Here are the reasons I like visiting Tahoe.
Driving up Highway 395
I-5 to Sacramento and then east on Highway 50 is slightly longer than Highway 395. But to me, Highway 395 symbolizes the west. You see the split between the barrenness of Death Valley to the east and the rugged Sierra Nevadas on the western side of the Highway. I love the contrast.
It’s easy to buzz through each of the small towns and dismiss them as insignificant. Yet, each one holds a sense of history and reality that gets overlooked in Southern California.
On this trip, we drove 200 miles to Lone Pine and spent the night at the Best Western, just over a half-mile from the little shops in Lone Pine.
I recommend it. We woke in the morning to mountains across the highway colored purple by the sunrise and in the field below the hills men on horseback were herding cattle.
Lone Pine was a favorite spot for shooting western movies in the ‘20s, ‘30s, and in the days of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.
We’ve also spent the night in Bridgeport, about 85 miles south of Lake Tahoe.
Also spend the night or make a stop in Big Pines, Independence, Bishop and take a drive through the June Lake loop. I could spend days traveling the eastern Sierras.
One of my favorite trails is the Glen Alpine Trail. It leads into backcountry wilderness and yet has a lodge and the remains of a robust community from the early 1900s. That’s when families from the Bay Area made the summer trek wearing dresses and suits into the mountains, bringing their china, silver, and linens.
During October, thousands of salmon find their way from around the 24-mile long lake and make their way up Taylor Creek to spawn. It’s an awe-inspiring journey to watch.
Today, heading into the wild to get away from it all or staying to play in the casinos or ski down groomed slopes gives a sense of Tahoe wild and tamed.
Other fun activities:
- Kayaking on the lake
- Zip lines at Tree Top Adventures (2 locations)
- Sledding at Spooner Hill or Kahle County Park on the Nevada side
- Visiting art galleries
Driving to Tahoe and in the city gives you the chance to create some memories.
Make it a tour of small, historic towns.
Make it a hot springs tour. There are various hot springs from June Lake to Markleeville. We usually stop at the ones in Bridgeport, Travertine Hot Springs, which are accessible and quite popular.
Make it an art gallery tour.
In the Raley Shopping center, immediately south of the gondola ride to Heavenly there are three art galleries: Marcus Ashley, Wyland, and Sun Art Gallery. These aren’t the only ones in Tahoe but each one is entertaining.
We can spend 20 minutes to 45 minutes just gazing in the Marcus Ashley gallery alone. They also have photos by local photographer Jon Paul who will spend hours waiting to capture the glance of an owl or the look of a bear or light shining just right through the forest.
Tahoe has Affordable Housing but …
On the last day, we were going to drive back down to Pasadena in one shot and the battery didn’t want to cooperate. It had started up initially in 19 degree weather but then wouldn’t start again. I called Triple A and got it towed to Eloise Automotive and they ran the diagnostics and installed an interstate battery for $240 and, during Thanksgiving week, got me out within three hours.
The tow truck driver and his wife had moved up earlier in the year from San Clemente where he had been in sales. They bought a four-bedroom house for the cost of a one-bedroom apartment in Orange County.
Housing prices are typically much less than in So Cal and yet so is the pay. He said a lot of seasonal workers on the ski slopes in the winter and marinas in the summer usually work two jobs. It’s common for people to be driving Lyft or Uber for extra pay.
But he was glad that he and his wife made the move and his uncle was going to be retiring to Tahoe and joining them in the community.
In Tahoe, there’s plenty to do and you can make your vacation as nature-focused or urbane as you would like.
Just be sure to take in the scenery and appreciate the area’s historic and artistic nature.