Visiting Three Sides of Lake Tahoe

Three perfect days on three shores

This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition with the headline: “Tahoe Trifecta”

Author: Kirsten Jones Neff

Whether you explore Lake Tahoe by boat, hike to the highest peak, paddle into a secret cove or mountain-bike down a sandy incline, the views will surely take your breath away. Of course, there are those wonderful lazy Tahoe days when it is enough to relax on the deck, sipping ice tea and staring out into the deep blue bliss of the lake, but it is hard to stay put for long when natural wonders and adventures await in every direction. Tahoe is a land of possibility; whatever your age or preferred activities, there are beaches and boat rides, massages and mountaintops, trails and treasures to be found. Below are three suggested itineraries — Tahoe summer days tailored to your heart’s desire, depending on whether you are searching for restorative quiet, vigorous activity or playful family time. On the northern beach at Sand Harbor you will find several rental outfits. You can rent SUPs and kayaks at Sand Harbor Rentals, Jet Skis at Sand Harbor Water Sports, and even jet boots at Tahoe Jetovator. Bring your goggles and swim and boulder along the shore, exploring sandy coves north and south of the park.

Stand Up Paddle Boarding Lake Tahoe wedding group activities

For dinner, make a reservation and enjoy lakeside views at the Lone Eagle Grill at the Hyatt or head up the mountainside for stunning panoramas from the Big Water Grille. Or if you just want to grab some grub on your way home from the beach, stop by T’s Mesquite Rotisserie in Incline or the Char Pit in King’s Beach, a classic old-time joint serving burgers, fries and shakes.

 

East Shore: Outdoor Adventure

Hoping for one of those days where you leave it all on the trail? Whether you prefer to hike or bike, Nevada’s Incline Village and East Shore offer excellent opportunities to utterly exhaust yourself as you soak up the sights. If you’re a mountain biker, Flume Trail Bikes is the place to start. Bring your own bike or let the staff set you up with a bike and all the gear you’ll need. The shop offers shuttles for two exhilarating rides — the Flume Trail from Spooner Lake or, on even-number days of the month, the Tahoe Rim Trail from Tahoe Meadows.

Both are one-way rides, and you’ll get your climbing in on either one, as well as some technical downhill. Both routes bring you back to Flume Trail Bikes at the base of the mountain. If you prefer to travel on foot, you can head straight up Tunnel Creek Trail. It’s steep, which is exactly why you’ll be rewarded with some of the most dramatic views of Lake Tahoe available. Whether you’ve biked or hiked, when you finish you’ll be hungry, so stop by Tunnel Creek Cafe next door to the bike shop, where delicious salads and grilled sandwiches are the order of the day, along with an array of craft beer on tap.

After lunch, cool down with some lake time at nearby Sand Harbor. It is best to take the East Shore Express shuttle, which runs every 20 minutes from Incline, so you can skip the challenge of parking in the popular state park.

 

North Shore: Peace and Pleasure

Daybreak is Tahoe’s most serene time of day, and there is nothing quite as calming as an early morning kayak or stand-up paddleboard ride, silently breaking the smooth surface of the crystal-clear water, then peering down to see massive boulders resting on the sandy lake floor below. Several North Lake spots rent both kayaks and SUPs, and Waterman’s Landing in Carnelian Bay also rents outrigger canoes. There you will find the Waterman’s Landing Cafe for those who want to caffeinate before heading out. Tahoe Adventure Company in Tahoe Vista also offers rentals, as does Tahoe Paddle and Oar, in Kings Beach.

If you prefer to start your day on land, get your vinyasa fix at The Yoga Room in Tahoe City. Or to bring your yoga practice to the water, try paddleboard yoga through Mountain Lotus Yoga.

For brunch or lunch, Tahoe House Bakery and Cafe in Tahoe City makes sandwiches with fresh-baked bread and has a reputation for the best European-style coffee in the area. For lunch to go, swing by the tucked-away local favorite Sugar Pine Cakery and Cafe in Lake Forest — a great place for gluten-free treats — and take your feast and good vibes into the woods.

At the nearby North Tahoe Cross Country Center you can hike or rent mountain bikes to explore the woods on some of the 45 miles of Tahoe’s most popular trails, including several dog-friendly routes. The rental center provides maps of the well-marked trails. After hiking or biking, get back on track with your rest and recovery regimen at Massage on the Lake in Tahoe City, where the bodywork therapists are “amazing,” according to locals in the know.

Mountain Biking Lake Tahoe wedding group activities

For a perfect finale to a peaceful day, book an evening cruise with Stellar Tahoe out of Carnelian Bay. Owners and charter hosts Matt and Bethany Lund, who offer a variety of set and custom tours, know every nook and cranny of the lake, as well as the most majestic views. Chambers Landing Bar, home of the famous Chambers Punch, is a favorite sunset stop to make before heading home under the rising moon.

 

West Shore: Family Fun

The West Shore is a giant playground for family fun. Start your day just two miles south of Tahoe City at the Fire Sign Cafe, a longtime local favorite for breakfast scrambles and omelets.

After breakfast, you may need a round of roshambo to decide where to go next: rent rubber boats and tubes at Truckee River Raft Company or Truckee River Rafting, to float down the Truckee River? Visit the Granlibakken Resort treetop adventure ropes course? Or head to High Sierra Waterski School, with locations in both Sunnyside and Homewood, where the family can rent an array of waterborne vehicles, or sign up for waterski, wakeboard or wake surf lessons?

If you are a hiking family, try the Stanford Rock Trail, which starts in Sunnyside, a recently reworked route with abundant wildflowers and waterfalls (depending on the time of year) and lake views from the top. This is a rigorous climb (11.4 miles and 1,900 feet of elevation gain) if you do the whole loop, but is easy to adjust for an out-and-back.

For lunch the West Shore Cafe in Homewood has lovely lakeside tables. Another option is to stop by Obexer’s General Store, grab deli sandwiches and head to D.L. Bliss State Park. There you can swim and explore coves or hike south on the Rubicon Trail toward Emerald Bay. This trail, which takes you along the cliffs above the lake and offers some of the best hiking views of Tahoe, is long (6 miles each way) but can also be adjusted for a shorter out-and-back.

Wrap up the fun at Sunnyside, a West Shore lodge with two restaurants — the Mountain Grill (where the music never disappoints) or the Lakeside Dining Room. The lodge is popular with visitors and locals, so reservations are a must.

Lake Tahoe Winter Activities for Your Wedding Guests

Keeping your guests entertained is not something you’ll have to worry about when planning your winter wedding at Lake Tahoe. No matter what they are into or what the weather is – there are always plenty of activities on the docket around the Lake. From skiing to more “insider” events, here is your guide to giving your guests the best Tahoe experience in the colder months.

 

World Class Skiing and Snowboarding

Guests can take their pick of eight ski resorts in the North Lake Tahoe region. A Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows lift ticket gives access to over 6,000 acres of terrain across two resorts. Ski both in one day by taking the shuttles that run the six miles between them. Other options include Tahoe Engaged Member Northstar California, where you can cozy up next to a fire pit in the Village, and Homewood Mountain Resort, offering some of the best views of the Lake from the top.

skiing at Homewood Lake Tahoe wedding

 

Ice Skating

Nothing says winter quite like leisurely laps around an ice skating rink. The Northstar California skating rink, in the Northstar Village, is free to the public. Skate rentals are available. Perfect for the whole family, the rink is lined with outdoor fire pits. Free smores are served daily at 4 pm. Your guests can enjoy a hot cocktail by the fire while their kiddos roast gooey, chocolatey, marshmallows.

Northstar Village ice skating Lake Tahoe wedding

 

Snowmobiling Tours

Check out the Tahoe Forest backcountry with a snowmobiling tour. Tours accommodate beginners through the more adventurous. Lake Tahoe Snowmobiling offers tours through the wilderness, on groomed trails, in open meadows, and up the mountain where your guests can experience stunning views of Lake Tahoe.

Snowmobiling Lake Tahoe wedding activity

 

Sleigh Rides

Get romantic on a horse-drawn sleigh ride. All ages are welcome to experience a jaunt through the pines in an old-fashioned sleigh. Your guests will listen to their guide tell stories and they will have the opportunity to take unique photographs that will last them a lifetime.

sleigh rides at Sand Harbor Lake Tahoe wedding

 

Brewery Tours

For your craft beer enthusiasts or for those just wanting to get out of the cold, encourage your guests to check out North Lake’s burgeoning beer scene. Book through Tahoe Brew Tours so everyone can imbibe and not worry about driving the winter roads. Tours take guests to FiftyFifty Brewing Company, Alibi Ale Works, and Tahoe Mountain Brewing.

craft beer tours Lake Tahoe wedding

 

This is only a snippet of activities that are available for your guests. Tahoe also boasts an abundance of seasonal festivals, live music performances, and other fun events that happen along the North Shore. The North Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce and the Truckee Chamber of Commerce both offer an extensive calendar of events.  Whatever wintertime activities your guests choose to partake in, they will be left with warm memories of your destination wedding.

Group Bike Rides for Your Tahoe Destination Wedding

It’s no secret that many wedding couples have their destination weddings in Lake Tahoe so that guests can partake in experiential outdoor activities.  A bike “Tour de Tahoe” is a great way for your guests to take pleasure in the region’s scenic beauty, and there are many biking options available.

One of the safest – and one of our favorite – places to cycle is a paved bike path that runs for about 10 miles from Tahoe City along the West Shore to Sugar Pine Point State Park.  You can rent bikes at the Olympic Bike Shop or Willard’s Sport Shop, then enjoy the happy trails and beautiful views.

Bike Path Sugar Pine Point State ParkBike Path West Shore Lake TahoePhoto Credit: Laura Allen, TahoeLauraLuxuryHomes.com

 

Another great paved trail goes from Squaw Valley along the Truckee River to Tahoe City, a distance of about 7 miles.  Bike rentals are available from Parallel Mountain Sports and Mountain Mike’s Sports.

Squaw Valley bike pathTruckee River bike pathRight now, there is major road construction as you reach Tahoe City, so the trail may be closed occasionally at this location.  Otherwise, this Truckee River Trail connects with the West Shore Trail described above. So if you have a whole day available for bicycling, you can ride all the way from Squaw Valley to Sugar Pine Point State Park and back. The total round-trip distance is 34 miles.

If your group is staying in the town of Truckee, there is another paved trail along the Truckee River that’s worth cycling – the Legacy Trail. Rent a bicycle from Bike Truckee in the Historic District, and ask for directions to the trailhead.

Legacy Trail biking Truckee River Lake Tahoe

 

Perhaps your group wants something more adventurous than a paved path.  If so, there are many miles of mountain biking trails in the North Lake Tahoe region.  Our all-time favorite is the Flume Trail on the Nevada side of the lake.  If you rent from Flume Trail Bikes, you can be shuttled for no additional charge to Spooner Lake, where this epic 14-mile journey begins. 

From Spooner Lake, the trail starts with a climb of over 1,000 feet before it descends to Marlette Lake.  If your wedding is in the Fall, the aspen trees will put on a spectacular display of color.

Fall Color Marlette Lake near Lake TahoeAfter a mile-long ride along the shore of Marlette Lake, the Flume Trail begins.  The views of Lake Tahoe are absolutely jaw-dropping! 

Flume Trail with Lake Tahoe viewsFlume Trail above Lake TahoeBut there are many places along the Flume Trail where it is essential to keep your eyes on the trail, for safety’s sake.
Bicycle the Flume Trail Lake Tahoe

So if you want to take in the stunning vistas, look for a safe place to stop, then look to your heart’s content.

Finally, think “safety” if you’re cycling on a road with motor vehicles.   Our thanks to Curtis Fong, CEO of Bike the West, for providing these “Rules of The Road”:

  1. Keep your bike as far to the right of the road as possible to allow for vehicles to pass.
  2. If emergency vehicles are coming, pull off to the side of the road and stop.
  3. Ride single file except to pass.
  4. When passing anther cyclist, call out “passing on your left.”
  5. Stop signs and stop lights apply to bikes, too.
  6. Yield to pedestrians crossing the road. If you need to cross the road, make sure cars have come to a stop before proceeding.
  7. Make proper hand signals when turning.

May your path to wedded bliss include a beautiful bike ride in North Lake Tahoe!

Couple on bike - Hoffer PhotographyPhoto:  Hoffer Photography