Lake Tahoe Like a Local

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Pristine sapphire waters lap gently against the steep peaks of the Sierra Nevadas. Dramatic views unfold between pines and you hike along the ridges of the mountains. Perhaps hiking isn’t your thing, you’re more of a beach bum, that’s ok because there are countless nooks and crannies to find hidden patches of beach leading to brilliant blue waters you have to see to believe. Where is this obtainable slice of Shangri-la you ask? Oh, it’s closer than you think, this is Lake Tahoe like a local.

Tahoe Like A Local - calm sunset

My favorite, top secret spot to watch the sunset. Just down a dirt road from my house.

My family lives in Lake Tahoe. I’ve been visiting since I was 15 years old and the sheer pristine beauty of the place never ceases to amaze me. The Tahoe basin’s beauty certainly ins’t a secret. Millions of people flock here every year. If you know me, you know that I have a knack for avoiding crowds in the world’s most beautiful places. Here’s my 2 cents on avoiding crowds and blending in with the local community.

Tahoe Like a Local - vacant Beach

Usually one of the most crowded places around, late October Skunk Harbor is empty!

Tahoe Like a Local #1: Avoid South Lake Tahoe

Unless high rise casinos, cheesy shops, and throngs of people pouring out of buses appeal to you don’t stay here. South Lake is difficult to avoid all together, but don’t stay here. The only reason I’m ever down here is to visit a childhood friend who’s parents live in the outskirts of town.

Tahoe Like A Local - Emerald Bay

Emerald Bay as seen from afar – one of the busiest trails in the area – so know when to go!

Desolation Wilderness and Emerald Bay are definitely worth seeing. However, over the years I’ve noticed that the place gets more and more clogged with mega tourist buses and people smattered all over the place. To be honest, I stopped visiting for that reason. But if you arrive by boat, arrive in the early morning or evening it usually isn’t nearly as crowded and you can find some solitude.

Visit During the Off-Season

Locals love the off season at Tahoe. Sure you may not be able to ski and maybe the water feels a little more chilling than refreshing, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t fully enjoy the outdoors. The fall is one of my favorite seasons to be in Lake Tahoe because it’s quite and the temps are still pretty warm. It’s the perfect time to go for a hike. The beach is still inviting as ever.

Tahoe like a local - Kayak

A slice of heaven

On a calm day it’s a wonderful time to kayak around hidden beaches. Simply rent a kayak and head discover a cove. More often than not there will be a patch of sand to plop down on and enjoy a good book and soak up some rays. The more public beaches are less crowd-ridden. People out and about are typically all locals, as the seasonal crowd dies down this time of year. The towns have a more quaint and laid back feel.

Tahoe Like a Local: Hit the Tougher Terrain

If solitude on the mountains is what you seek, it’s easy to find. Get up early and hit a tough trail. Crowds usually peter out on the tougher routes. One great summit to hit early is Mt Rose. Although we passed a lot of people on the way down, an early start beats the crowds and gives way to an iconic view of the lake and breathtaking scenery of the region.

Tahoe Like A Local - Mt Rose

Enjoying a solitude and one hell of a view at the top of Mt Rose. The highest peak around.

If backpacking is more your thing hit up the Tahoe Rim Trail. At 165 miles long this trail offers something for everyone. It’s broken into segments offering everything from the entire route to short day hikes.

Getting off the Beaten Path

Pristine vacant beaches are easy to find. You just have to know where to go. Us locals hold our favorite spots as well-kept secrets, so I’m not going to give too much away here. Part of doing Lake Tahoe like a local is finding your own hidden spot.

Tahoe Like A Local - hidden beach

A 5 minute walk to a priceless reward

It’s easy to scramble around trails on the side of the highway to find your own slice of beach. Head into neighborhoods to have a solo summit of Mt Rose Knob. Get out there and take the path less traveled!

Don’t be That Guy: Understand the Unspoken Road Rules

Aside from staying in South Lake I’d ask people to respect the way we drive. Yes we may be a bit crazy, but that’s because these roads are our every day experience. We can do it in our sleep in the blinding snow. Those 12′ high snow poles don’t mean much to us. One thing all locals complain about is tourist drivers. It’s ok if you don’t feel comfortable blasting up a mountain in the snow, but please do everyone a favor and use the pullouts.

Tahoe Like A local - Snowy Sunsets

You can spot a tourist for miles on the road. Usually there’s a long line of cars behind them. Don’t be that guy – pull over and let the faster driver pass! It’s safer for everyone! If you’re traveling here over the winter months – please come prepared! Snow tires, chains, or 4-wheel drive are often required to travel the roads. Those rules are there for a reason – you will get stuck if you attempt to ride around in a 2-wheel drive vehicle not properly prepared for the weather!

Secret spots and local advice for your Lake Tahoe adventure. Travel to Lake Tahoe with Local know how

Have you been to Lake Tahoe? Got any hidden gems you’d love to share? Comment below!

Happy adventuring!

-Fox

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34 thoughts on “Lake Tahoe Like a Local

  1. Cali

    Lake Tahoe sounds incredible! I found myself wanting to take notes! I will definitely be adding this to my “US Travels” list. I love what you said about the tourist drivers, so funny and so true all over the country!

    Reply
  2. Alice

    I LOVE Tahoe!! I forget what it’s called but there’s that ski area/mini theme park that is really fun even for adults. Highly recommend!

    Reply
  3. Hra

    I haven’t heard for lake Tahoe before but its seems amazing!! its seems so calm and peaceful that i want to explore it too 😉 You have lovely photos… thanks for sharing with us

    Reply
  4. Jessica

    One thing I regret from my time living in the US was not travelling enough…I was only a teenager, but I could have easily suggested things to my parents. I was near Lake Tahoe briefly a long long time ago but I’d love to actually take some time and explore. I am DEFINITELY an off-season type traveller, I’m not a fan of huge crowds because it ruins so much of the experience. I also get where you’re coming from with the whole driving aspect of things, being from Ireland, I know how strangers react to small and treacherous roads!

    Reply
    1. foxintheforest Post author

      I feel the same way about places in Europe. I should have partied less (traveled there my late teens and early 20s) and hiked more! I love off season travel. I feel it’s a more real experience. Haha ya I understand the small roads! I’d look like a dork in Ireland! I’m not too great at driving on the left – learned that in NZ – I’d get into a car park and just mess everything up. 🙂

      Reply
  5. Patricia

    I’ve only been in the area once, and it was early spring, so there was still quite a bit of snow. We were just passing through, but even from that I could tell how beautiful it was. From your post, there seems like so many wonderful outdoors activities, and the scenery is so gorgeous. I think it is time go back and see more of it soon (but I promise we’ll use the pull-outs if we do)!

    Reply
  6. Iva

    We went on a three-day backpacking trip middle of last year at the Desolation Wilderness, and we were lucky there are not a lot of people. We’re heading back soon to catch some snow, hopefully they haven’t all melted yet. 🙂

    Reply
  7. Jessica

    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.

    Reply
  8. Natalie

    This is so incredibly helpful! I actually recently moved to San Francisco back in June and Tahoe has been at the top of my list of places to visit. I am glad to have learned that fall is a great time to visit during off season. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
    1. foxintheforest Post author

      Congrats on the recent move! San Fran is a great city! Definitely visit in the fall after the kids go back to school. It’s my favorite time, the weather is still great and it’s quiet.

      Reply
  9. Josie

    Lake Tahoe looks stunning! I have no immediate plans to get to the US, but when I do, this looks exactly like the kind of place I want to visit.

    Reply
  10. neha

    You gave it the right words. The place has ‘pristine’ beauty. It is simply so beautiful. If I were you, even I would be amazed for my lifetime 🙂

    Reply
  11. Claire

    Great guide with lots of local advice. i always love reading posts from people who have or do live in the places. Lake Taho is one of my must visit places in the US. I lived in devon in the UK and I can so relate to your advice about driving. The roads there are mostly single track and/or windy as hell. You can always spot the tourists!

    Reply
    1. foxintheforest Post author

      Thank you Claire! Haha. Isn’t that funny how you can always spot the tourists on the road? So, a funny secret – my dad asked if I could write about being prepared for winter weather on the roads – he gets tired of dealing with people trying to climb a large mountain in a rear wheel drive vehicle in the middle of winter :P.

      Reply
  12. Lisa

    I love Lake Tahoe! I prefer the north end over the south…not as touristy. But it’s beautiful which ever side your on. Love to horseback ride at Northstar.

    Reply
  13. John

    I love guides from locals! Great information in this post. I really want to get out west in the next few years and Lake Tahoe is high on my list of places to visit. Great pictures too!

    Reply
  14. danielle hambuckers

    those views, they really are amazing. This is going onto my bucketlist now. I appreciate the information on how to stay clear from the big touristy crowds ’cause let’s be honest, it’s just way nicer to enjoy views and trips that aren’t overcrowded.

    Reply
  15. Taís

    This is definitely a place I would love to visit. I love the outdoors and hiking, I`m sure I will be amazed by the beauty of this place as well. I also try as much as I can to avoid crowds and I liked your tips to enjoy this place avoiding all the people. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  16. Sandy N Vyjay

    Lake Tahoe is so wonderfully ethereal. Great tips for getting an experience devoid of the crowds, always great to get a local perspective. Hiking is another great charm of the place.

    Reply

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