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Lake Tahoe area, California

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Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know … ?

  • Lake Tahoe is North America’s largest alpine lake, with a surface area of 193 square miles.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation controls the top 6.1 feet of Lake Tahoe as a reservoir.
  • Below 600 feet and during winter, the Lake Tahoe’s water remains a constant 39 F.
  • Lake Tahoe contains enough water to cover the state of California to a depth of 14.5 inches.
  • Daily evaporation at Lake Tahoe is 1.4 million tons of water, enough to provide for 3.5 million people.

99.7% pure

Lake Tahoe seems to have been made to please the eye while providing recreational opportunities for vacationers with the widest of interests.

First, the water: It is 99.7% pure, essentially equivalent to distilled water. It’s so clear that a white plate is visible at 78 feet below the surface. The lake is more than 6,000 feet above sea level so water temperatures are crisp, rising to about 68 F in summer.

Second, the scenery: The lake is surrounded by pine forest-covered Sierra Nevada mountains, with peaks that rise to nearly 11,000 feet above sea level. The highest peak to emerge straight from the water’s edge is Mount Tallac at 9,735 feet.

Third, the geography: Lake Tahoe straddles the California-Nevada border with about two-thirds in Northern California. It is about a two hours’ drive from San Francisco and an hour from Reno in Nevada.

And now, the tourism: Among the area attractions in California, perhaps the best known — or the first to be well known — is the Squaw Valley Ski Resort because it was host to the 1960 Winter Olympics. Besides its ski runs, Squaw Valley offers wintry activities ranging from dogsledding to ice skating and sleigh rides. It also hosts a number of annual festivals, such as a late-winter music and beer fest, a springtime crafts fair and a summertime doggie fest, called Peaks and Paws.

Squaw Valley got famous fast, but it’s only one among more than 20 downhill and cross-country ski centers scattered around the lake, each with its own menu of services and activities. Besides, the mountains in summer invite visitors to hit other trails, on bikes or in hiking boots.

Meanwhile, the lake — the shimmering centerpiece — is an established place for the predictable diversions, kayaking, sailing, sightseeing cruises, swimming, wakeboarding, waterskiing, plus any services that area resorts may provide including fine dining, golf and spa treatments.

In addition, stand-up paddle boarding is big here. Paddle board races are at the heart of a festival at Kings Beach. But, nowadays, doing yoga on a stand-up paddle board is something of a rage around Tahoe. Never fear. Novices can take lessons.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Rather than skip your yoga sessions, plan to meditate on a stand-up paddle board. This could produce some unexpected swimming.
  • There are scores of mountain biking trails around or near the lake. Choose for your skill level. Tahoe’s most technical trails are as much as 8,740 feet above sea level.
  • Compete at Tough Mudder in June in Northstar. The point is to finish a challenging course of mud-drenched obstacles, not to beat others. Competitors can participate as individuals or teams and can use participation to raise money for charity.
  • The Alpenglow Mountain Festival in Tahoe City is the place to get serious about mountain sports. Attend clinics, see equipment demos and more. The event is staged each winter and summer.
  • Participate in the Gar Woods Polar Bear Swim (250 yards), held each year in late winter as part of the Tahoe City SnowFest.
  • Or, choose summer’s Ta-Hoe Nalu Paddle Festival at Kings Beach and enter one of the stand-up paddle board races.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Ski and paddle a kayak on the same day. Or, make that waterskiing and snow skiing on the same day.
  • Sample Tahoe area craft beers, taking your cue from the North Lake Tahoe Ale Trail. The route and stopping points vary depending on mode of transport — mountain bike, road bike, stand-up paddle board or your own feet.
  • Try the aerial fabric method for a body workout. This involves climbing and wrapping your body in the silks, taking your workout into the air.
  • Put the Northstar Beerfest and Bluegrass Festival, held at midsummer, on your travel calendar. Or, at the opposite end of the year, make that the WinterWonderGrass Tahoe at Squaw Valley, a music and beer festival, which also offers bluegrass — plus spirits other than beer.
  • Take advantage of the area’s ski resorts. Choose the Squaw Valley resort if you are into extreme skiing. Regardless, book the Squaw Valley Dawn Patrol program, for exclusive early-morning access to untouched trails. And, try the dogsledding at Squaw Valley.
  • In summer, revel in the array of boats on display at the South Tahoe Wooden Boat Classic, a gathering of more than 65 wooden antique and classic boats at the Tahoe Keys Marina and Yacht Club.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Do your cross-country skiing at Royal Gorge, the largest cross-country resort in America.
  • Take in the scenery with the extra benefit of fall colors by driving the area in autumn. And/or take a scenic sightseeing cruise on Lake Tahoe.
  • Some winter options include sleigh rides, snowshoeing and old-fashioned sledding down a hillside.
  • Play golf within full view of the sparkling lake and its surrounding mountains.
  • Attend the Made in Tahoe Festival, held over Memorial Day at the Village at Squaw Valley. The events features local beers as well as crafts. Alternatively, choose the late-summer Sample the Sierra in South Lake Tahoe, a farm-to-fork festival, celebrating local produce, wines and brews, as well as local crafts and other products.
  • Schedule a spa treatment at your ski resort. Or, soak in the geothermally heated pools of Grover Hot Springs State Park.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Lake Tahoe Visitor Bureaus at the portal for two official Lake Tahoe sites.