day, but made for some neat long-exposure shots. I did manage to drop my headlamp into the water while hopping from rock to rock, so I’d make sure to take everything out of your pockets and not be an idiot like me. This place is more of a photo op than anything, so don’t expect much out of the rock, other than the strange trees inexplicably growing from its center.
Food – Incline Village
We loved Austin’s for lunch and drinks. Their outdoor patio area is adorable and gave a calm ambiance to our first Tahoe meal. The tiny complimentary cornbread muffins were a hit at our table–especially with two teenage boys–so we ended up asking for more three times (they should really make those things larger!) and the waitress was happy to accommodate.
Mountain High Sandwich Co
Awesome sandwiches, cookies and salads. Ingredients are locally sourced and extremely fresh. There were plenty of vegan and vegetarian options for me, so I was stoked. Try the Harmony Wrap, the BBQ Tofu sandwich or the Turkey Salad sandwich.
A burger fan’s must stop. Char Pit is a local favorite restaurant for fast, cheap and delicious char-broiled burgers in Tahoe. Try some one of the many two-hand burgers available on the menu with a frothy milk shake on the side! Note: this place is busy and has little parking, so be prepared to either wait or get there early!
After a long day at the beach, it’s nice to just be able to order a pizza and sit on the couch. Mofo’s had awesome pizza at decent (for a resort town) prices, plus they definitely do not skimp on the toppings. Note they do not deliver, so during winter you may need 4WD to pick up your ‘za.
Tahoe was one of the most beautiful natural places I’ve ever seen, and I’m already itching to go back and do more hiking, kayaking and skiing. If you have any questions on planning your own Tahoe experience, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out more photos here: