Enjoying the great outdoors at Lake Tahoe

With stunning scenery and plenty of activities and adventures, Jane Wilson soaks up the great outdoors at Lake Tahoe, California

If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise….! I was unaware of a Cycling with Bears Tour in Lake Tahoe. A rustle amongst the woodland undergrowth and a dark shadow revealed itself as a large four-legged mass of fur, in the form of a bear. Sauntering slothly, it crossed the cycle path metres away from me and headed for the water near a little place called Pope. I watched in stillness and trepidation, my heartbeat at a heightened pace. Yet, in silent excitement, this was one experience I had dreamed of – seeing a bear – a real one –  and it was on my travel bucket list!

I was exploring Lake Tahoe, a destination on the border of California and Nevada and just a two-hour drive from Sacramento, the state capital. Lake Tahoe is the largest freshwater alpine lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in North America, and one of the purest in the world. Said to be over two million years old, this ancient lake is counted among the 20 oldest lakes in the world. About two-thirds of it lies in California, the remainder extending into Nevada. It measures 21.2 miles north to south and its width reaches 11.9 miles at its widest. And with a depth of 1,645 feet, Lake Tahoe is the second-deepest in the US and sits at the dizzy heights of 6,225 ft above sea level. Experts say it won’t freeze because of its depth but it’s advised to avoid a plunge as it is dangerously cold and can literally take your breath away.

Emerald Bay

Lake Tahoe is renowned for its beaches and ski resorts but for me the scenery was the top attraction. Emerald Bay is its crown jewel on the west shore which had me spellbound with its enriching colours shimmering in the sun, shades and tones dazzling on its surface, mirrored with mountain reflections. It was a stunning vista providing a water colour canvas in a palette of blues and greens which changed according to the water’s depth. This stunning oasis is best explored up close and personal. I chose a two-hour sightseeing cruise aboard The Tahoe Bleu Wave, a leisure boat complete with a bar, fireplace and private lounge, very comfortable.

Outdoor activities

Sailings departed from Tahoe Keys Marina which was also the departure point for those interested in kayaking. Here the kayaks are clear providing viewing of up to 75 feet below the surface. The guided tours navigate a path less travelled to experience hidden coves, towering cliffs fringing the shoreline, as well as the geological rock formations which display the history and origins of Lake Tahoe. Launched from a 46-foot platoon, tours also take place at night. The LED stargazing tour benefits from the moonlight on the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the stars above. Other activities included scenic hiking in Van Sickle Bi-State Park and mountain biking along trails snaking above the lake, overnight backpacking expeditions and snowshoe tours.

Emerald Bay State Park

Emerald Bay State Park is a national natural landmark, 12 miles north of the town of South Lake Tahoe. The park features Eagle Falls and is also the setting for one of the first summer homes built at Lake Tahoe. Vikingsholm, known as the hidden castle, is located at the head of Emerald Bay and is one of the most photographed spots in the United States. This attractive structure, now a national and California landmark, is considered one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture outside of the Nordic countries. The land on which Vikingsholm was built includes 232 acres of Tahoe’s most beautiful vistas and the only island in Lake Tahoe, Fannette Island, which was home to the owner’s teahouse. Vikingsholm can be reached by walking a one-mile trail or by boat and the home is open daily for tours in the summer months from June to September.

Heavenly Village

I stayed in South Lake Tahoe on the California side in the pedestrian-friendly Heavenly Village, a bustling place with restaurants, shops, bars, live outdoor music and even an axe-throwing venue. Here, it’s a 2.4 mile journey to Heavenly Mountain on the Heavenly Gondola, which runs almost year-round to enjoy the panoramic views of the Lake.

Where to stay

Margaritaville Lake Tahoe Resort is an all-suite, island-style hotel in South Lake Tahoe with five dining concepts restaurants .This 399 suite resort sits on the state line of the California/Nevada border and offers live music, an indoor pool and even a 13-foot iconic flip flop sculpture in the lobby painted emerald green to represent the lake.

Silver Travel Advisor can also offer advice and recommendations on a range of accommodation options in and around Lake Tahoe.

Where to eat

The Riva Grill is located in the Ski Run Marina with a large deck enjoying the backdrop of the Lake and the Sierra Mountains. Here they serve the famous Wet Woody, their signature frozen rum drink with peach schnapps, a winning cocktail with over three million sold and enjoyed.

Seen on screen

The natural beauty of Lake Tahoe’s dramatic views and sunsets, its mountain peaks and vast expanse of water have been captured on screen in many movies. These have included The Bodyguard, City of Angels, Top Gun Maverick, Carsen City and The Godfather.

Other creatures in Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe provided me with my first sighting of a bear amongst its pictorial cocktail of natural beauty. But there is a rumour of another creature – the Tahoe Tessie. Back in the 1800s, the Washoe and Paiute tribes believed this creature lived in the underwater tunnel beneath Cave Rock. Even today the Tahoe Tessie is still believed to exist and has become a popular icon so if you go down to the woods in Lake Tahoe, you are sure of a surprise!

Next steps

To plan and book your holiday to California and Lake Tahoe, call Silver Travel Advisor on 0800 412 5678. The team will be happy to build a bespoke itinerary including all travel elements such as flights, accommodation, car hire and activities, so you can simply enjoy the experience.


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Jane Wilson

Founder & editor of the Wellness Traveller

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