It’s called the jewel of Nevada, and once you see it, you get it. Lake Tahoe is the nation’s largest alpine lake, 22 by 12 miles of sparkling water surrounded by 72 miles of pristine shoreline. During the warm summer months, it’s a water-sports paradise. And when it snows, well, winter sports-enthusiasts think they’ve died and gone to heaven.
The crystal clear lake is roughly divided into two shores, north and south. South shore is the lively side, with no end of stuff to do both in and out of the water. Most of the large hotel-casinos, from Harrah’s to Harveys to MontBleu, can be found here in the town of Stateline, along with the base of Heavenly Mountain Resort, Heavenly Village. It’s chock-full of shopping, dining and recreation options, all within easy walking distance of the hotels. On the southeast shore, Zephyr Cove is bursting with watercraft activities, parasailing and beach lounging. It’s also home to the famed paddle-wheel cruise boats, the M.S. Dixie II and the Tahoe Queen. There are scenic cruises, dinner cruises, specialty cruises, even charter cruises for weddings and parties.
Life moves a little slower on Tahoe’s north shore, where the focus is on celebrating quiet mountain life. Even the hotels are a reflection of that. The Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort in Incline Village is a grand hotel with old Tahoe charm, plus a few modern amenities, like the private beach and pier equipped with wireless Internet access. The nearby Cal-Neva Resort is in Crystal Bay, where it straddles the Nevada-California state line. In fact, the border runs right through the hotel and pool, making it the only hotel in the world located in two states! Currently closed for extensive renovations, the famous hotel was once a secret haunt of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, and today is an amazing and historic place to stay. Another famous spot on the north shore is Squaw Valley USA, known for hosting the 1960 Winter Olympics. It’s still a favorite of locals and visitors alike, and it’s just one of 18 alpine resorts in the Lake Tahoe area. The high concentration of resorts is due to the truly epic winters at Tahoe, which gets somewhere between 300 and 500 inches of snow annually. The powdery Sierra snow makes for amazing downhill and cross-country skiing, not to mention fantastic snowshoeing, dog-sledding, snowmobiling and more.
When the snow melts and the high-altitude air cools that hot summer sun, the Tahoe Rim Trail is a popular destination for hikers from all over the world. Measuring 165 miles, the trail system passes through two states, six counties, one state park, three national forests and three natural wilderness areas. Guests of the trail have their pick of several trailheads around the lake with varying degrees of difficulty and length. And for the elite hikers, there’s always the 165-Mile Club, reserved for those who have tackled the trail in its entirety.