Filled with trillions of gallons of pure Sierra snowmelt, Lake Tahoe is the USA's largest alpine lake and one of the country's oldest year-round vacation playgrounds. It also offers some of North America's most breathtaking views.
While an excellent ring road makes it easy to circle Tahoe's 72-mile shoreline in three or four hours, to truly appreciate the lake's incredible views it's best to limit your explorations to just one shore per visit. If you're searching for wild vistas and endless photo opportunities, close to all the creature comforts of great resorts, restaurants and bars, look no further than South Lake Tahoe.
At Pope Beach, generations of American families have bonded under the towering pines of Camp Richardson. Besides swimming and water sports, the area's bike tracks are a great way to take in the sights. Don't miss the Taylor Creek Visitor Center, which offers scenic trails through stunning wetlands, and unique underwater views of a salmon run.
Set aside at least a day to explore nearby D.L. Bliss State Park. Charge up your camera batteries, pull on your hiking boots and hit the Rubicon Trail, which offers incredible views over some of Tahoe's deepest and bluest waters. The trail twists through forests of aspen and cedar, drops down into picturesque beaches and bays, before crossing into neighboring Emerald Bay State Park.
Emerald Bay State Park is home to the Eagle Falls Trail, a moderate two-mile hike, which takes in some of the Sierra High Country's finest views. If you're not up to hiking, pull over at Inspiration Point and enjoy the views to Fannette Island, then stroll down to the shore to explore Tahoe's hidden castle, Vikingsholm.
Just 10 miles east of Emerald Bay is the lake's largest town, South Lake Tahoe. Hang out on the beaches, take in a concert at Lakeview Commons, then ride the scenic gondola up to Heavenly Mountain. It's a world-class ski resort in winter, and an adventure playground throughout the summer months. Whatever the season, Heavenly Mountain offers jaw-dropping views across the entire lake, all year round.
While Tahoe's southern beaches, mountain trails and roadside stops offer endless opportunities to soak up the lake's many moods, you'll find some of the best views out on the water. Head to historic Zephyr Cove and climb aboard the M.S. Dixie 2 or Tahoe Paradise for a daytime or dinner cruise. Or, if you'd prefer to take in the views in solitude, simply rent a kayak or SUP and start paddling!
South Lake Tahoe is one of those special places that folks revisit time and time again, and once you've returned home you too will be tempted to come back. Just remember though, there's an entire lake to explore, and Tahoe is magic all year round, whichever shore you choose. And the views are always, always, to die for.