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Top 10 things to do in North Lake Tahoe
Read time: 7 mins
The North Shore is known for its more tranquil, nature-oriented scene, compared to South Lake Tahoe, that tends to see the biggest crowds with a focus on drinking and partying 24/7, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find much to do. In fact, you’ll have a wealth of activities at your fingertips while being immersed in spectacular scenery, enjoying the opportunity for relaxing and unwinding in a peaceful environment too.
Cruise the emerald waters
One of the best views of the lake you can get is from atop the water. If you’re looking for a relaxed way to do it, there are multiple cruise options on Tahoe, ranging from river boats and sailboats to classic wooden vessels. Sierra Cloud is a top pick for cruising Tahoe’s glistening waters along the unspoiled Eastern and Northern shores, allowing passengers to take in an unparalleled view of the entire lake as well as the dramatic mountain peaks that surround it. The two-hour excursion is ideal on a warm summer day when you can lounge outside on the deck. It also includes complimentary snacks and drinks like wine, fruit and cheese, and you may even be serenaded by a talented guitarist too.
Don’t miss: A cruise on Lake Tahoe is a great way to see many of its highlights, across all shores, including Emerald Bay which hosts the Vikingsholm Castle, the crown on the area’s fjord-like scene. Set upon tiny Fannette Island, the abandoned tea house stands above the several centuries old, naturally-formed bonsai trees.
Tee off on championship greens
There are nearly as many golf courses as there are ski resorts in Tahoe and all that winter powder means that golf course greens are especially lush during the warmer months of the year. You’ll have your choice of six championship and four executive courses – all within the North Lake Basin area. Over a dozen can be found within an hour’s drive of North Lake Tahoe, so if you’re a golfing enthusiast, no matter what your heart desires, you’re sure to find it here. Your ideal course may follow the Tahoe shoreline, meander links-style in the woods or wind its way through a glacier-carved valley, but no matter what you choose you’re sure to enjoy some of the most jaw-dropping views in the West.
Don’t miss: Serious golfers looking for a challenge should test their skills at The Links at Squaw Valley, while everyone will appreciate the opportunity to tee off at the Northstar California Golf Course with its spectacular mountain vistas. Divided into two distinct nine-hole areas, it offers plenty of challenges while being accommodating to players of all levels. Incline Village is home to the Mountain Golf Course, popular for quick play with shorter yardage for squeezing a round into a day when you have other plans, and the Championship course, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. boasting numerous accolades like 2017’s “Best-In-State Nevada Course.”
Paddle the crystal-clear waters in a kayak
If you want to be more active, gliding across Tahoe’s crystal-clear waters in a kayak is a great way to do it. One of the most popular sports in the region, there are multiple outfitters for renting a vessel and discovering hidden stretches of sand and secluded coves while getting an excellent upper body and core workout at the same time. Even if you’ve never paddled before, kayaking is easy to pick up. If you prefer guided instruction, there are kayaking tours that can be joined around the lake. If you want to paddle independently, consider an early morning excursion, shortly after the sun rises, for an especially tranquil experience with the calm waters reflecting the mountain peaks. The eastern shoreline is famous for its huge boulders that can be seen in the mirror-lake waters, including the six-mile trip from Cave Rock to Nevada Beach.
Don’t miss: Earn your kayaking diploma via High Sierra Waterski School - a school that’s not just about water-skiing. If you’re new to kayaking, this establishment has been around for over three decades teaching people to safely navigate kayaks and other watercraft, providing the ideal opportunity to learn while having a great time out on the lake.
Explore unspoiled wilderness on foot
With acres and acres of wilderness along with miles upon miles of hiking trails in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, exploring it on foot is one of the best ways to take in the striking unspoiled beauty of North Lake Tahoe. Take a trek around the shoreline or hike straight into the clouds at 10,000 feet. If you’re up for it, you may want to head to the top of Mount Tallac for incredible views of Cascade Lake, Desolation Wilderness and Fallen Leaf Lake. From the top of Mount Rose, you can gaze out at Carson City, Reno, the Washoe Valley and all of Lake Tahoe.
Don’t miss: Hiking to a pristine beach where you can enjoy the soft sands practically all to yourself is a dream for many who search for the perfect spot on a shoreline to relax and soak up the scenery. Several “hidden” stretches can be found around North Lake Tahoe, like Chimney Beach, Skunk Harbor and Secret Cove. The best part of this hike is the reward you’ll get once you arrive, with dazzling white sandy beaches that offer a wonderful reprieve from the busyness of Tahoe.
Clip-clop through the forest on horseback
Tahoe is also popular for its horseback riding opportunities. Steeped in equestrian heritage, the animals were part of the very first groups of Europeans who discovered this area that was long-inhabited by indigenous tribes. By clip-clopping along the shoreline, you’ll get a unique perspective of the lake as well as the surrounding scenery. Equestrian trails that wind through North Lake Tahoe particularly, and into the wilderness are some of the most serene you’ll find, passing through lush meadows and dense forest with spectacular vistas around nearly every corner. No matter what your preference, you’re likely to find a ride to match your desires and abilities, with everything from one- and two-hour to half-day or longer excursions. You’ll enjoy the fresh air and Great Outdoors while stepping into the shoes of one of the area’s early pioneers to explore the beauty of the region.
Don’t miss: Meadows Stables Lake Tahoe provides the opportunity for travellers of all experience levels who are on a tight budget to ride for an hour or two at impressively low rates. Choose from one-, two- or half-day rides – and, for families with little ones, there are pony rides available too.
Feel the thrill of parasailing
Up for a big thrill? Parasailing is one of the best ways to enjoy a heart-pounding adventure while taking in a stunning bird’s-eye view of the lake. It doesn’t require any experience as you’ll have a captain and his, or her, assistant to do all the work for you. In fact, you don’t even need to know how to swim – you can stay totally dry if you prefer. You’ll be able to kick back and enjoy the approximately 10-minute ride which means all you need to be able to do is sit. It’s the closest thing to flying a human can get to without wings – there’s no plane around you, no bulky equipment or loud noise, for one of the most freeing sensations imaginable. You won’t even hear the humming of the boat below you, with the feeling of the wind against your skin triggering a release of endorphins as you marvel at the 360-degree view.
Don’t miss: In North Lake Tahoe, North Shore Parasail in Kings Beach offers this thrill of a lifetime. The original parasailing outfitter in Tahoe, the operation’s experts have embarked on a total of more than 100,000 flights with a perfect safety record. Add the digital photo package and you’ll get 30 photos of the experience as the ultimate souvenir, with the crew utilizing high quality digital gear to document the entire flight. When it’s all said and done, you’ll bring home the memory card to take advantage of your well-earned bragging rights.
Catch a magical performance at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival in Sand Harbor
Sand Harbor is located three miles south of Incline Village, made up of 55 acres of shady forested areas, rocky coves and long sandy beaches while providing breathtaking panoramic views of the lake. It also happens to be where the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival is held. This annual event that takes place during most of July and August, takes the Bard's words to productions in the evening, allowing attendees to bring a picnic and catch the outdoor show with the glistening lake as the backdrop. Just imagine your toes dipped into the sand while dining on gourmet cuisine paired with fantastic wine and top-notch entertainment as the colours of the sunset splash across the water. You can bring your own picnic fare or take advantage of the outstanding offerings at the onsite eatery, Shakespeare’s Kitchen. It may feel like a dream, but this is the enchanting experience of the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, hosted in one of the world’s most scenic venues.
Don’t miss: While the performances are always high quality, 2018’s lineup continues last year’s, returning by popular demand. Two productions are offered, MacBeth, the tragic story with its unforgettable characters for a evening of what’s referred to as ‘dazzling darkness,’ and Beehive, a lively celebration of renowned female musicians from the 1960s as a groovy retro-revue that includes hits ranging from Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin to the Supremes.
Challenge yourself to the Granlibakken Treetop Adventure Park
If it’s more adventure you’re after, North Lake Tahoe even offers a treetop adventure park. The first of its kind in the entire state, Granlibakken is an aerial adventure park that provides a series of courses which include everything from kids’ rope courses to ‘black diamond’ challenges. The courses link tree platform to tree platform via zip lines and bridges, travelling through the forest on aerial treks from 15 to 50 feet up in the air. In addition to the over 50 platforms and bridges, the ‘Flying Squirrel’ zone is targeted for younger visitors with three different courses for the kids along with a variety of zip lines and bridges. What makes the park even more unique is that it’s located at the Granlibakken, one of the most historic resorts in Tahoe, once the site of one of its very first ski areas, in fact, it still has a ski hill. In addition to the park, you’ll find other onsite recreation too, including yoga, tennis courts, a heated outdoor swimming pool, hot tub and sauna.
Don’t miss: The two top experiences are arguably the Snowboard and the Twins. The former is a rotating ‘signature event,’ and intermediate course that offers some of the most exciting experiences of any aerial adventure park in the world, while the latter, serves as the Canopy Tour course. It features eight different events and four zip lines that total more than 500 feet, as well as a 120-foot-high suspension bridge that stretches between ‘The Twins,’ two beautiful twin Cedar trees that have been estimated to be over 500 years old.
Play on the beach
You might be surprised to find that the beaches around Lake Tahoe offer some rather magnificent stretches for playing or unwinding, including secluded hidden coves for cozying up with the one you love and soaking up the sun in tranquility. There are hike-in spots, beaches with wide open picnic areas, expanses that host fun events like weekly concerts and rockier shorelines with trails for walking and taking in gorgeous sunset views. Some of the top beaches include North Tahoe Beach, Secret Harbor Beach, Tahoe City Commons Beach and the Kings Beach State Recreation Area.
Don’t miss: Pack your favourite foods and drinks for a picnic in the Kaspian Picnic Area and Beach. It sits along a half-mile stretch of shoreline and offers awe-inspiring views across the lake, paralleling the Tahoe City bike path. You’ll find multiple grills and picnic tables as well as a 100-foot public pier.
Get your party on after dark
While the South Shore is without a doubt the place to be for partying 24/7, that doesn’t mean you won’t find anything to do here after dark. In fact, many prefer the ambiance on this side of the lake. In North Lake, you’ll find everything from public boat dock bars to places that definitely know how to get wild, with powerful drinks on the menu like The Chupacabra. The bars at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe are ideal for enjoying cocktails, dancing and gaming, while the Crystal Bay Club Casino hosts live music, including outstanding bands like Mumbo Gumbo and Matisyahu throughout the year.
Don’t miss: Drinking margaritas on the rooftop patio at Caliente is a must. The aptly named Tex-Mex eatery in Kings Beach is the hottest place to be with one of the best rooftop patios in the entire region. It also happens to serve the ultimate margarita, a 64-ounce concoction known as the El Campeon with a description that reads: "Years ago, this shack was called 'The Stop' and our friends would dance with their shirts off at 6 a.m. Drink this and you will be a champion, too.”