I went to South Lake Tahoe right before Thanksgiving and it was so beautiful every day. I went to visit my sister Erin to spend some quality sister time. If you’re going to ski/snowboard, then I would wait a bit longer before going so there is more snow on the ground. Not all of the ski runs were open so you’d really get more for your money if you went later when the weather was better. If you want to swim in the lake then you should go earlier in the year, but I think fall is perfect for hiking and other outdoors-y activities. I would equate the weather to “Michigan in the Spring” where there is some snow on the ground, but it’s reasonably warm still. Here’s a breakdown of what I did each day:
Day 1 Friday
Today I flew into Reno, NV which is the closest airport to South Lake Tahoe. It’s about an hour drive away so if you don’t know someone who can pick you up I suggest renting a car. I arrived in Reno at about 8pm and it was already dark and pretty cold for the desert. My sister picked me up and we went straight to her house. She lamented that I couldn’t see the mountain during our drive into town since it was so dark, but that we’d see it later for sure. Since we both had travel days, we pretty much went right to bed after we got to her home.
Day 2 Saturday
Went to Ernie’s for breakfast and it was AMAZING. Erin’s best friend and roomie Sam works there and we got HOOKED UP. We had mimosa’s which had fresh squeezed orange juice which really tasted like someone squeezed it right after I ordered it. I had the Vegan Banana French Toast with Peanut Butter and it was very good.
First place I went with Erin is to Emerald Bay. It’s a very short drive from town and there are a bunch of side areas on the road where you can stop and park to take a hike or take pictures. Emerald Bay is beautiful and you’ll want to spend at least an hour to have time to walk around and stop at multiple places on the road.
It was at this point that I had to go to the bathroom really bad. Unfortunately, the bathrooms were closed for the season (I assume to stop pipes from freezing or something like that) so we had to drive back into town. Since we were already back this way, we decided to drive around the lake the other way which took us through all the little towns around the lake. Since Lake Tahoe is half in California and half in Nevada, you might need to stop at a California Dept of Food & Agriculture station where they make sure you’re not taking in invasive species via your produce.
On the way around the lake we stopped at Pass it on Thrift in Tahoe City (northwest side of lake) which was cute and had a really large variety of stuff! Back in South Lake, we stopped at a craft fair at MoonHouse Brewhouse which had cute local wares so I bought a beanie for me and a t-shirt for Erin. Erin wanted to show me a good spot to see the sunset, and we were close to Party Rock so we went there to see the views.
By now it was about time for dinner, so we went to Azul in the Heavenly Village to get some amazing burritos and chips & guac. My favorite thing about restaurants in a hippy town is no one looks at you like you’re crazy when you want to order something dairy-free or with some other weird dietary restriction. After dinner, there was a silent disco at Aleworx which sounded fun, but it was over by the time we got there.
Day 3 Sunday
Erin had to work, so I went out with Sam to explore more of Tahoe. We stopped at Alpina for coffee and breakfast which was good – everyone should go to Alpina and tip really well (unrelated side note Erin works there and manages the social media so also like and comment on everything on Alpina’s Facebook and Insta). We drove away from Lake Tahoe to see some of the other sights in the area. We drove by the remnants of the Angora Fire which happened 10 years ago but there are still so many trees which just charred tops and a little bit of green on the ground or at the bottom. We hiked a little to see Glen Alpine Falls near Fallen Leaf Lake which is just gorgeous. This road there is pretty rough, so probably a good idea to have 4×4 or at least really good snow tires on your car. Sam noted that the falls are so much fuller in the spring with all the snow melting, but I thought they still looked pretty amazing in the fall.
Then we drove to Echo Lake and hiked a little there. When visiting Echo lake, you drive out to as close to the Echo Chalet as your car will let you go. The trail around Echo Lake connects with the PCT so you’ll get to say you hiked a little on the PCT. While we reached about the point where we were going to turn around, I thought I saw a person up the mountain and pointed it out to Sam, and at that moment I realized it was not person in a black coat, it was a bear! I saw a bear on the PCT! Sam had lived there a whole year and never saw a bear while hiking; only in town where they steal trash. I don’t think the bear even saw us, and if it did, it was not fazed and just walked in the other direction away from sight.
After all that excitement, I we decided to head back to Tahoe to hang out and wait for Erin to get out of work. We went to a cute little store in town that had the best Tahoe gear – Wildwood Makers Market. Get everything that Nicole makes there, or just buy from her website here: http://fontineletterie.com/ Then we got amazing smoothies at Sprouts and walked to the lake to just look at how beautiful it was. I had “The Energizer” strawberry-based smoothie which was good, and Sam had the “Protein Blast” banana/peanut butter smoothie which was really, really good. Erin made me some homemade fried chicken and baked veggies for dinner which was so yummy 🙂. Then, went to a bowling alley where I met a few of Erin’s friends and lost badly at bowling.
Day 4 Monday
Rainy day 😕 went to gym, took at nap in the morning, walked around heavenly village to see all the shops, went to Erin’s work meeting at the coffee shop she works at, went to the Heavenly Village theater to watch Murder on the Orient Express which honestly cost a lot less than I thought it would. I feel like the movie was fine. It wasn’t bad, but I can understand why it got the Rotten Tomatoes rating it got. After the movie went to California Burger for drinks, and then went to the house to play board games. Fun fact, besides the Casinos, California Burger is the only bar open late in South Lake so it gets a bit busy after 10pm when all the other bars close.
Day 5 Tuesday
Got up in morning, went to Heavenly Village to ride the gondola up to the observation deck. It’s a sweet view of the whole lake but with all the other views you can see of the lake for free I don’t think it’s worth the cost they charge to get up there just for observation.
Afterwards, went to a store called The Baked Bear that had make your own cookie ice cream sandwiches which were amazing. Pro tip: if you’re dairy free, they have soy ice cream if you ask for it, but they might not have dairy free cookies for the sandwich.
After this we drove 2 hours to see the Travertine Hot Springs. On way to hot springs we stopped in town to get sandwiches and snacks at Bridgeport General Store. The road up to hot springs is like half washed out, so make sure you’re not in a sports car and take a 4×4 if possible. When we got there, some people were already in the hot springs, but they left shortly after we got there. Once we had the place to ourselves we took about a million pictures of the view, the water, us, our stuff, really everything we could because it was so beautiful. There were other people almost the whole time we were there, but there are a couple of different pools so it’s possible to have a separate pool most of the time. Erin warned me that it’s “clothing optional” but at least while we were there, everyone else had swimwear on.
We stayed until right before sunset so we didn’t have to walk to the car in the dark but also wanted to see the sunset. After a long 2-hour drive back in the dark and knowing that I had to leave the next day, we just got some pizza from Basecamp pizza and then went home to sleep.
Day 6 Wednesday
Last morning in Tahoe 🙁 Erin and I got up, packed and ready to go. On the way out of town we stopped at Shirt off My Back in Heavenly Village to get a last minute souvenir t-shirt for Shane. It was a foggy day and I was sad that I couldn’t see the lake one last time because the fog was so dense. On drive down the mountain we noticed that all the fog is settled in the lake and it looks super cool from a different perspective so we stopped to take some pictures.
We ran some errands in Carson City and Reno before my flight, but we stopped at Junkee’s thrift store which was just the coolest. They have costumes for everything you could think of, a wide variety of thrift clothes and a huge section of antiques.
At the airport I was surprised at how fast everything went. It was the day before Thanksgiving but even with a sold out flight I got through security fast and boarded on the plane fast. Until next time Tahoe!