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Lake Tahoe - The Hidden Gem in California

Travelblog Gone with the Wine

Travelblog and lifestyleblog. Life under the Californian sun - Gone with the Wine. Trips, food and wine from all over the world. Solo and family adventures.

Lake Tahoe - The Hidden Gem in California

Paula Gaston

About 300 kilometres from San Francisco in Northern California, in Sierra Nevada mountains lies Lake Tahoe. It is known for its clear water, beautiful scenery and casinos, since half of the lake is on the Nevada side. Californians head to Lake Tahoe to get closer to nature, party or ski, but many who are visiting California from abroad, have never heard of it. Even celebrities like Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe have visited here.

Emerald Bay

Emerald Bay


Lake Tahoe formed about 2 million years ago around the time of the ice age. Even though the winters of the Sierra Nevada are snowy and people go there to ski, the lake never freezes over. Some salmon and shrimp live in the lake, but now also huge gold fish have been found. Most likely someone has dumped their pets in the lake and they grew and grew.

The area can be roughly divided in two parts; South and North Lake Tahoe. The biggest town is South Lake Tahoe and it is at the south side of the lake. Over there, one can literally walk from California to Nevada, stop at the casino or party until the morning. On the California side, the bars must close at 2 am. In the north, Stateline and Tahoe City are the most popular towns especially during the winter. I have visited Lake Tahoe at every time of the year, and it is always magnificent. I have been there at winter, summer, Halloween, New Years and 4th of July. We went riding horses, swimming, hiking, partying and everything else. On top of that, I also got married there on 11/11/11.


The best thing about Tahoe summers are the nature and the clean mountain air. The forests are full of hiking trails. Even though the weather can sometimes be + 30C, the water in the lake stays brisk due to it being so deep. Driving around the lake is also fun! Sometimes you can find a beach all to yourself, where no one else is around. Absolutely the best views are at Emerald Bay where you can see the lake from high up. Close by the beach is a Scandinavian style mansion called Vikingsholm which is open to visitors.

If you want to be as close to nature as possible, you should forget a hotel and rent a cabin instead. Just be aware of where you park since the giant pine cones can fall on your car. When staying in a cabin or a tent, you should also remember that there are bears in the area, and follow the safety rules.

This teddy bear with his friend was roaming around people's yards. 

This teddy bear with his friend was roaming around people's yards. 


When the first rains hit the San Francisco Bay Area in the fall, at Lake Tahoe it is usually snowing. There are several ski resorts, and many professional athletes practise there for the upcoming season. Weather there is ideal. During the day time, you can often ski in the sun shine, but at night time it gets freezing to prevent the snow from melting away. If you are heading to Lake Tahoe in the winter time, don't forget to carry chains in your car. If you get surprised by a snow storm, you are required to use them, and the local shops along the way will charge an arm and a leg.

Many Californians head to Tahoe even if they don't know how to ski. It might be the only place for many kids to ever to see the snow and play in it. Lake Tahoe's Squaw Valley hosted the 1960 winter olympics.


Close to Lake Tahoe there are several other places worth a visit. Reno, which is often called "little Vegas", is only less than an hour drive from Tahoe, and the capital of Nevada, Carson City is only half an hour drive as well. Even though Carson City is small, it is pretty idyllic. On the way there you might even see some wild horses. One of the most popular places among tourists is the old mining town Virginia City. This old ghost town is now full of life as there is so much to do and see for visitors. If you like an old western vibe, this your place.

Wild horses

Wild horses

If you are close by, you should absolutely visit Lake Tahoe which is outdoors California at its best.