Explore Tahoe: 5 simple drives to spots across the region worth seeing
Oftentimes, people come to Truckee and Lake Tahoe, find their spot and stick to it, returning again and again. It’s a fine strategy, except for the fact there’s so much to explore.
Here are five fun day-trip ideas for when the roads are clear, the winter sky is blue and you’re looking to find a bit of the unknown.
1. Emerald Bay
The classic “if you’re going to do one thing at Lake Tahoe,” Emerald Bay is a must-see any month of the year. The stunning sight takes on an especially angelic air when the surrounding peaks are shrouded in newly fallen snow. Plus, the crowds thin in the winter, so you just might have it all to yourself. Emerald Bay is located along California State Route 89 at the southwest corner of the lake. From South Shore’s state line, take U.S. Highway 50 west and make a right at the “Y” onto State Route 89. Emerald Bay is about 9 miles from there. From the North Shore, while traveling west on California State Route 28, take a left at the “Wye” in Tahoe City onto Route 89 and head south along the West Shore. Emerald Bay can be found about 18 miles south of Tahoe City.
2. Donner Summit Bridge
Another iconic view, this time from outside of Truckee, the Donner Summit Bridge provides a view of Donner Lake that is one of the great visages of the West. Also known as Rainbow Bridge, the 241-foot curved bridge was opened in 1928 and still attracts visitors from around the world. Don’t forget to bring a camera. Donner Summit Bridge is located along Donner Pass Road west of Truckee. From Truckee, take Donner Pass Road/Old Highway 40 west for 9 miles, passing Donner Lake on your left, to reach the bridge. From the South Shore, the bridge is about 90 minutes away via car.
3. Downtown Truckee
As far as scenic downtown strolls go, Truckee has it dialed. The town’s collection of shops, bars and restaurants provides enough entertainment to fill up a day or more. The town has done well maintaining its historic feel while providing the modern amenities visitors demand. Truckee also boasts plenty of Wild West history, which you’re sure to run into on any visit (the old Truckee Jail being just one historic must-see landmark). Visiting Donner Pass Road, between Spring and Bridge streets, is a good place to start on any Truckee visit.
4. The East Shore
Doing a full lap around Lake Tahoe is on many visitors’ to-do lists, but an abbreviated version of the trip can be accomplished by driving Nevada State Route 28 between Stateline and Incline Village along the East Shore. The stretch of highway is Tahoe’s equivalent of the Highway 1 drive along the California coast, providing glimpses of the least-developed areas around the lake. Just like Highway 1, you’re bound to encounter slow traffic, so take it slow, stop to take pictures and soak up the awe-inspiring views on the Nevada side of the lake.
5. Camp Richardson
Just east of Emerald Bay on Tahoe’s South Shore, this historic locale provides easy access to shoreline walks, a quick snowshoe trip or a cross-country ski workout. The Tallac Historic Site nearby also provides a glimpse into Lake Tahoe’s silver-soaked settlement history. After taking in some lake views and a maybe a little history, Camp Richardson’s Beacon Bar & Grill will serve you a Rum Runner, one of Lake Tahoe’s best-known libations, so be sure to have a spare driver handy. Camp Richardson is located along California State Route 89, 2.5 miles northeast of its intersection with U.S. Highway 50. It’s about one hour south of Tahoe City by car.