Located at the meeting point of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in the world. South Lake Tahoe, the largest town around the lake, is situated on the south shore and offers beautiful views of mountains covered with fir and pine trees, deep blue water year-round, and a wealth of outdoor activities. A popular location for skiers and snowboarders during the snowy winter season, Lake Tahoe is also home to miles of beaches for sun-tanning, boating, water skiing, and swimming in the summer. Both the north and south shores offer plenty of hiking and biking trails and retreats for campers. On the Nevada side of the town (Stateline, NV), is a long stretch of more than ten casinos--a haven for those looking for a world-class gambling experience.
Originally a town of several smaller communities, South Lake Tahoe has developed into one large area consisting of approximately 21,000 permanent residents. The population fluctuates massively in the winter, and triples around New Years, as there is a massive influx of tourists visiting for the holiday season. There are two main parts of South Lake Tahoe: the Western part of town, centered around "The Y" - the X-shaped intersection of US Highway 50 and California state highway 89, and the Eastern part, centered around the CA-NV state border. The former is distinctly residential, and the latter is distinctly commercial - it is the home of all the casinos and larger hotels, and Heavenly's Gondola starts in this area.
Traveling from "The Y" toward Stateline, motels, hotels, resorts, and small businesses line Highway 50, before arriving at 'Heavenly Village' a town center created at the foot of the Heavenly ski resort's Gondola. Heavenly Village is comprised of shops, restaurants and two Marriott resort hotels. There is also a multi-story parking garage at Heavenly Village. Heavenly Village is the center of activity for the majority of visitors to the South Lake Tahoe region, and is bustling with activity year-round.
One block northeast of Heavenly Village is the official California-Nevada state line, and the unincorporated settlement of Stateline, Nevada, which is home to four major resort casinos, and two smaller local casinos.
|South Lake Tahoe|
|Climate chart (explanation)|
The most common route into South Lake Tahoe is via the nearest major city, Reno, Nevada. Reno International Airport provides transit to and from the Tahoe basin for a minimal fee.
International and transcontinental travelers typically fly into San Francisco International Airport (SFO IATA), and make the journey via Sacramento on I-80 and US-50, though Sacramento International Airport and Reno International airport are also viable hubs for shorter-distance travelers.
US Route 50 accesses Lake Tahoe via Echo Summit, a windy mountain grade that descends nearly 1,000 feet before entering the unincorporated community of Meyers, California. Alternately, Highway 89 enters the Lake Tahoe Basin via Nevada, winding over Luther Pass. SR-89 and US-50 intersect in Meyers. Highway 50 continues through Carson City, NV, ascending over Daggett Pass, before merging with Nevada Highway 395.
Entering from the Northern side of the Lake is Interstate-80, which provides access from both Sacramento and Reno.
During Tahoe's cold, snowy winters, road closures and traffic are not uncommon, as ice poses a hazard, as does the risk of avalanche, particularly on Highway 89, which wraps around the Western shore of the lake. Inexperienced winter drivers, coupled with mandatory chain-installation stops create highway backups during inclement weather. As snow has been reported 12 months a year, vehicles with four-wheel drive are a necessity for locals, and an important option for visitors to have on their vehicles.
Bus service around the South Lake Tahoe area is provided by BlueGo, which operates a fleet of environmentally-friendly buses, and in the winter, both the Heavenly and Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resorts have their own bus services, which are free and meant to shuttle skiers to and from their hotels and motels. There are also several taxi services, however these are in very high demand in the winter, and waits of 30-60 minutes are not uncommon in peak times.
During summer months, BlueGo offers transportation around the South Shore both by their bus service, but also by several streetcar-like trolleys under the name "Nifty Fifty Trolley", in reference to US Route 50, South Tahoe's main road, and the route upon which they travel.
All major locations around the Heavenly Village area such as the stateline casinos, are within walking distance (one quarter mile) of each other. There are underground walkways between the major casinos.
- Take the Heavenly Gondola to see a beautiful view of Lake Tahoe (Winter and Summer).
- During summer, a number of trails of varying difficulties will provide incredible views of the South Lake area as well. For a strenuous, but entirely worth it, day hike, hike to Star Lake from High Meadow Trail (roughly 6 miles uphill to 9000 ft) for an incredibly serene lake which is great for fishing and/or camping (be sure to get a fire/campstove permit from USFS!). If that hike doesn't tire you out, continue the extra two miles west on the Tahoe Rim Trail to the Freel Saddle, where you can begin the steep 1.2 mile ascent to the top of Freel Peak (10,886 ft) which is the tallest peak/best view in the Lake Tahoe basin. If you so choose, you can walk an easy few miles across the range to Job's Sister at 10,600 ft for impressive views of the Carson range.
- Drive to Emerald Bay, which features the only island on the lake.
- In Summer, hike the Heavenly trails or take a day hike on a section of the Tahoe Rim Trail for some incredible views of the lake and surrounding areas. Find a bike rental and explore the town and the beaches, or head into a marina and take a boat out on the lake. DL Bliss state park offers some great swimming and cliff jumping; there are many other beautiful spots to take a break from boating at as well.
- Lake Tahoe has a ton to offer mountain bikers of all skill levels. On the South side of the lake, Powerline, Gunmount, Incense Cedar and Sidewinder are good trails for intermediate riders. More advanced riders will enjoy Corral Trail, which starts at the same place as Sidewinder (3 miles up Fountain Place/Oneidas Rd). Ride the extra mile past Corral Trailhead on the paved road for a fun, technical downhill called Armstrong Connector, or keep going on the singletrack uphill for Armstrong Pass/Tahoe Rim Trail. Mr. Toad's Wild Ride is the most technical downhill trail in South Lake, located on Highway 89 near Luther Pass.
- In Winter, ski or snowboard at one of the resorts nearby. Heavenly is located on the stateline of California and Nevada (right by the casinos); Sierra is located about 20 minutes away just west of Meyers, CA; Kirkwood is roughly 45 minutes south of the lake located on Highway 88.
- Try the casinos; Dottie's Casino offers a no-smoking experience -- the entire casino is no-smoking! Harrah's and Harvey's feature an underground walkway to keep you from having to cross the street or venture out into the cold. Lakeside Casino (just a short walk east from the bigger casinos) has an Apres Ski special everyday; get a free pint from 4-7 with a lift ticket or ski pass!
- Go to Montbleu Casino and play one of the few Sigma Derbys remaining in the country. Quarter horse racing ftw!!
- Magic Carpet Miniature Golf Course, 2455 Lake Tahoe Blvd. One of the most elaborate and imaginative miniature golf courses in Northern California, with creative holes involving dinosaurs, spiders, caves, and more.
- Explore points of interest like Camp Richardson and the spectacular view at Emerald Bay. (If you don't have a car, the nifty-fifty trolley (local transit) makes the journey during the summer)
- As a large tourist area, there are an abundance of T-shirt and other novelty stores, mainly centered around the CA-NV state line, with the more upscale stores being located in the Heavenly Village development.
- The Beacon. In Camp Richardson provides a beautiful waterfront view, live music, their famous rum runners, and good food for less than the casinos.
- Blue Dog Pizza. It's just next to Raleys, near the Heavenly Gondola. Good pizza, informal atmosphere (read: loud), and friendly service.
- Base Camp Pizza Co.. A new pasta/pizza restaurant located in the village near the gondola (next to Coldstone Creamery and the parking garage).
- Cabo Wabo Cantina. In the basement of Harveys Casino, it's owned by Sammy Hagar of Van Halen fame.
- Fire and Ice. Below the Marriott. Great if you want a sports bar with a BBQ pit.
- Freshies, 3330 Lake Tahoe Blvd, ☏ . Hawaiian restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating. Their outside seating is on the roof, with a marvelous view of the lake across the street. Friendly and informal atmosphere. Go during sunset for great views. Moderate prices. Reservations not accepted.
- Sprouts Cafe, 3125 Harrison Ave (Cross-street Lake Tahoe Blvd), ☏ . Organic food including sandwiches, vegetarian or meat burritos, nachos, and salads. Smoothies and coffees. Order at the counter. Friendly service.
- There are plenty of bars in the Casinos. This is where most of the night life is situated.
- Just outside the casinos is the Heavenly village, home to Base Camp Pizza Company, Fire & Ice, and Stateline Brewery -- all serving various drinks and great happy hour specials.
- Of all the Heavenly Base Lodges, make sure you take a look at Boulder on the Nevada side, up Kingsbury Grade. It has one of the friendliest bars on the mountain.
- 1 3 Peaks Resort and Beach Club, 931 Park Ave, toll-free: . Pet friendly, comfortable and well priced. Pool, and year round, multi-level hot tub. 3 1/2 wings of rooms available with or without, kitchenettes and full size kitchens. Fireplace in some rooms.
- Best Western Timber Cove Lodge, 3411 Lake Tahoe Blvd, ☏ , fax: . Sports equipment for hire on the beach (kayaks, SeaDoo, water trikes, etc). Clean rooms, well-kept grounds with flower beds, etc. Some rooms have a lake view, but be aware that some of the rooms with lake view are 'partial' views, and they won't guarantee particular rooms—any room closer than the pool is considered lake view/lake front (more $$$). Top floor rooms are much quieter—the rooms are poorly sound insulated between floors. Friendly, if inexperienced staff. Includes simple continental breakfast (coffee, juice, toast, etc). Pool. Two casual restaurants, a Safeway right across the street, nearby coin-operated laundry, and walking distance to Long's Drugs and Heidi's, for breakfast. In summer, frequently hosts weddings, so you should expect wedding dance music until 10PM, and starting again at 9:30AM.
- Forest Suites Resort, One Lake Parkway, ☏ .
- Lakeland Village Beach and Mountain Resort, 3535 Lake Tahoe Blvd, ☏ , fax: . Each room has a deck or balcony, fireplace, fully equipped kitchen/kitchenette, complimentary shuttle service for the south lake area, as well as exclusive private beach access on Lakeland's quarter mile beach. Some town-homes are available with lake-view or lakefront. 2 swimming pools and a children's wadding pool heated to 82 degrees, and 2 hot tubs heated to 102 degrees (only 1 pool and both hot tubs available in winter). Tennis courts, ping pong, volleyball, kayaks, and paddle boats, all available seasonally. Two saunas and fitness center available year round. Complimentary access to dock and buoys. Children's activities available during the summer. During the winter months you may rent all your ski or snowboard equipment at Lakeland's on site rental shop, pick up a discounted lift ticket from the front desk to any of Tahoe's premier ski resorts, and if you're headed to Heavenly use Lakeland Village's free shuttle to get there. During ski season there is a complimentary continental breakfast available. Lakeland Village welcomes groups and has two conference centers available for rent.
- Motel 6, 2375 Lake Tahoe Blvd, ☏ , fax: . This is a very large Motel 6.
- [dead link] Royal Valhalla on the Lake, 4104 Lakeshore Blvd, toll-free: . Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM.
- [dead link] Park Tahoe Inn, 4011 Lake Tahoe Blvd, ☏ . The Park Tahoe Inn is a pet friendly hotel located right across from the Heavenly Gondola Resort.
- Tahoe Keys Resort, 599 Tahoe Keys Blvd, toll-free: .
- The Avalon Lodge, 4075 Manzanita Ave, toll-free: . New beds, in room fireplaces, flat screen TVs, iPod docking stations, free WiFi, complimentary continental breakfast, outdoor pool, and whirlpool. Pets welcome, too.
- 2 Heavenly Valley Lodge Bed & Breakfast (previously Inn at Heavenly), 1261 Ski Run Blvd (1/2 mile up from the Lake, off the 50, or Lake Tahoe Blvd), ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: Noon. Newly renovated, new beds, linens, furniture, decorations and amenities. In-room fireplaces, ceiling fans, flatscreen TV, with DVD player and library of 400+ complimentary movies, iPod docking stations, kitchenette with refrigerator, microwave, toaster, coffee maker, private bathroom, free Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfast. 4 outdoor patios, with a large open park with outdoor games, and the property is off the beaten track, set back amongst tall Pines. Dogs welcome. The Heavenly shuttle bus stops right outside the property offering Ski-In/Ski-Out convenience for skiiers and snowboarders. $89-$275.
- Vagabond Inn South Lake Tahoe, 3892 Lake Tahoe Blvd, ☏ , fax: . Check-in: 1PM, check-out: 11AM.
- 3 Holiday Inn Express South Lake Tahoe, 3961 Lake Tahoe Blvd, ☏ , toll-free: . Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 12PM.
|Routes through South Lake Tahoe|
|Sacramento ← Pollock Pines ←||W E||→ Stateline → Carson City|
|Truckee ← Homewood ←||N S||→ Jct W → Ends at N S|