Lake Tahoe is vast—it’s larger than any other lake in the United States after the five Great Lakes, and its crystalline waters cover ground in both California and Nevada. But planning a trip there doesn’t have to be complicated: TripAdvisor is your one-stop source for finding and booking a wide variety of activities and accommodations in the area. Here’s how we suggest spending a weekend in and around North Lake Tahoe:
Where to Stay
Adventure junkies love Basecamp Tahoe City, a renovated motel-turned-boutique hotel with a youthful vibe, repurposed wood décor, and communal fire pits. A TripAdvisor traveler offers this tip “If you flip over the coaster in your room to indicate that you don’t need your sheets and towels cleaned, the maids will leave you a token for a free drink at the bar.”
The Hyatt Regency, in the quiet town of Incline Village, has a private beach with a variety of water sports rentals, as well as a casino, spa, kids’ club, heated pool, and the aforementioned Lone Eagle Grill. Like the restaurant, the hotel is large but doesn’t make you feel anonymous.
Perched among the ski runs north of the lake like a turreted and many-gabled castle, the Ritz-Carlton offers the flattering service and high-quality finishes one expects from this brand. A large octagonal stone fireplace serves as the focal point of the lobby, full of cozy spots to sit and enjoy the view of the mountains.
Start the morning with breakfast at the Fire Sign Café, a family-run place on the western shore of the lake in Tahoe City. They don’t take reservations, and they’re popular so come early, and play a few games in their coffee shop next door until your table is ready.
To fully appreciate Lake Tahoe’s size, you have to see it from the air—which you can do on a helicopter tour out of South Lake Tahoe Airport, about an hour from Tahoe City. Swoop down over Emerald Bay, fly above the waterfalls near the lake’s southern shore, or get a sneak peek at gorgeous Sand Harbor (which you’ll visit tomorrow) on your 30- to 45-minute flight.
Then it’s time to hit the trails. Remember that you’re at high altitude—the lake’s elevation is 6,225 feet—so take it slow, and carry plenty of water. For a very short (a third of a mile each way) but steep hike that ends with one of the most rewarding of views, backtrack north toward Tahoe City on Highway 89 to Eagle Rock; you can’t miss the “beak” of the eagle extending out over the road from a sheer cliff near the shoulder. More ambitious hikers can tackle the ten-and-a-half-mile round-trip to the summit of Mt. Rose, another spot with spectacular vistas.
If you want to eat lunch on the trail, pick up some provisions before heading out at Tahoe Central Market. For a casual post-workout meal, we recommend either Moe’s Original BBQ, right on the lake in Tahoe City, or the Char Pit, a classic burger joint in Kings Beach.
Spend the afternoon strolling around Tahoe City, poking into the outdoor-gear shops and clothing boutiques while enjoying views of the lake. Stop in at Uncorked, a wine bar and bottle shop, for a blind tasting: If you guess three pours correctly, your fourth is free. Soon enough, it’ll be time for dinner at Wolfdale’s, which blends Asian and European flavors in dishes such as buffalo short ribs and Alaskan halibut with wasabi cream.
Grab a juice or smoothie from Tahoe Central Market before heading south to Sand Harbor, one of the lake’s most beautiful beaches; the shore here is dotted with granite boulders, some as small as a camp chair and others as large as a truck, all perfect for sitting on and gazing into the lake’s clear waters. Tahoe City Kayak will meet you here for a guided four-hour tour by water of the area’s secluded beaches and coves, one of which will be a lunch stop. (TCK also offers kayak tours and stand-up paddleboard lessons from Tahoe City, on the other side of the lake.)
This afternoon, make your way to the Tahoe Treetop Adventure Park for a high-adrenaline ropes course that strings together zip lines and wobbly bridges in the trees. With a variety of options, some way up in the evergreens, you’re sure to be pushed outside your comfort zone.
If you prefer to calm those nerves rather than frazzling them, get a massage at the Ritz-Carlton’s spa; after your treatment, you’ll have full use of the sauna, steam room, whirlpool, outdoor pool, and cozy lounge for as long as you like.
Tonight, book your lakefront table (or, in warmer months, a spot on the patio) at the Lone Eagle Grill for an hour before sunset; that way, you’ll enjoy the full effect of daytime, when the water varies in color from a light sea-glass shade near the shore to a deep ultramarine farther out, and of sunset, when the sky and water light up in purples and pinks to frame the mountains to your west. Save room for the “Baked Tahoe” dessert, a delicious confection of buckwheat brownie, toffee ice cream, and sweet meringue that is spiked and torched to look like a pinecone.