Filled with over 39 trillion gallons of pure Sierra snowmelt and pushed a mile into the Californian and Nevada skies, Lake Tahoe is the USA’s largest alpine lake, and one of the country’s oldest, year-round vacation playgrounds.
Lake Tahoe has forever drawn travellers toits shores, from the Native Americans who call this placeBig Water, to the trappers, timber cutters and pioneerswho followed.
In the 1870s, an awestruck Mark Twain wrote, “to breathe the same air as angels, youmust go to Tahoe”.
By the time the 20th century rolled ‘round, lodges, taverns and casinos had sprung upall around Tahoe’s shoreline catering to legions of weary city folk, keen to experience that heavenly air for themselves.
When you’re ready for a little alpine magic, take the four-hour drive from San Francisco to the sunlit shores of Kings Beach.
Set on Tahoe’s northern end, this beach was named after local card shark, Joe King, who used his winnings to develop some of thelake’s earliest lodgings.
On the lake’s southern shore, is Pope Beach, where you’ll find another Tahoe institution.
At historic Camp Richardson, generations of families return year afteryear to create life-long vacation memories under the towering pines.
From Pope Beach, saddle up, and follow the bike path to the Taylor CreekVisitor Center.
An open-air classroom for the entire family, the center features fabulous interpretativewalks, such as the Rainbow Trail.
This wetland loop even features an undergroundchamber, giving visitors a unique salmon-eye view ofthis incredible environment.
Once you’ve warmed up your legs at Taylor Creek, take in the majesty of the surrounding stateparks.
Nearby, at DL Bliss State Park, follow the spectacular Rubicon Trail, which runs high above Tahoe’s deepest waters and dips down to quiet, secluded coves.
The six and a half-mile trail twists throughforests of aspen, cedar and mountain dogwood, …past the country’s highest lighthouse, before crossing into neighboring Emerald BayState Park.
This park is home to the Eagle Falls Trail, a moderate two-mile hike that takes in someof the Sierra high country’s finest views.
Down by the shore, visit Tahoe’s hidden castle.
Inspired by the legends and architecture ofScandinavia, in 1929, heiress Lora J.
Knight, brought in an army of 200 craftsmen to buildthis 38-room summer home from the lake’s timber and stone.
Today, Vikingsholm is cared for by the SierraState Parks Foundation, and operates as a museum and fairy-tale windowinto Tahoe’s past.
Emerald Bay is also home to the lake’s onlyisland, once the abode of another local character, Captain Dick, who delighted in showing visitors a woodenbox containing, his toes.
The old sea dog lost his toes to frostbiteafter capsizing his boat one dark winter night, on a long row home from a far-off tavern.
These days, Tahoe’s 72-mile ring road makesgetting around the lake far less perilous.
And even if you’re not up to paddling or hiking, you can still enjoy the breathtaking vistasfrom its many roadside stops, like Inspiration Point.
Just 10-miles east of Emerald Bay is the lake’slargest town, South Lake Tahoe.
Hang out on the beaches, enjoy the creature comforts, then rise above it all on Heavenly Mountain, a world-class ski resort in winter, and adventure playground throughout the summer months.
Lake Tahoe is a place of ever-shifting moods.
When you’re ready to experience this raw beauty, take a drive up the eastern shoreline, which is wilder and less developed than herother shores.
When the ponderosa pines bend with the season’sfirst snow, Tahoe transforms into a winter wonderland.
Towns like Tahoe City and nearby Truckee become the perfect snow-bound escapes, while the lake’s ski resorts turn Tahoeinto the nation’s favorite winter playground.
As far back as 1856, mountain men like Snowshoe Thompson were traversing these slopes on wooden skis, but it was the Winter Olympics that reallyput Tahoe’s runs on the map.
In 1960, skeptical teams and officials from30 countries descended on a fledgling resort called Squaw Valley, and they were soon won over.
In the decades since, over 20 world-classdownhill and cross country resorts have opened, taking advantage of the region’s 300 daysof sunshine per year, 450 inches of annual snowfall, and that incredible Tahoe scenery.
Whether you’re looking for snow-capped peaksor crystal clear coves, places to bond with loved ones or pocketsof pure solitude, The Lake in the Sky, has it all.
As naturalist John Muir wrote over a century ago, “Tahoe is surely not one, but many, …I am reminded of all the mountain lakesI ever knew, as if this were a kind of water heaven to which they all had come.