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One of the most alluring lake retreats in North America, considered as one of most spectacular lakes in the entire country, Lake Tahoe straddles the California and Nevada border. Its northern region offers a more tranquil, sophisticated experienced, while its southern counterpart is known for its party-happy casino atmosphere. While it’s well-known as one of the top winter ski destinations, summer brings the opportunity to do a host of things to do as well.
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Heavenly Ski Resort is one of the best ski resorts in Lake Tahoe, but if you don’t come when those soaring slopes are covered in snow, the warmer months offer the chance to take the gondola ride and soak up the breathtaking panoramic vistas of Lake Tahoe, Carson Valley and Desolation Wilderness. There are lots of other summertime activities here too, including zip line tours and 4X4 mountain tours. You could start out your morning by taking in the very best view of the lake, and then enjoy whizzing on the zip lines, playing on the ropes course and hiking on the scenic trails.
Another one of the best views of Lake Tahoe comes by being atop the glistening blue waters. While there are multiple options for doing so, one of the most fun has to be by cruising around on a catamaran taking in the jaw-dropping scenery of the lake’s northern and eastern shore. Take the adventure up a notch by relaxing on the webbed mesh netting as you gaze at the waters below, although you can always switch and enjoy the panoramic vistas of dramatic mountain peaks and unspoiled shoreline from the cushioned seats on the deck. The two-hour ride leaves from Incline Village near Thunderbird Lodge and includes some drinks and snacks.
Kayaking is another popular option for playing out on the lake, with some 75 miles of shoreline to explore. The eastern shores of the lake are especially world-renowned, dotted with massive boulders that reflect the tranquil waters. Best done in the morning, before the afternoon winds arrive, there are two excellent options, including a 6-mile paddle from Cave Rock to Nevada Beach and a 13-mile paddle from Sand Harbor to Cave Rock. Another popular paddle is to kayak over to Fannette Island, the only island in the lake, located in stunning Emerald Bay. The upthrust of granite that rises 150 feet above the water has a stone structure on top that looks like a miniature castle. The “Tea House,” was constructed in the 1920s and was once used as an actual tea room, complete with a small fireplace, large dining table and chairs.
If it’s speed you’re after, head out on the lake on a jet ski. A jet ski will allow you to zip around Tahoe at high speeds, with the wind in your face and the sun warming your skin. As it whizzes around so fast, you’ll be able to see more of the lake that you may not have been able to experience otherwise, cruising the shoreline looking for wildlife, doing some people watching and then maybe searching for one of the hidden beaches where you can enjoy a secluded spot for relaxing. Chimney Beach on the East Shore is a true gem, with each side of the south-facing cove featuring rocky stretches of shore with some large, flat boulders make a perfect picnic or sunning platforms. The Eagle Point area on the southwestern part of the shore is often entirely empty. Jet skis can be rented at a number of places in Lake Tahoe, including Action Watersports located at Timber Cove Marina on the South Shore and Incline Village on the North Shore.
The crystal clear waters of Lake Tahoe offer unparalleled opportunities for all types of water sports, but its spectacular natural beauty is arguably best appreciated through silent, non-motorized sports. In addition to kayaking and other options is paddleboarding. The North Shore is ideal, with its typically calm, glassy waters – in fact, you can see as far down as 70 feet on some mornings. Exploring any spot along the nearly 75-mile shoreline by board offers an intimate experience that other types of watercraft just can’t match. Go in the morning or early evening, when the lake at its flattest and winds are typically light, especially if you’re a beginner. There are a number of beaches where you can rent stand up paddleboards, including Kings Beach on the north side, Meeks Bay on the west side and El Dorado Beach on the south side.
In addition to playing out on the water, you’ll want to get at and explore the land. If you’ve taken the gondola, you have a good idea as to what awaits. The Lake Tahoe region is famous for its impressive views all around the shoreline and in the surrounding mountains. By hiking to the top of Mount Tallac, you’ll get views of Fallen Leaf Lake, Cascade Lake, Desolation Wilderness and South Lake Tahoe, and from the top of Mount Rose, Reno, Carson City, the Washoe Valley and all of Lake Tahoe come into view. Other popular treks include the Emerald Bay Trail, Glacier Meadow Loop, Squaw Valley Trail and the well-known Tahoe Rim Trail.
Who doesn’t love waterfalls? And, on a hot day, feeling that cool mist on your skin feels absolutely heavenly. This spring and summer is an especially good time to see the incredible waterfalls that grace the area, with massive amounts of water cascading over shelves of ancient stone and granite at a remarkable velocity, due to the abundant spring runoff. If you want to see more than one, consider a day of “waterfall hopping.” Eagle Falls is one of the best, set against the backdrop of gorgeous Emerald Bay. The easy walk to Lower Eagle Falls is only about a mile, where you’ll see 60-foot and 90-foot cascades. Horsetail Falls is just off Highway 50 on the way into South Lake Tahoe, it has an 800-foot drop that makes it the largest waterfall in the Tahoe area, while Glen Alpine Falls features 65 feet of layered drops and is set just above Fallen Leaf Lake, easily accessible from Highway 89 north.
Vikingsholm Castle is a spectacular 38-room mansion that’s considered a rare masterpiece of Scandinavian architecture. It was originally constructed to be the summer residence of Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight who had been impressed by her architect nephew’s Nordic-inspired home in New York. Knight traveled to Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland to research ideas for her grand Lake Tahoe home, including old wooden churches and ancient stone castles, before building on Vikingshol began in 1929. Visitors can explore the castle by taking a tour, offered several times daily in the summer months, to marvel at the detailed stonework, hand-forged metalwork, and intricately carved wooden beams that culminate in dragon heads. Look for the rare Scandinavian antiques Knight found on her travels and the exquisitely accurate reproductions she commissioned by skilled artisans, or, simply pretend you’re a Viking warrior.
Cruising along the shoreline on horseback offers a unique perspective of the lake and the surrounding area. The trails through the Tahoe region are some of the most serene, allowing riders to trot through lush meadows and forests enjoying unbelievable views. Camp Richardson Corral offers sturdy horses for peaceful trots around Fallen Leaf Lake and through the National Forest, while Zephyr Cove Resort Stables provides the opportunity for horseback rides in some of the most scenic areas of the region, with the animals winding through pine trees, boulders, and near streams.
Parasailing offers an especially thrilling way to enjoy stunning panoramic views of Lake Tahoe. You don’t need any prior experience, as the captain and mate do all the work for you so you can just sit back and have a great time – in fact, the only requirement is being able to sit. You won’t get closer to flying that this, it’s just you and the sensation of floating through the air. You literally have bird’s eye view during the 8- to 10-minute experience, as you float along behind a boat, taking in Tahoe from high above. North Shore Parasail offers this adventure, located at Kings Beach on the North Shore.