How to get there
Flying in? Reno-Tahoe International Airport is the closest commercial airport being only a 45-minute drive away from North Lake Tahoe. Sacramento International Airport is a 2-hour drive away while San Francisco is about 3.5 hours away. The drive from LA takes around 7 hours (psst…think about a Sequoia National Park detour on the way!).
About Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe is the clearest lake in the U.S. straddling the California and Nevada state border! Stretching all the way down to 1,645 feet deep and at an elevation of 6,225 feet above sea level, the water clarity rivals some tropical destinations I’ve visited around the world. The Sierra Nevada region is categorized into north and south Lake Tahoe, with the 72-mile drive around the lake taking about 3 hours if you don’t stop (impossible in my opinion – too many photo ops!). This destination continues to be one of my very favorites in all of the United States. I’ve been twice in the summertime and twice in winter, and that’ll never suffice 🙂
So, North or South Lake Tahoe? California or Nevada?
Both? I always wanna do it all 🙂 When you cross into Nevada, it’s a bunch of casinos and strip malls…and that’s never been my thing. But maybe it’s yours! If so, put it on the list. In the summertime, Nevada has some breathtaking scenery on the lake. Don’t miss it. Either way, north and south lake are about an hour away from each other and you’ll want a 4×4 vehicle to get around (Lake Tahoe is spread out) with chains for variable winter weather.
Heavenly (South Lake Tahoe)
Why I love it: It has a great base lodge area that’s located on the border with Nevada – cross the street for casinos! The gondola is located in Heavenly Village (lots of restaurants, shopping, grocery stores, and pharmacies), taking skiers and snowboarders to plenty of runs for every level (and has tons of great amenities for non-skiers). Heavenly is California’s largest ski resort and a full 20% of the terrain here is dedicated to beginners. It has the best views of the lake, too! See all non-ski/snowboard activities here. If you’re looking for the perfect non-skiing activity, Heavenly Gondola ride is open. Note that the Ridge Rider Coaster, UTV Tours, and snow tubing are currently closed.
Eat: Currently, to dine indoors at the Tamarack Lodge, reservations are required and you must show proof of vaccination. See a list of Heavenly Village restaurants here.
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows (North Lake Tahoe)
Why I love it: Has a combined 6,000 skiable acres across the two mountains. The Aerial Tram travels 2,000 vertical feet to High Camp at the summit where the views of Lake Tahoe are stunning (open to skiers and riders only at this time). Fun fact: Squaw Valley hosted the Winter Olympic Games on 1960 thanks in part to its challenging terrain. See non-ski/snowboard activities here.
Eat: There are plenty of food and beverage offerings across the resort that you can make reservations for. Check out some of my favorites: Terrace at High Camp (top of Squaw Valley pictured above), West Shore Cafe, Uncorked, Christy Hill.
Northstar California (North Lake Tahoe)
Why I love it: Luxe vibe with a family feel sitting on top of Mt. Pluto, an extinct volcano. Travel + Leisure named it the “premier family destination.” Has a peaceful setting hidden amongst the trees. See all non-ski/snowboard activities here.
Eat: Northstar is recommending reservations and requiring guests over 12 to show proof of vaccination for indoor dining.
Sleep: Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe, ski-in ski-out family-friendly destination
In the current times, it is important as ever to be an informed and responsible traveler. As protocols are ever-changing, be sure to get the latest info regarding lift tickets, dining reservations, mask updates, and more. Note: This post was updated and republished in January 2022.
If you’re planning ahead for Lake Tahoe during the summer, read my guide here.