Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada | Travel Tips & Tricks

Emerald Bay State Park at Lake Tahoe by hesaidorshesaid

Updated: May 12, 2020

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Our Perspective on Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is an unbelievably beautiful area in the United States. Crystal clear water, thick forests, snowy mountain peaks and breathtaking viewpoints will make you fall in love with Lake Tahoe. It’s a great place for nature and hiking lovers. During hikes through nature you will discover waterfalls, lake views, pretty forests and maybe a bear ;). We highly recommend coming here, especially in September when you can avoid all the summer tourists. Temperatures will still be high (20-25°C) and it’s it so much more enjoyable with fewer people there.

Castle Rock Trail Lake View at Lake Tahoe by hesaidorshesaidWe stayed in Lake Tahoe for almost two weeks and loved the fact that we stayed so long. There is so much to see and you never get bored. However, if you are limited on time, we think 4-7 full days should be enough to see the most important spots and go on some great hikes.

Tips & Tricks for Lake Tahoe

There is so much to do in Lake Tahoe, that we could barely cover it all in a single article. With that in mind, we definitely have some tips on where to eat, where to stay, how to get around and, of course, all of the coolest things to do while you’re there!

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Where to Eat in Lake Tahoe

We generally found that prices are pretty high at restaurants in Lake Tahoe. Therefore, we didn’t go out to eat much, but we received a long list of great and mostly local places to eat at from our Airbnb host who grew up in Lake Tahoe.

Breakfast Places

Lunch & Dinner Places

Local Breweries

Cheap Groceries

In terms of buying food at a grocery store, we highly recommend buying your groceries at the Bargain Market Grocery Outlet in South Lake Tahoe. The food and the drinks are so much cheaper here. You can even find wine for as low as $3 and it even tastes good! Moreover, you don’t pay any taxes on groceries here, as the store is located in California.

Accommodation in Lake Tahoe

Unfortunately, most accommodation in Lake Tahoe is quite expensive. Most cheap hotels have very bad ratings and are not recommended. Here are a few options for a cheap stay:

Try to find accommodation in South Lake Tahoe/ Stateline/ Kingsbury, as these seem to be the best starting points for all day trips and hikes. South Lake Tahoe is the town where most locals live, but it’s still very much in nature. Stateline is the casino and tourist area with little nature. Kingsbury is a few minutes up the mountain from Stateline in Nevada and it offers wonderful views while keeping you in nature as well.

A few of our family members stayed at the Bluelake Inn in Stateline and were totally satisfied with the service, prices and the rooms. Room rates are around $60/night. So if you are looking for a hotel, we highly recommend staying here.

We stayed in an Airbnb because it is the cheapest option. However, there were almost no Airbnbs available for only 2 people. Therefore, we decided to rent a private room in someone’s house for $40/night for our first week in South Lake Tahoe. It ended up being fantastic because the owners never seem to be there. They weren’t there during our stay and all reviews indicated them not being their during their stay either. Moreover, the house was beautifully located at the edge of town close to hiking trails but also close to grocery stores. We had the whole house to ourselves including a kitchen, living room and a laundry room to wash our clothes. We saved plenty of money staying here as we cooked most of our meals in the kitchen.

For the second week, we stayed with two family members in an Airbnb for 4 people in Kingsbury. This was a little more expensive as we officially had the entire Airbnb for ourselves. We paid $150/night for four people. However, the price was more than worth it because we had the best view of the lake from our amazing balcony. The place was gorgeous with a lovely fireplace and very modern furniture. Just like in our first Airbnb, we saved lots of money by cooking in the kitchen.

Airbnb View in Kingsbury at Lake Tahoe by hesaidorshesaid

The view from our AirBnB in Kingsbury, Nevada looking out over Lake Tahoe.During our two week stay, we rented an amazing Airbnb for two nights for a family get together. So in case you are planning on doing the same or something similar, we highly recommend renting this place. With a price of around $700/night, it seems a little expensive, but it sleeps up to 20 people. So each person actually only pays $35/night, if you fill up the house. Moreover, the place is huge with a big kitchen and living room area, a bar area with a pool table and a back porch with a grill and hot tub. It was amazing! We had such a great time cooking and partying with our family. They even had a surround sound speaker system.

Transportation in Lake Tahoe

As anywhere in the United States, public transportation isn’t very good. Therefore, you have the following options to get around Lake Tahoe:

  • The best but most expensive option is to rent a car. We rented our car from rentalcars.com and paid $380 for 15 days. We were totally satisfied with the service and highly recommend them to compare prices from different companies. However, if you do not already have rental insurance, then we think it’s wise to always get full coverage for your rental car so that you don’t have to worry about anything happening to the car. We decided to get a rental car because we wanted to drive to places outside of the South Lake Tahoe area that wouldn’t have been otherwise accessible.
  • If you plan on mostly staying in and around South Lake Tahoe, we recommend renting a bike as they have done a pretty good job with incorporating bike lanes in the entire area, even outside of town. Therefore, it is pretty easy to get from A to B.
  • The last option is to walk and take buses. South Lake Tahoe does have a bus company that regularly runs. However, it highly depends on where you’re staying and where you want to go in order to consider the bus as an option. Therefore, closely look at the location of the bus stops and the schedules. Then, decide whether relying solely on the bus is a good option. These are the times and routes available: Bus map, routes, times and schedules

Finally, you can mix options up and rent a car for only a few days to see places that are further away while taking the bus or renting a bike for the remaining days.

Things To Do in Lake Tahoe

There’s plenty to do in Lake Tahoe. Obviously, things to do change on whether you go during the warmer seasons (summer and fall) or the colder seasons (winter and spring). We went during the warmer season, so we’ll mostly talk about things to do in warmer seasons. However, during the colder seasons, Lake Tahoe offers all kinds of winter activities like skiing, hiking, ice skating etc.

Here are all of the things to do in warmer seasons:

Hiking Trails

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There are a number of great hiking trails all around the entire Lake Tahoe area. We weren’t able to do them all, but we did come back with some helpful tips for finding the right trails for you.

We can definitely recommend downloading an app for hiking trails (e.g. AllTrails), so you can pick the area and length you want to hike.

One of the trails we hiked was a longer loop trail of 11 km starting in South Lake Tahoe called Tahoe Mountain Loop Trail. This trail led us up and down a mountain with spectacular lake views. We also loved that the terrain changed quite a bit during this hike as it took us through burned areas, thick forests and beautiful rocky landscapes.

The second loop trail we took was shorter, with a length of 5 km, but just as pretty. It is located up in the mountains in Kingsbury and offers beautiful lake views as well. It is called Castle Rock Trail. Both hikes were really enjoyable and we highly recommend each.

Nevertheless, be sure to use a hiking app, google maps or a GPS tracker in order to stay on the right path. Most of the trails aren’t marked very well and you really don’t want to get lost in these woods. We had to use our hiking app on both hikes in order to find the right way.

Explore a waterfall. There are a few around Lake Tahoe. We decided to take a short hike of 2 miles to Cascade Falls. It’s a great hike if you’re not scared of heights like Denise. 😀

Scenic Drives & Day Trips

Drive to Emerald Bay and stop at the viewpoints (e.g. Inspiration Point) to enjoy the breathtaking views of the bay from above. At some of these viewpoints, they want you to pay $10 for parking. However, if you go on a less busy weekday, nobody will be there to check whether you bought a ticket as it is your own responsibility to buy one at the ticket machine. Since we only stayed for around 20 minutes to enjoy the view and take some pictures, we didn’t pay the $10.

Take a day trip to Calaveras Big Trees State Park in order to see some giant sequoias. They created a pretty path with plenty of stations through the forest. The trees are gigantic and the 2 hour drive is definitely worth it. The entrance is $10 for the day. Since you drive through the mountains, you pass many pretty mountain lakes and viewpoints that are worth stopping at for pretty pictures.

Beaches

NOTE: Before talking about beaches, we want to inform you about the ridiculous prices they charge for most of the beaches in the area. Almost all beaches (e.g. Sand Harbor, Zephyr Cove) cost $10 per car per day. Therefore, if you want to see a few different beaches, you easily end up spending $50. We think this price is too high, especially because in case you want to go back to one of the beaches, you have to pay the $10 again. Therefore, we did some research and asked locals where to find free public beaches in Lake Tahoe:

Secret Cove: Secret Cove is probably the most beautiful beach in Lake Tahoe! This is where all the pretty Instagram pictures were taken. You will find crystal clear turquoise water with huge rocks scattered throughout the cove. In order to get there, you have to drive to the Secret Harbor parking lot (free of charge), which is probably a 30 minute drive from South Lake Tahoe. From the Secret Harbor parking lot, you walk 15 minutes to Secret Cove. From the parking lot, walk down to the water and then keep going left and keep walking along the lake until you find the Secret Cove. You can’t miss it!

Secret Cove-The most beautiful beach in Lake Tahoe by hesaidorshesaidKiva Beach: Kiva Beach is easily accessible from the visitor center in South Lake Tahoe. At the visitor center, you can park for free. From there it’s only a 5 minute walk to Kiva Beach. Dogs are allowed on this beach, so bring your dog or just be prepared to have dogs running and swimming around you. It’s a pretty beach to go for a swim and relax.

Kiva Beach in Lake Tahoe by hesaidorshesaidLakeside Beach: Lakeside Beach is located in Stateline and is also a very pretty place to get married. From here, you can enjoy spectacular mountain views and crystal clear water.

Lakeside Beach at Lake Tahoe by hesaidorshesaidLester Beach and Calawee Cove Beach : On top of the free beaches we’ve mentioned before, we would like to add Lester and Calawee Cove Beach. You find these beaches just past Emerald Bay. They charge a $10 entrance fee. However, this is the only place we’d say it’s worth the fee because the beaches are really pretty and the entrance includes the entire forest that leads down to the beaches. Therefore, you can easily spend an entire day here hiking on several trails and swimming in the lake.

Lester Beach at Lake Tahoe by hesaidorshesaid

More Things to Do

Drive or ride your bike to the visitor center and get informed about the area. Here, you can also take a little loop trail (20 minutes) with information along the way. It’s also interesting to find out what happened to the visitor center’s sign.

Rainbow Trail Visitor Center at Lake Tahoe by hesaidorshesaid

  • Check out one or a few of the casinos, but don’t spend too much money, it’s not worth it. 😉 We advise you to play nickel video poker, so you can’t lose much money even if you’re playing for a while.
  • Check out a brewery or two and try the local beer. There are plenty of breweries around Lake Tahoe. We went to The Brewery and really liked the beer and their pizza, but were a little shocked by the high prices (around $5/beer), which we quickly learned is pretty normal in this area.

General Tips & Tricks for Lake Tahoe

Here are some general tips for Lake Tahoe in order to make your stay easier and more enjoyable:

  • Be aware of high prices on accommodation and food. Stay at the cheap places we recommend in our accommodation section and try to cook as often as possible.
  • Do not pay the ridiculous entrance fees for beaches. There are a number of public beaches that don’t charge anything and are just as pretty or prettier than the beaches you have to pay for.
  • Rent a car to be able to see all the beautiful spots Lake Tahoe has to offer.
  • Bring bear spray and a bear bell with you while hiking. It is not uncommon to see one and you really don’t want to take any chances. If you see a bear, make yourself as tall as possible and slowly walk backwards without losing eye-contact.
  • Do not leave any trash or food outside. Bears will come and get it.
  • Do not leave any food in the car. Bears have figured out how to break into cars in order to get the food waiting for them inside.
  • Visit Lake Tahoe in September, it’s a good month to avoid tourists, get off-season prices and still enjoy warm weather.

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About the Authors

Authors Ryne Cook and Denise Braun from He Said or She Said

Ryne Cook and Denise Braun: We spent 2 weeks at Lake Tahoe with the goal of finding the best ways to get from place to place, the funnest things to do and the most affordable ways to have a vacation there. The time spent here led to this article about the gorgeous lake and stunning parks surrounding it.

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4 thoughts on “Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada | Travel Tips & Tricks”

  1. This is perfect! I’ve wanted to visit and explore Lake Tahoe, but was a little unsure of the best things to do and what different hikes I would enjoy.
    Now I’ve got a great guide – thanks!

    1. Ryne & Denise

      Hey Nicole,
      We’re so glad we could help you out! If you ever do decide to head up that way, be sure to come back and let us know which trails you took and what you liked best!
      Have fun!

  2. Lake Tahoe looks beautiful! Aside from this post, I don t know much about it. I do like there are a lot of places to get outdoors and hike. That s my favorite part! These photos really show how gorgeous it is.

    1. You’re right, there are so many great hikes to do around Lake Tahoe! And the scenery is incredible! Do you think you’ll go someday?

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