Lake Tahoe's backcountry from Mountain View

Surround yourself in Lake Tahoe’s magical landscape. (Photo: Marriott International)

Weekend Getaways

3 Days of Nature in Lake Tahoe, Nevada

With jewel-blue waters hugged by sky-high peaks jutting out from the shore, Lake Tahoe, Nevada is like no other spot on earth. It enjoys at least 250 days of sunshine and 400 inches of snow every year, to cite just two best-of-both-worlds statistics. There’s gambling and entertainment but also a laid-back mountain vibe.

And every season offers options for outdoor enthusiasts. In winter, there’s exceptional skiing at Northstar and Heavenly, among other iconic mountains. But do plan a visit during the warmer months to enjoy heart-pumping adventures, rafting down the Truckee River, hiking alpine trails, golf and more.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip

Friday: Explore Emerald Bay

Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe at sunset
Watch the sun rise over Emerald Bay. (Photo: Marriott International)

Kick off your vacation with an unforgettable experience worth the crack-of-dawn alarm. Drive to Inspiration Point at Emerald Bay State Park to watch the sunrise behind the Sierras. This expansive park, located on Tahoe’s southeastern corner, will be your stomping grounds for the day.

While the lake’s still calm and glassy, make your way to the water’s edge.

In the warmer months, pack your snorkeling gear — or rent some from one of the many shops nearby — to follow the Emerald Bay Maritime Heritage Trail. This unusual “trail” highlights dive sites where you can explore sunken barges and fishing vessels, as well as a turn-of-the-century cruiser known as the Florence M, once used to cart travelers around the lake.

When you’ve had your fill of underwater treasure, hike a mile down the Vikingsholm Trail to pick up your own vessel from Kayak Tahoe and paddle to Fannette Island — the lake’s sole isle, accessible only by boat. Once on shore, climb up to the top of the sparsely timbered slope to find the abandoned Tea House.

Built by Lora Josephine Knight in 1928 to complement her nearby mansion Vikingsholm (which you can also tour), the Tea House was once used as a spot for the widowed heiress to entertain guests. Today, only the stone shell of the structure remains. Snap a few pictures before returning to the mainland.

After a full day on the water, a hearty dinner is a must. Enjoy hearth-baked pizzas and fresh shellfish at the Idle Hour. This wine bar meets restaurant features a wraparound deck with sweeping lakeside views.

Saturday: Cycle East Lake Tahoe

Hiker on rocks in Lake Tahoe
Hike one of the many trails in Lake Tahoe. (Photo: Marriott International)

On Tahoe’s northeastern shore you will find a mix of jaw-dropping homes, busy little towns and remote beaches. Grab a breakfast sandwich — or a morning burger — from Inclined Burgers & Brew, serving classic bites plus beer and coffee in an industrial-chic setting.

All fueled up? Set out on two wheels along the Lake Tahoe East Shore Bike Path. The city has dubbed the 3-mile stretch “America’s Most Beautiful Bikeway” for good reason: The wide, car-free route snakes around the lake and through tree-lined paths, delivering unfiltered vistas.

Cool your jets at the turnaround, Sand Harbor State Park, where you’ll find sandy beaches and plenty of shade. And note that the park provides an amazing backdrop for the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, held annually in July and August.

After you’ve parked your bikes back in Incline Village, stretch your legs on a gentle hike to Chickadee Ridge. The 1.7-mile out-and-back (also a popular snowshoe trek) hides a delightful surprise at the top: dozens of friendly chickadees. Pack some seed, practice a bit of patience and the birds will eat right out of your hand.

For an unbeatable sunset spot, embark on the day’s final adventure: a 15-minute hike to Cave Rock. A sacred spot for the Washoe tribe, this striking structure is thought to resemble a woman’s face in profile.

Climb up to “The Lady,” then scramble down and head for Chart House in Stateline, Nevada, just 8 miles away. Perched above the lake with walls of glass overlooking the water, dine on seafood specials while watching the last of the sunset in the western sky

Sunday: Hit the Links on the West Shore

Pastries in a display case
Who doesn’t love starting the day with a fresh pastry? (Photo: Marriott International)

The water’s a few degrees warmer and the pace of life’s a wee bit slower on Tahoe’s western shore.

Get a sense of the area with a stroll through Tahoe City‘s quaint downtown, abutting the popular Commons Beach. Pop into Tahoe House Bakery, a local favorite for European-style pastries and sandwiches made with freshly baked bread.

Following two days filled with hikes, bikes, and snorkeling, your legs could likely use a break. Instead of exerting them further on the Tahoe Rim Trail — although it is another thrilling option — opt for a gentle round of golf.

The area is home to a number of lovely courses, which, as you might have guessed, offer remarkable views. If it’s high-end play you’re after, head to Schaffer’s Mill, named one of Golfweek’s top 10 courses. But you can’t go wrong at Old Brockway in Tahoe Vista, the historic nine-hole course where Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack once hit the links.

Spend the afternoon exploring area history at the Gatekeeper’s Museum in Tahoe City. Find artifacts and baskets from the Washoe people, the Native Americans who were among the first to settle around the lake. Step inside a fully formed replica of the cabin formerly occupied by Tahoe Dam’s tender who watched over the water flow in the early 1900s.

Take a walk through the wooded grounds where you can see the Fanny Bridge, spanning the only spot in the whole lake where water flows out to the Truckee River.

For a true treat-yourself dinner and a taste of regional delights, book a table at Wolfdale’s Cuisine Unique, just a half a mile walk away. For more than 40 years, chef Douglas Dale has been delivering locally sourced, Asian-influenced food to hungry Tahoeites. Enjoy your house-smoked trout while scheming about how to extend your trip into ski season and beyond.