Coachman’s Guide to Lake Tahoe

Photo: Jesse Gardner

Even if you’ve been visiting Lake Tahoe all your life, you couldn’t possibly have experienced everything the area has to offer. Some think of Tahoe as a winter destination, others a summer retreat, while an increasing number of people prefer spring and fall when crowds are smaller and the weather is perfect for hiking. While many mountain towns claim to be a four-season town, few do it as well as Lake Tahoe.

In the winter you can choose from 10+ ski mountains and a near unlimited amount of backcountry terrain (just check out the Instagram feeds of @joshdaiek and @hannahbrie for examples). Summer brings crowds to town for watersports, beach lounging, concerts, and more.

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New direct flights from JFK and Atlanta have suddenly put Lake Tahoe within reach for more people than ever before. Like most people do, we split the area into North Tahoe and South Tahoe and give you’re a few highlights on where to go and what to do.

Tahoe South

While traditionally known as the rowdier, party side of the Lake, the South shore isn’t just for bachelor(ette) parties anymore. You’ll find newly renovated hip hotels, craft brewpubs (seven in South Lake Tahoe alone), easy access to outdoor recreation, and a growing community of locals pursuing the ideal work/play life balance.

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Young entrepreneurs including Silicon Valley transplant David Orr (Tahoe Mountain Lab for Co-Working), adventurer Chris McNamara (Outdoor Gear Lab), and renowned photographer Corey Rich (Corey Rich Productions) are leading the charge to open businesses that employ more than just ski bums.

In the winter, we ride Heavenly for the views and tree skiing, Kirkwood for no lines and the most snow of any mountain, and Sierra-at-Tahoe for the terrain parks and friendly service. At the latter you might run into snowboarding legends/goddesses and South Lake Tahoe locals, Jamie Anderson and Hannah Teter.

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For après ski, we hit Himmel Haus for the best-in-class pretzels, Sidellis for the unique beers, or the patio area outside Azul and California Burger for live music and a Mexican mule.

In the summer, we get out on the lake by boat, kayak, paddleboard, and giant pool floats. Head to Zephyr Cove or Camp Richardson for spots that offer everything you need for the day (food, beach bars, watersport rentals).

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Don’t miss the Celebrity Golf Tournament that takes place at Edgewood in mid-July; watch the celebs play golf during the day and then rub elbows with them at the craps table or nightclubs. And if you do one hike in Tahoe it should be to Lake Aloha in Desolation Wilderness.

Pro tip: If you’re arriving late after a post-work drive from the Bay Area you should head to the Lucky Beaver. The Beav is a bar, open 24 hours, that serves incredible burgers (Pat LaFrieda Meats is their supplier). It’s your best option for late night grub after a long drive or hours spent counting to 21.

Tahoe North

The North shore is dotted with small towns and large communities of second homes. Here you’ll find the biggest selection of vacation rentals and ski leases, so plan to “Bring Your Own Party” to a giant house with some friends. The towns of Tahoe City and Truckee offer some great dining and drinking options.

In the winter, it’s all about Squaw. The massive mountain is home to the 1960 Olympics, boasts a huge village, and when combined with Alpine Meadows by the recently announced Gondola, will offer 270 trails accessed by 43 lifts.

For après ski we spend our time at Le Chamois—an old school ski bar with indoor and outdoor hang out areas. At night we head to Bar America in Truckee. And thanks to uberX finally launching last year we can get to and from our rental houses without waiting two hours for a taxi.

In the summer, don’t miss Sand Harbor Beach. Soft sand, crystal blue waters, and BYOB thanks to Nevada’s lax open container rules. For the adventurous (and not scared of heights) we recommend mountain biking the famous Flume Trail.

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Definitely rent a boat and hit up some of the boat up bars, including Chambers. Just make sure you have a designated captain to get you home.

Pro tip: Leave time to walk around downtown Truckee and its classic main street. The folks at Coffeebar 96151 will treat you right and the lobster rolls at Morgan’s Lobster Shack will satisfy your craving.

Around The Way + Other Things to Know

  • For those visiting from the East Coast, you can get your In-N-Out fix in either Reno (for those heading to the north shore) or Carson City (for those heading to the south shore).
  • Yosemite is only 90 minutes from South Lake Tahoe. A lot of road trippers make a point of spending a few nights in the park before or after Tahoe.
  • If you’re driving from the Bay Area to the South shore you should absolutely time your drive to stop at Timmy’s Brown Bag in Placerville. The sandwiches are among the best and most unique you’ll find—options include Japanese Curry Sloppy Joes and Deviled Egg Salad with Bacon Red Onion Vinaigrette. And mounds of tater tots.

Guide brought to you in part by our new favorite spot to stay in Tahoe, Coachman Hotel.