Travel Curator’s Lily Kot moved to San Francisco, post-graduation and she finally got to venture to Lake Tahoe, a place she’d longed to discover as a new skier and nature lover. Here she shares all the reasons Tahoe is worth traveling for along with her favorite things to do, see and experience at the stunning lake destination with the incredible peaks of the Sierra Nevada and Carson ranges as its backdrop.
Enjoy the Famous Lake (of course)
Just looking at Lake Tahoe is awe-inspiring. The largest alpine lake in North America reaching depths of 1,600 ft and straddling the state line between California and Nevada, the activity options are endless. Whether you visit in summer or winter, the water is still—mirroring the trees, rocks, and sky.
Take to the Water
You can stay in North Lake or South Lake, both equally beautiful, and come summer it’s all about water sports for all. Bring or rent your own paddleboard, kayak, or canoe. Try parasailing to get a bird’s eye view of the lake, charter a boat to fish for trout, or simply sit back and enjoy the scenery. At one of my favorite beaches, Kings Beach, you’ll find Tahoe Paddle & Oar, where you can rent a kayak and take a tour leading you through boulder mazes and learn about the history of the lake — especially fun for first-time visitors.
Tahoe covered in snow is a winter wonderland — and is a favorite US resort for skiers and snowboarding (both beginners and experts), snowshoeing, or tubing with friends. On one of my recent ski trips we headed to Palisades, which with few people on the mountain, is a playground for beginners as all of the greens and some easier blues are located on the front side of the mountain in one area. For an incredible on-piste adventure that straddles both California and Nevada, Heavenly is a great option. Take the gondola from Nevada up and over the mountain to Tamarack Lodge to enjoy never-ending trail options and warm up with some hot cocoa after.
The Hikes are Epic
Spring, Summer, or Fall, and even winter (if you’re willing to brave the cold), it really doesn’t matter, Tahoe is a year-round destination for hikers or bikers. Whether you’re looking for a rigorous trail or an easy jaunt around the lake, the views are next level. I recommend taking Spooner to Marlette Lake for a trail through aspen and pine trees or the more difficult Mount Tallac (9.5 miles round trip) where you can see Emerald Bay, Cascade Lake, and Desolation Wilderness. Emerald Bay is a must-see as Lake Tahoe’s crown jewel with its shimmering greens, turquoise, and blues set against a mountain backdrop. Head to Inspiration Point, a drive-up overlook, the perfect place to capture this dramatic landscape on film.
The Vibe is Laidback
When you get to Lake Tahoe, prepare to enter Tahoe Time. Here, the goal is to go off-grid and enjoy the outdoors, not rush from one destination to the next, so naturally, the locals are super chill and friendly. To get a taste of local Tahoe life, have breakfast at a family-owned cafe before hitting the mountain, or renting a kayak to take out on the lake, and enjoy how the locals always meet you with cheer and chat to share their insider recommendations. On my most recent trip, a friend and I ate breakfast at The Old Post Office Cafe (located in Carnelian Bay) at 7 am. The hostess welcomed us in and we chatted about our plans for the day as we indulged in a classic breakfast of eggs, potatoes, toast, and some of the most delicious coffee, even for caffeine-spoiled SF residents.
The Food is Fab
Savor the Sierra at some of Tahoe’s best restaurants; South Lake Brewing Co. has a yummy line-up of taps which you can sample in the beer garden, front patio, or indoor tasting room. For great Mexican food, head to Lupita’s, and for pub fare, try Brooks Bar & Deck at Edgewood Tahoe Resort. If you’re in North Lake, head to River Ranch Lodge & Restaurant perched on the banks of Truckee River, for a delicious meal and warm, buzzy atmosphere. Over the holidays, the hotel was decorated to enhance its cozy alpine lodge vibes with twinkling lights and a tree. It’s also an equally popular spot in the summer as it’s located right at the exit spot for those tubing or rafting down the river.
Stay in a Luxury Airbnb
While there’s no shortage of luxury hotels in Lake Tahoe, we’re also fans of renting a cozy Airbnb for a winter getaway that feels like a home away from home with a roaring fireplace, warm lodge decor, and ski-in, ski-out access. For my next trip, I’m eyeing off this cozy chalet, aka Tahoe Solitude, that houses six guests, has a gas fireplace, deck overlooking the forest, and is slightly secluded from the village for a retreat-style escape. I’ll let you know how it goes.