Hidden Lake Tahoe: 20 Best-Kept Secrets of Lake Tahoe
Summers in Lake Tahoe are a Northern California rite of passage. Full of beauty and popular hotspots, both sides (North and South) are must-visits. But don’t just follow the herd; much like the beautiful lake itself, these resort towns hold hidden depths and secrets that will reward the curious visitor. Here are a few secrets we’re willing to share, but remember: Mum’s the word!
1. Dive deep into adventure at Emerald Bay Maritime Heritage Trail, an underwater playground that opened in October 2018 where divers can explore sunken boats, launches, and barges dating back to the turn of the century when Emerald Bay Resort was in its heyday and construction began on Tahoe’s Scandinavian castle, Vikingsholm. parks.ca.gov/?page_id=29931
2. Traverse the lake in motorized style on board the Tahoe Serenity, a 63-foot luxury yacht launching out of Round Hill Pines Beach Resort on the southeast shore. Enjoy a guided tour with your choice of an Emerald Bay Cruise or, for perfect Tahoe sunset views, a Happy Hour Cruise. roundhillpinesresort.com/serenity-yacht
3. What’s better than a glass-bottomed boat? Transparent kayaks! Clearly Tahoe offers unimpeded views into the azure depths of Lake Tahoe via tours (including daytime, sunset, and LED night ones!) or private rentals. All activities include small coolers with complimentary waters and granola bars, plus dry bags and sunscreen. Suitable for all levels and ages five and older. clearlytahoe.com
4. Lake Tahoe Balloons has the world’s only hot air balloon to launch and land from the deck of a boat. Enjoy sunrise on the water as your transportation inflates, and then ascend 3,000 feet for a truly breathtaking experience. Sunrise flights available May through October. laketahoeballoons.com
5. Hike with purpose along the South Lake Tahoe Beer Trail, a six-mile stretch that offers up nine craft taprooms. Locales are accessible via bike (for the energetic) or courtesy of Tahoe Brew Tours. tahoesouth.com/beer-trail; tahoebrewtours.com
6. The beer trail’s newest addition is The Hangar, a taproom and bottle shop that features 30 rotating taps of unique craft brews, a summer-vibes lawn park, and a dog-friendly, fenced-in park. facebook.com/thehangarlaketahoe
7. By day, you can go to the Social House at Heavenly Village and try one of their amazing gourmet sandwiches on fresh-baked bread; by night, keep your ear to the ground for the password to their hidden speakeasy that serves up handcrafted cocktails in a die-hard’s ode to the 1920s. Pro tip: Lines get long on Friday and Saturday nights so arrive early. socialhousetahoe.com
8. Long-time locals’ favorite Round Hill Pines Beach Resort has had a facelift. Check out Beach Grill for lakeside dining with a full menu of scratch-made items, and salute to summer with a frozen Pain Killer cocktail. Pro tip: When it’s crowded, there’s additional parking to be had on “America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride” that runs through the resort. roundhillpinesresort.com/eats-drinks
9. It’s not called Crazy Good Bakery & Café for nothing. After gaining a devoted following at farmers’ markets, they opened their first brick and mortar late last year (complete with wall-to-wall vintage décor and antiques) and it just keeps getting crazy better. Oh, and bagel lovers will want to take note: They’re boiled! Swoon. crazygoodbakery.com
10. From small beginnings at the Tahoe Beach Retreat Hotel, Glazed and Confuzed Tahoe Donut is hitting the big time with their own location at the Bijou Center. Come for the donuts, stay for the puns: Vincent Van Dough, S’Mortal Kombat (s’mores), The Marshal Mathers (covered with “eminems”), and the John Ritter Apple Fritter, just to name a few. glazedandconfuzedtahoedonut.com
11. Opened in 1928, Granlibakken Tahoe is one of the oldest ski resorts in town, and with 74 acres of beautiful forested meadow, it’s a stunning retreat in summer with direct access to hiking and biking trails. What’s more, their Soul Shelter yoga studio offers free community classes on Saturdays this summer. granlibakken.com
12. Squaw Valley is synonymous with skiing, but during the summer there’s still plenty of activity, like Via Ferrata: a guided outdoor rock climbing experience that’s open to all ages and abilities. tahoevia.com
13. Looking for some variety in your hiking life? For something fairly easy and family-friendly, head to Monkey Rock via Tunnel Creek Trail, where, in less than a mile, you’ll get panoramic views of the lake and witness a huge boulder that really does look like a monkey.
14. If you’re a hardcore hiker, try the more intense nine-mile trek up Mount Rose, the second highest peak in the Tahoe basin. With wildflowers in full bloom, clear alpine air, and breathtaking summit views of Lake Tahoe, you won’t find a hike more invigorating.
15. Beer fans definitely should pencil in a summer session at Alibi Ale Works. Expect traditional European-style beers, barrel-aged brews, and sour mixed-culture beers—all crafted using pure Lake Tahoe water. It doesn’t get more Tahoe than that! alibialeworks.com
16. You down with PCC? Pioneer Cocktail Club, that is. It’s one of the region’s newest restaurants and offers small plates and pizzas with pizzazz, like their take on Hawaiian featuring pineapple kimchi and pepperoni, and craft cocktails like the Cal-Neva Shuffle (peach-infused whiskey, peach syrup, amaro, lemon, and thyme) or their summer must-have: the Frozen Pimm’s Cup. pcctahoe.com
17. Gar Woods Grill & Pier is the go-to waterfront-dining destination for Tahoe tourists. This summer, make sure your plans include relaxing on their deck overlooking Carnelian Bay with one of their famous Wet Woody cocktails (i.e., deliciously dangerous frozen rum). garwoods.com
18. An iconic Tahoe landmark for 40 years, Wolfdale’s Cuisine Unique offers Asian-American fare and signature cocktails like the Dougie Fresh (Hanson Organic Cucumber Vodka, fresh-squeezed lemon and lime juice, soda water, and Sprite). Pro tip: During the summer, Chef Dale leads group tours to the nearby farmers’ market followed by a cooking class. wolfdales.com
19. Want the lowdown on North Shore’s lesser known, not-as-busy beaches? Try Chimney Beach, Skunk Harbor, or Hidden Beach. All are easily accessible via short hikes and offer laid-back relaxation, whether you choose to sunbathe, swim, or let the dogs roam.
20. Waterman’s Landing offers paddle craft rentals on the dog-friendly Patton Beach and even allows people to bring their pups on board. Oh, and there’s a café offering sustainable bites, too! watermanslanding.com
by Sharon Penny