Perched high in the Sierra Nevada, Lake Tahoe is North America's largest alpine lake. In its own way, it is every bit as spectacular as Yosemite Valley to the south. The lake is an impressive 22 miles long and 12 miles wide. The clear waters glow indigo blue in the sunlight. Forested peaks steeply rise from side of the lake. If the lakeshore had not sustained development and jurisdictional fragmentation in the 19th century, the surrounding area probably would have been a national park.
Lake Tahoe has been a resort center since the 1880s. Travelers used railroad to reach the lake, and from there travelled on ferries to the various luxury resorts that dotted the lake's shoreline. Today the lake is ringed by roads, and I-80 crosses the mountains a scant 25 miles to the north. The old resorts are gone, replaced by casinos on the Nevada side of the lake and resort towns on the California side. The traveler has a wide range of communities from which to choose, but for convenience and range of service, three excel: Truckee, South Lake Tahoe, and Incline City.
Long a ski destination, the local industry really got a shot in the arm from the 1960 Olympic games in Squaw Valley. Forty years later, the region's generous handful of world-famous ski resorts enjoy a bustling business. Downhill skiing seems to get all of the attention, but the area ranks as a tip-top cross country skiing destination as well.
But all is not ski condos and gambling meccas. Three national forests surround a majority of the lake's shoreline. Several state parks provide extra facilities and protect some of the lakes most interesting features, most notably granite-walled Emerald Bay. And once you get past the lake's edge, the wilderness really begins. One of the most popular legs of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail is through the Desolation Wilderness, just a couple miles away from Emerald Bay.
Several beaches skirt the water's edge. And Tahoe's wild shoreline is made to order for kayaking. Given all the public land as well as the several marinas, access to the lake's waters is a snap.
Tahoe is often likened to a jewel. The image is obvious: it sparkles, its color is deep and true, it evokes crystalline purity. But for us it is more than just one jewel. Lake Tahoe and its environs are a treasure chest of opportunities for enjoying the glory of nature.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication