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.

For a Rustic Lake Tahoe Wedding, Truckee Rocks

Just 12 miles north of Lake Tahoe, the quaint town of Truckee is steeped in history, channeling the old gunslingers of the past. Truckee gives off a rustic, historical vibe – perfect for a mountain destination wedding. There, you will find several wedding locations that are beautiful, intimate, and off the beaten nuptial path.


The Truckee River Regional Park

Spanning 62 acres, the Truckee River Regional Park offers a large outdoor amphitheater where guests can lounge on blankets on the green lawn while the couple says their vows. For a more intimate gathering, head to the lower area and treat your guests to a ceremony right on the Truckee River’s edge.  The park is located on Brockway Road and is walking distance from downtown Truckee and nearby hotels, including the Cedar House Sport Hotel and Best Western.

Tahoe Wedding at Truckee River Regional ParkPhoto: Just West Co.

 

The Truckee River Winery

Truckee’s only winery, dubbing itself as the “highest and coldest”, is available for events on its outdoor lawn. With bocce courts and BBQs, the Truckee River Winery treats your guests to down-home time paired with some of the best wine in the Sierra Nevadas. The twinkle lights that make the evening shine only add to the already magical experience of holding your wedding at a winery.

Lake Tahoe Wedding at Truckee River Winery

 

Donner Lake

Head to the west end of Donner Lake and recite your vows at the West End Beach Pavilion. As the largest beach in Truckee, the sand, grass, and picnic areas span 10 acres. The breathtaking views of the mountains and the clear waters of Donner Lake make any ceremony unforgettable for all attendants. The pavilion can be rented out for weddings with parking included. There are plenty of house rentals sprinkled along the lake, allowing your guests a true Alpine lake experience.

Tahoe Wedding at West End Beach Donner LakePhoto:  Nina · Photography 

 

The Clair Tappaan Lodge

Far above Donner Lake near the Sugar Bowl ski resort, the Clair Tappaan Lodge is an ideal venue for a rustic mountain wedding. Tucked in a forest of towering pines, the lodge is equipped to accommodate up to 145 overnight guests. Affordable wedding packages include your own staff and a personal chef. What could be more romantic than twinkle lights strung throughout the woods as you tie the knot with your beloved?  

Tahoe Wedding at Clair Tappaan LodgePhoto: Light the Moment

 

Alder Creek Adventure Center

Spectacular in winter or summer, the Alder Creek Adventure Center in Tahoe Donner offers affordable wedding packages for small and large groups. Guests have the opportunity to enjoy horseback riding, mountain biking, or hiking in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter. The mountainous fireplace and monumental windows will give your wedding a truly rustic experience without sacrificing luxury. Tahoe Donner offers many options for home rentals for your guests, so nobody will have to drive too far.

Truckee Wedding Venue Alder Creek Adventure Center Tahoe DonnerPhoto:  Bill Stevenson Photography

 

Besides these lesser-known venues, Truckee is home to hotels, golf courses and ski resorts that offer a variety of wonderful wedding options. Whether you end up choosing a larger venue or one of these smaller intimate sites, you can be sure that your guests will have an experience that they’ll remember for years to come.

Picturesque Proposals

Top Tahoe Places to Pop the Question

You’re ready to propose to the love of your life!  Congratulations!!  Now the big decision is… where to pop the question?  If you’ve decided on getting down on one knee in the Lake Tahoe area, we have some great setting ideas for you.

You can’t really go wrong anywhere in the Lake Tahoe basin, with its spectacular beaches, pine tree forests, clear blue waters, and towering mountaintops.  Here are some ideas you might not have thought of:

Lake Tahoe Sunset Cruise

Lake Tahoe is North Americas largest alpine lake.  Make your proposal memorable by chartering a sunset cruise on one of Tahoe’s many sailing charters.  Let the captain do the work as you cruise along the cobalt waters in romantic bliss.  Bring along some fine cheese and a bottle of your favorite champagne to make the moment complete. 

Proposal on Yacht

 

Sand Harbor Beach

More of an active couple?  Make your way to Sand Harbor Beach, located just south of Incline Village.  One of the most picturesque beaches in Tahoe, Sand Harbor is home to crystal-clear lake water, awe-inspiring rock formations, and stretches of soft, light sand.  Enjoy a picnic and then swim out to a boulder.  Or better yet, rent some paddle boards and glide along the glassy water surface as you surprise your significant other.

Sand Harbor Lake Tahoe beach proposalPhoto: Lauren Lindley Photography

 

Shirley Canyon Waterfalls

There exists a place, a short and easy hike from the base of Squaw Valley, where waterfalls flow along granite rocks.  The Shirley Canyon trail meanders along singing brooks and emerald pools.  Pack some gourmet sandwiches and hike up to a private spot along one of the many waterfalls that spill out of the Squaw Valley mountain range.  A proposal here is sure to create misty eyes and everlasting memories. 

Proposal by Waterfall Lake TahoePhoto:  Blue Lotus Photography

 

Rainbow Bridge

Get off the beaten path and head over to Truckee, just 12 miles North of Lake Tahoe.  Take a scenic drive up Old Highway 40 and enjoy dramatic views of Donner Lake and the surrounding mountains.  Stop at the viewing area just before you cross over Rainbow Bridge.  Grab a blanket and scramble up on the boulders to the right of the parking area and find a private spot for your proposal.  (Insider’s tip: Get there before dawn and ask her to marry you as the sun rises – this is one of the best locations to experience a striking sunrise over Donner Lake.)

Donner Lake overlook engaged couplePhoto: Niki Ross Photography

 

Top of Homewood Mountain Resort

If you both ski or snowboard, consider a winter proposal at the top of Homewood Mountain Resort.  The view is stunning and offers panoramic views of the Lake Tahoe basin.  After she says yes, head across the street to the West Shore Café and dine lakeside for a warm and romantic celebration.

Proposal overlooking Lake TahoePhoto: Studio 22 Photography

 

No matter what your budget may be, one of these Lake Tahoe locations will inspire a Yes! from your soon-to-be fiancé.  Be sure to bring a camera – or better yet, hire a Tahoe Engaged professional photographer – to capture the magical moments.  There is no better background for your proposal than Lake Tahoe, a waterfall, or a shimmering sunrise.

Be a Tahoe “Green” Wedding Guest

Being green isn’t a trend, it’s a lifestyle, especially in the Sierra Nevada. Environmentalism is the characteristic spirit of our Lake Tahoe culture, and as a wedding guest to our community, you can partake in our beliefs and aspirations too.  With just a few ‘in-the-know” tips, it’s not difficult for your wedding guests to be eco-friendly, and help keep Tahoe “green” (and blue)!

 

As a wedding couple, you can help promote sustainable modes of transportation to your guests.  Anyone who is concerned about the impact of driving from the Bay Area to Tahoe for a Lake Tahoe destination wedding should consider riding Tahoe Convoy.  A luxury weekend shuttle, Tahoe Convoy brings Bay Area residents to the Lake, traveling Eastbound on Friday evenings and returning westbound on Sunday evenings.  Another green alternative is the Amtrak California Zephyr passenger train, which has a stop in Truckee’s Historic Downtown.

Once your guests arrive in North Tahoe, they can be car-free!  There is a local bus system – the Tahoe Truckee Area Regional Transit (TART), an extensive bike path network, bike share systems, and multiple taxi operators as well as Lyft and Uber. For the day of your wedding, Reno Tahoe Limousine offers a wide variety of group transportation options to take your guests from their hotel to the wedding location.

Recommend that your guests stay at the Cedar House Sport Hotel, a “lifestyle hotel with a strong environmental consciousness.”  The hotel was sustainably built using recycled materials and adheres to LEED environmental standards. (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.)  Give your guests a gentle reminder that when they leave their hotel rooms, to please turn off all the lights and power down the thermostat.

Once your guests have arrived in the Lake Tahoe region, it’s important for them to stay hydrated.  The humidity is lower, and some of the Tahoe wedding venues are perched on high-elevation mountain tops.  So, suggest that your guests bring a reusable water bottle with them during their stay – they can fill up at any of the fountains throughout North Lake Tahoe.

We hope you will make a vow to a green lifestyle and live environmentally ever after.  Happy Earth Day each and every day!

 

Credits:

Image #1 –  Photography:  Simply Rose  |  Floral Design:  Garden Party Flowers

Image #2 –  Photo credit:  Kaleb Norman James Design

Image #3 –  Photography:  Mark Andrew Studios | Planning, Floral Design, Styling & Production:  Rebecca Rose Events |  Calligraphy:  Carole Murray

Image #4 –  Photo:  Cayton Photography

Image #5 – Photography:  La Dolce Vita

Image #6 –  Photo credit:  Jamali Garden

Image #7 –  Photography:  Alea Moore Photography  |  Calligraphy:  Callie Brennen Design

Image #8 –  Photography:  Greg Finck

Image #9 –  Photography:  Simply Rose  |  Cake Design:  Sweet Naturally Bakery

 

A Picture Perfect Experience

Your Engagement Photos at Lake Tahoe

Hold it.  Now say “cheeeese.” 

Unfortunately, for many people, this approach to picture-taking can result in photos that are… cheesy.  And if you’re an engaged couple with a wedding celebration approaching, this can be a cause for concern, because you want your photographer to capture your big day in a good light.

But some people are naturally camera shy, or they don’t always put their best face forward for photos.  If you remotely fit this description, we highly recommend you spend a couple of hours in an engagement photo session with your photographer.

Photo:  Fifth and Chestnut Photo Company

Of all the service providers (vendors) that you hire for your wedding, the one that you will spend the most time with on your wedding day is your photographer.  So, not only does your photographer need to be a skilled master of his/her craft, but your photographer also needs to be someone that you are comfortable with.

By scheduling an engagement photo session in advance of the wedding, you will get to know your photographer better and become more familiar with how he/she works.  Meanwhile, your photographer will learn from the engagement photo shoot which poses and camera angles work best, and he/she will develop a better understanding of what kinds of photos you like and dislike.  In short, you and your photographer both benefit from an engagement session, and that’s why many photographers offer wedding packages with an engagement session included.

So where is the best place in the world to go for your engagement photo session??  Why Lake Tahoe of course!!!

Lake Tahoe Engagement PhotoPhoto:  Ciprian Photography

OK, we may be a bit biased, so we recently chatted with a most darling couple, Jesse and Darren from San Francisco, who got engaged in May 2017.  When it came time for them to choose a location for their engagement photos, they quickly concluded that Tahoe was the place to be.  Like many Bay Area residents, Jesse and Darren had spent considerable time enjoying all the fun activities that the Tahoe region has to offer.  Darren told us he had been skiing and snowboarding at Tahoe resorts “for my entire life.”

So on December 10, 2017, Jesse and Darren drove from San Francisco to Tahoe for the day, and met up with their photographers, Capture Create Studios.  They planned to take photos in more than one location, so Jesse brought three outfits with her.  (She ended up wearing only two.)

Their first photo-shoot took place at Sugar Pine Point State Park. The lakefront setting, majestic evergreens and some fresh snow provided a beautiful backdrop.

Next, the couple and their photographers drove down to Emerald Bay.  There, the late-afternoon natural lighting added a warm glow to the world-famous vistas.

 

So if you’re an engaged couple considering an engagement photo session, how should you proceed?  Jesse and Darren’s photographers, Capture Create Studios, have these helpful suggestions:

  1. Secure your wedding day photographer first! This photographer should be the same photographer for your photo engagement session.
  2. Decide on a geographic location and settings that are significant to you. If you are an adventurous couple and love to hike, ski, or kayak on the lake, then Tahoe is the perfect place for your engagement photos.
  3. Wear clothes that you love and are comfortable. Select at least two outfits and avoid crazy patterns or prints.
  4. Consider having your make-up and hair done professionally. Makeup evens out the skin tone and gives a nice foundation base. Schedule your hair and make-up trial to coincide earlier in the day with your engagement photo session.  During the photo session, have light matte-finish powder or blotter paper available.
  5. Time it right! Your professional photographer knows the most perfect time of day when the lighting is magical for photos, so let the photographer do the scheduling.  Typically, the worst time to photograph is when the sun is at its peak height. Allow for 1.5 hours to 2 hours for an engagement photo session.
  6. Come mentally prepared to let your love shine…have fun with it!

The Owners of Capture Create Studios, Chelsea and Jon Evans, also offered these final thoughts:  “Couples who opt in for engagement sessions actually have better photos on their wedding day – there is more comfort on the wedding day.”

Reflecting on their experience, Jesse and Darren declared, “It was great to get used to the camera and a lot more fun than we thought.  If you are on the fence about doing an engagement session, definitely do it!  For sure we know our photographers are great, and we love our engagement photos.”

 

Jesse and Darren’s Photographer:

Chelsea and Jon Evans
Capture Create Studios
[email protected]
707-888-1388

Weddings at the Big Water Grille

A Spectacular Setting with Spectacular Culinary Creations and a Renaissance-Man Manager

Before we get to the Grille, let’s find out a little something about the man who runs the show there.  Jack Chinn is no ordinary restaurateur – we think the term “Jack-Of-All-Trades” must have been named after him!

Jack grew up in Southern California, and majored in Music at California State University Northridge.  He was introduced to the hospitality industry at the tender age of 18, when Jack got his first “taste” of food & beverage service at a Chili’s Restaurant in SoCal.  In subsequent years, Jack bounced (no pun intended) from restaurant to restaurant and bar to bar, working just about every position within the restaurant industry.

But Jack is a man of many interests, so he took a break from the hustle and bustle of Southern California and landed a job with the Boy Scouts as a backcountry employee at Philmont Scout Ranch.  For those of us who have never heard of it, Philmont Scout Ranch is the Boy Scouts’ premier High Adventure base, set in 214 square miles of rugged wilderness in New Mexico, offering backpacking treks, horseback cavalcades and training programs. Who wouldn’t want to be a Boy Scout if you could go there!? 

After a few years, California was calling again, and Jack’s sense of adventure was still flaming hot, so he became a wildland firelighter for CalFire!  Unfortunately, Jack got injured on the job and needed to consider other career opportunities at that point.  But this is where the good news begins for engaged couples – in 2016, Jack landed the most amazing job at the Big Water Grille as their General Manager and Event Coordinator!

Perched above Lake Tahoe’s shores in Incline Village, the Big Water Grille is widely known for being a premier restaurant around the lake.  Jack has an amazing, dedicated team and an unmatched commitment to be of service to you and your wedding guests.  For your wedding, they create culinary memories that last, because the cuisine is exquisite – seasonal, fresh and local.  Chef Manny Baez works diligently with each wedding couple to create an award-winning menu.

Photo credit:  Jon M Photography

For ceremonies, The Big Water Grille can accommodate your guests outdoors on their deck overlooking the lake, or in front of their large river rock fireplace for cozier winter days.

Photo credit: Fifth and Chestnut Photo Company

Immediately after the ceremony, your reception will begin with butler passed hors d’oeuvres and premium cocktails from their bar.  Dinner is served in their multi-level dining room with spectacular views. 

Photo credit: Fifth and Chestnut Photo Company

Sunset from the Dining Room

After your scrumptious dinner, you can celebrate in style on the dance floor.

Photo credit: Fifth and Chestnut Photo Company

Jack promises you uncompromising attention to detail and an “elevated” dining experience for your North Lake Tahoe wedding!  For more information about having your celebration at the Big Water Grille, please call Jack at 775-833-0606.