Lake Tahoe has to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. I've been to some places that didn't live up to their hype (in my opinion at least), but Tahoe really is as awesome as everyone claims, despite the crowds. The first time I visited was during a road trip to California in our Sprinter van, and I immediately knew that the half day we spent there wasn't near enough time. This month, we finally got the chance to visit again in yet another road trip in our Sprinter. I think the lake was almost more beautiful the second time around and I've decided that it's a US road trip must. Here's eight reasons why:
8 Reasons Lake Tahoe is a Road Trip Must
1. It's beautiful: Tahoe is the only lake I've visited that practically looks tropical. Think wide swathes of pale sand and incredibly clear turquoise water. Underwater visibility is 70 ft and the lake is frequented by scuba divers. However, with a max depth of 1600 ft in places, the water is fairly chilly.
2. Awesome beaches: As mentioned above, Tahoe has a lot of really great beaches, which is something a lot of lakes lack. Sand Harbor is my favorite and actually consists of three different beaches with rocky shoreline in between that makes kayaking a bit more interesting.
3. Water sports: Lake Tahoe is the perfect place to paddle board and kayak and there are plenty of places to rent if you don't own such things yourself. There are also a number of marinas on the lake and lots of docks, so if boating is your thing, Tahoe is an easy place to do it.
5. Family friendly: With lots of calm shallow shoreline to explore and loads of picnic areas, Lake Tahoe is super family friendly. Just beware that doggie family members are not welcome in most areas, even on leashes.
6. Year around fun: Lake Tahoe has a ton to offer no matter the season. In warmer weather there's swimming, water sports, golfing, biking (there's a ton of mountain bike trails), and hiking. In winter there's snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and world class downhill skiing. Plus, there's several touristy towns along the lake shore to explore. I think Visit California provides a lot of good info on what to do year around at Tahoe.
7. Fits all budgets: Tahoe is known for being a ritzy place where the world's wealthy come and play, but fortunately, there are activities and places to stay that fit all budgets. Since we definitely fall into the budget category, that's what I'm going to focus on starting with lodging. The cheapest option of course if camping, and Lake Tahoe has loads of great campgrounds, some of which are right on the water. The US Forest Service provides a pretty comprehensive list of campgrounds, two of which are open year round. While there's plenty of fine dining in the area, it's easy to save on food at Tahoe by hitting up a grocery store - there's even a Grocery Outlet! There's also plenty of cheap fast food to be had. Last but not least, there's plenty of free activities from hiking to biking to swimming. Do be warned though that some of the nicer beaches, like Sand Harbor, charge an entry fee. Tahoe Getaways provides great info here on all the beaches, including fees and facilities. If you're planning to hit up Tahoe in the winter and want to ski but don't want to have to donate a kidney to afford it, you're in luck. Tahoe has a number of smaller less known resorts that come with a better price tag. Check out How to Ski Tahoe on a Budget for more ideas.
8. History: If you're a history buff, there's actually a lot of interesting historical sites and museums to explore. Tahoe has had a long and varied history, from serving as the Washoe tribe's summer home to hosting the 1960 winter Olympics. If you decide to visit some historical sites, we'd recommend stopping by Vikingsholm, which is often referred to as Tahoe's hidden castle. We visited on our last trip and it was actually pretty awesome.