If you haven’t been to Lake Tahoe before, you’re going to wonder what took you so long. With an average depth of 1600 ft, and stunningly blue, it is the 2nd deepest lake in North America and certainly one of the prettiest.
Lake Tahoe sits high in the Sierras at 6225 ft, surrounded by a ring of impressive mountains, numerous meadows and endless pine trees. A paradise for hikers, the region is also a multi-sport dream. The mountains are threaded with trails along streams, to higher alpine lakes or to panoramic peaks for 360 degree views. Relax with a beach day on one of the sunny lake shores. Rent a bike and try out one of the world-class mountain biking trails or spend a leisurely day along a lakeside trail. Rent paddleboards for a day on the water, or treat yourself to a sailboat cruise along the lake. A week is not enough to experience it all.
Straddling California and Nevada, it is easily accessible from both Sacramento (2 hrs) and Reno (30 minutes). Fly in, rent a car, and you will be breathing the fresh woodsy air high in the mountains. We like to start in the delightful little town of Truckee. Just off the lake, Truckee has great restaurants and shops and a fun bohemian vibe. Our home here is the gorgeous Cedar House Lodge, a true hiker’s home base, where Jeff and Patty Baird are your eager, friendly hosts. They will greet you with a welcome dinner and answers to any questions you have about the area.
Truckee is not on the lake, but everything is close, and each day you’ll have a variety of great hikes to choose from. After 3 beautiful days and nights in Truckee, you’ll transfer down to South Lake Tahoe, where you stay at the Landing, an exquisite lakeside hotel that is close to numerous great hikes on this side of the lake.
Options abound. If you’d like a longer or shorter stay, we can arrange that. You can also stay all 6 nights in Truckee as an affordable, welcoming homebase for the whole region.
Truckee – Arrive in Reno or Sacramento, rent a car, and drive to Truckee, 45 minutes from Reno or 2 hrs from Sacramento, and settle into your beautiful hotel. If you arrive early enough, start your trip with a leisurely walk or bike ride along the Truckee River Legacy Trail. The trail starts ¼ mile from your hotel and quickly brings you to peaceful meadows along Lake Tahoe’s only outflowing river. The trail is 6 miles out-and-back, but go as far as you like.
You might have a chance to check out the town or enjoy the wonderful outdoor spa before settling in for the night. Your tour includes a trip orientation with Patty from Cedar House and a delicious dinner at their Stella restaurant.
Truckee – For your first full day, make the approximately 30 minute drive along the North Shore of Lake Tahoe to the Nevada side of the lake and hike along the East Shore Trail, an easy 3 mile walk, to picnic and relax at Sand Harbor. You can rent kayaks or paddleboards at Sand Harbor and get out onto the water. Head down to Secret Beach for turquoise blue waters in a nice hidden cove.
If you’d like a more strenuous day, the Tunnel Creek trail rises from the same parking area, quickly getting to beautiful views of the lake on a quiet trail amid pines and boulders. Stop at the Tunnel Creek cafe for coffee or a drink, and be sure to leave time for shopping and exploring the main strip in Truckee when you return, which is filled with various craft, clothing, and sweet shops. Dinner will be on your own tonight, and there are many options in Truckee.
Truckee – Today you’ll hike closer to the Truckee area, starting with a 20 minute drive to Alpine Meadows for the Five Lakes Trail. There’s plenty of parking along the road for this relatively moderate hike up to, you guessed it, five beautiful alpine lakes in what is known as the Granite Chief Wilderness. The trail starts uphill through the pines, swings through an open granite region, and reaches the deliciously lush lakes in just 2 miles, 1000 ft uphill.
There are loop trails to explore, with pines and fir and huge granite boulders all around, and the lakes are perfect for cooling off in the clear water. A longer day can be made by continuing along the PCT to Squaw Valley, but for most, exploring the region and returning the way you came is just fine. Dinner will be on your own. If you happen to be in Truckee on a Thursday night, be sure to explore their summer street festival downtown.
South Lake Tahoe – It’s time to say good-bye to Truckee and head to South Tahoe, where you’ll stay at the luxurious lakeside Landing Tahoe Resort and Spa. The drive is just over an hour along the west side of the lake and includes many jaw-dropping views enroute (try to keep your eyes on the road).
Along the way, stop at DL Bliss State Park to hike the easy 6.5 mile out-and-back Rubicon Trail to Vikingsholm Castle in Emerald Bay. Parking in the park is $10 and fills up by mid-morning, so leave early if you are planning to stop here. The trail runs along the lake for its entirety and views are spectacular throughout. There are also many places to stop and swim along the way, or just relax near the water. Vikingsholm is a beautiful castle-like home built in 1929 and is one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the United States. It is open for tours in the summer.
Continue on to your hotel on the southeast shore of Lake Tahoe, just steps from the Nevada border. The Heavenly gondola also makes a fine afternoon activity from town. Lunch and dinner are on your own today.
South Lake Tahoe – A spectacular day awaits as you hike from Fallen Leaf Lake up to Lake Aloha today. The Glen Alpine trailhead, is a 35 minute drive from your hotel with free (limited) parking at the end of Fallen Leaf Rd at Lily Lake.
The Glen Alpine Trail takes you into the Desolation Wilderness with many beautiful waterfalls, lakes and mountains. Aloha Lake is particularly striking, a high (over 8000’) shallow lake dotted with islands and surrounded by stark granite slopes. The hike is 9 miles out and back. Dinner is on your own tonight and there are many great options in South Lake Tahoe.
South Lake Tahoe – Perhaps saving the best for last, today is a big hike up to Mt Tallac, one of the most striking peaks in the region that offers unparalleled views. Drive 35 minutes to the Mt. Tallac trailhead off of Mt. Tallac Rd. You’ll be hiking up the Floating Island Trail, approximately 10 miles out-and-back with 3000 ft elevation gain. You visit numerous gorgeous lakes along the way and earn stunning views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding area. This is a big summit day – and perfect to end the trip.
You might consider a sunset dinner cruise on the MS Dixie or Tahoe Queen for a final dinner (not included), or relax with an elegant dinner at the Landing’s Jimmy restaurant while dreaming of your next trip!
Depart – When you’re ready to leave, Reno is approximately 1 hour from South Tahoe, Sacramento 2 hours via Hwy 50.