Lake Tahoe lies nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountain range at a cool 6,445 feet above sea level on the border between Nevada and California. It’s the 10th deepest lake in the world at a maximum of 1,645 feet, and is not encompassed by one park but several smaller parks interspersed with privately owned property due to it’s large size and location in two different states.
It’s also about a 55 minute drive from my current home base at Sparks Marina, and a great place to take a day trip when the weather’s cooperative. Julie and I went up the third weekend in October and were going to go again this weekend with some coworkers and hike, but alas what was a light rain down here in the valley was blowing snow up there, and would not have been great hiking weather.
We went to Sand Harbor, which is a Nevada state park on the northern end of the lake. Fees for a day pass vary from $7 to $12 a carload. Boat, OHV, horse, and bicycle permits are different. There are at least two other NV state parks along the shores of Lake Tahoe, but this one was the closest and boasted 55 acres of sandy beach, what’s not to love about a sandy beach in the mountains?
When we arrived on October 18th, the weather was perfect. Upper 60’s, sunny skies, and there weren’t many people around.
The lake is startlingly clear and blue (and cold). The severe drought plaguing much of the west has affected the water level of Lake Tahoe too, exposing massive boulders along the shoreline away from the beaches which just beg to be clambered over. It’s a lot prettier than the mud and garbage at Lake Mead. It would be lovely to visit here in the summer to go swimming, but I brought my Kindle and enjoyed perching on a rock and looking out over the lake for a quiet read.
Right down at the beach was a local business doing kayak and stand up paddleboard rentals. It was $25 for an hour, more expensive than the places at Lake Powell was in Utah, but still not horrible. We spoke to the guy at the booth a little and he said this would likely be the last weekend they were open because of the weather. Later research online showed that they do boat and ski-doo rentals as well as fishing and para-sailing trips.
But there’s more to northern Lake Tahoe than just the lake itself.
The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival also happens at Sand Harbor, there’s an outdoor theater set up right along the lake shore on a little peninsula. Shows run on the weekends throughout the summer, mostly plays but also with music performances and expos thrown in for variety. By October it’s already done for the year, but if you stop through in peak season it definitely looks to be worth a visit.
Farther inland, the private residencies at Incline Village near the lake are extravagant, some nearing on what I would call mansion size. It’s fun to gawk at them as we drive past, I can hardly imagine what the price tag must be. But none of them seem to be on the lake, and amenities are scarce and expensive in the area. I much prefer my RV, with which I can get great views and location at a fraction of the cost, and then move on to a more populated area when groceries are needed.
There are also some restaurant options in Incline Village. Julie and I arrived around lunch time and ate at the highly rated (but reasonably priced) Tunnel Creek Cafe. They have a limited but tasty menu of sandwiches and a good breakfast from what I’ve heard, and then a run of coffees and specialty beverages. At that same location you can rent a bike for bike tours of Incline Village and Lake Tahoe. We didn’t stop in for more info, but they seemed to be running a brisk business.
Alas, all fun daytrips must eventually come to and end, and so did this one. On the way back to Reno on the squiggly highway 431 through the mountains, we pass Mt. Rose – Ski Tahoe, the closest ski resort to the Reno area. It’s brown and lifeless now, but starting November 20th it’ll come alive (weather permitting) for winter fun. This is probably where Julie and I will go skiing before we leave the Reno area in December.
I’ve gone snowboarding about three times in my life when I still lived in Wisconsin, and never downhill skiing. But it just seems like something that has to be done at least once when you’re living near mountains in winter, you know? It’s part of my whole motto about trying new things and valuing experiences over possessions. As long as the experience doesn’t lead to the possession of broken bones, it’s all good.
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Thank you everyone who used my affiliate link to do your Amazon shopping last month! Numbers are up, I guess holiday shopping season has begun. Also thanks to those who donated through PayPal to my travel fund, and to everyone who comments, e-mails, mentions me to their friends, and of course reads Interstellar Orchard. Without all of you I’d just be talking to myself, and I already know everything I’m going to say so where’s the fun in that? Enjoy the rest of your week.
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