California / Nevada, USA
68 mi / 110 km
Lake Tahoe (TVL)
Fly into the sky on the Heavenly Gondola to begin this Tahoe roadtrip in style. It's a gateway to 4,800 acres of skiable terrain, a whizzing snow tube course, and hearty Tamarack Lodge – you know, for cozying up with a hot chocolate and a stack of pancakes. Up there, you'll also be able to survey where this 68-mile driving route will take you, as panoramas of pine-studded Sierra Nevada mountains and the glistening lake waters unfold on all sides.
It's hard to resist for too long, so get back behind the wheel and cruise north. It's not far before you can rejuvenate with a swim in the crystal clear waters of Zephyr Cove, named for the light and refreshing summer breezes that brush through from the west. And that's just the beginning of the wonders that await on the Nevada shores of the lake…
In 1875, an unexpected and catastrophic event unfolded just down the road from here that would change Lake Tahoe forever. A powerful earthquake struck the region that triggered a massive landslide, causing the thriving logging community of Glenbrook to vanish beneath the lake's waters.
In recent decades, advancements in underwater technology has allowed researchers to explore the submerged remains of Glenbrook. Divers have discovered preserved artifacts and structures, providing a glimpse into the town's past. The underwater ghost town of Glenbrook has become a fascinating destination, attracting divers and history enthusiasts from around the world.
Yep, the whole 7-mile stretch from Whale Beach to Incline Village soon takes over. It's one blink-and-you'll-miss-it paradise cove after the next, including a few clothing-optional beaches where you can fling off the threads if you so wish!
Nestled amid all that is the Thunderbird Lodge, a National Historic Site that was once the alpine retreat of land tycoon George Whittell Jr. He's said to have thrown wild, wild parties here in the 30s and 40s, and even kept a pet lion somewhere on the grounds! However, modern visitors will probably better know the lodge as the backdrop for scenes in The Godfather Part II.
As you bend around the north shore of Tahoe and swap Nevada for California, the Stateline Fire Trail can take you across the border in style. It wiggles over wooded ridges to give almost bird's-eye views of the alabaster beaches of Crystal Bay threading to the west and east. A break at Tahoe City will be well earned, for a meal on the marina and a visit to the largest Native American basket collection in the world at the Gatekeeper's Museum.
Tahoe City is also the gateway to two world-class ski resorts: Palisades Tahoe and Alpine Meadows. Palisades, known for its Olympic heritage, offers over 3,600 acres of diverse terrain, while Alpine Meadows provides a laid-back skiing experience on its expansive 2,400-acre area. With Tahoe City as a base, visitors can easily access these renowned resorts and enjoy a range of winter activities in this spectacular part of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
As the route leads south to reconnect with the starting point, drivers can enjoy R&R at Sugar Pine Point State Park – it has over two miles of uninterrupted beachfront – and enthralling history at the Vikingsholm castle – a strange, Scandinavian-style fortress hidden in the woods. It all finishes with a vision of the grand log cabins at Tallac, the former summer vacation lodges of Kentucky-born banking magnate Lloyd Tevis.
From the mesmerizing blue hues of the lake to the majestic peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains, every twist and turn of this legendary lake will leave you in awe. Whether you embark on a day trip or choose to extend your journey, a road trip around Lake Tahoe promises a captivating blend of natural beauty, outdoor adventure, and a sense of serenity that can only be found in this remarkable region.
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