The Most Beautiful Drive
The 72 mile journey around Lake Tahoe offers plenty of places to stop and enjoy the view, take a hike, or have a picnic. Much of the shoreline is public with parks, beaches, swimming areas, and other attractions. Without stops, the drive takes about three hours, but we recommend that you head out early and make a day of it. Picnic lunches can be arranged in advance through Café Blue, or there are great breakfast and lunch spots in Tahoe City and Homewood. Make sure to bring sunscreen and good hiking shoes if you plan to venture off on any of the paths (highly recommended as you will be rewarded with spectacular views), and dress in layers as the temperatures will typically vary at least 30 degrees from early morning to mid-day. Once you are ready to head out, from the base of the mountain, head South down 267 and turn right at the Lake onto North Lake Boulevard (Highway 28).
Tahoe City (10 miles from the 267 turn off at Kings Beach)
From Kings Beach, you will pass a number of small mountain communities before you come to Tahoe City. Tahoe City features old alpine buildings, shops and restaurants perched on the shore of Lake Tahoe at the headwaters the Truckee River. Enjoy dining, homegrown coffee shops, shopping, galleries, and a leisurely stroll through town on the Lake-view boardwalk. Tahoe City’s century-old heritage, historic sites and museums provide much history to explore as well. As you leave Tahoe City, make sure to make the left on Hwy 89 at the light toward the West Shore going over Fanny Bridge (if you pass the Shell gas station on the right shortly after leaving Tahoe City you are headed in the wrong direction).
West Shore between Tahoe City and Emerald Bay
Sugar Pine Point State Park contains one of the finest remaining natural areas on Lake Tahoe. While you are there, take a tour the Hellman-Ehrman Mansion, a summer home built in 1903 that provides an interesting view into the lifestyles of the wealthy on Lake Tahoe. If you got an early start, grab breakfast as you head down toward the park at a local’s favorite, Fire Sign Café, or enjoy a leisurely lunch on the outdoor patio at West Shore Café in Homewood.
Emerald Bay & Vickingsholm Mansion (18 miles from Tahoe City)
Park at the Vikingsholm Trailhead and peer out over the rocks to see one of the most photographed (and beautiful) sites in the United States, then stroll down the mile-long road to the Vikingsholm Mansion, where you can take a tour of the Scandinavian-style castle built in the 1920s. During the winter season, the roads between Tahoe City and Emerald Bay are often closed due to avalanche danger; be sure to check with concierge as to road availability if there is snow or the threat of snow.
Historic Camp Richardson & Tallac Historic Site (7 miles past Emerald Bay)
Nestled in one of the last old-growth forests on the southwest shore of Lake Tahoe, Camp Richardson offers a glimpse into "Old Tahoe." The marina at Camp Richardson is open daily and features Jet Ski rentals, power boat and ski boat rentals and a selection of kayaks, paddleboards, and paddleboats. Camp Richardson Corral offers horseback rides through Lake Tahoe national forest, hay wagon rides, pony rides, pack trips and boarding facilities. Next door is the 74-acre Tallac Historic Site that a century ago was considered the “Grandest Resort in the World”. Today, the remains of the resort and the restored estates allow you to recapture this bygone and significant era in Tahoe's history.
South Lake Tahoe (8 miles past Camp Richardson)
After passing through Camp Richardson, make sure to make the left a little less than 3 miles East onto Hwy 50 to continue around the lake. Head up to Heavenly where you can hop aboard an eight-passenger glass cabin and be whisked 2.4 miles up the side of a mountain for breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Continue East on US Route 50.
Cave Rock (7 miles past the Nevada California Border Stateline)
Stop at Tahoe’s only tunnel on U.S. Route 50 along the Eastern Shore. This 75 feet of solid stone is the throat of an extinct volcano and sits above the cavern home of the famed Tahoe Tessie, the “Loch Ness Monster” of Lake Tahoe. There is a small recreation area that offers some of the best views and photo opportunities on the lake. This is considered to be a sacred place to the Washoe Indian Tribe, so climbing on or through the cave is prohibited. Continue North on U.S. Route 50 and turn left at NV 28.
Sand Harbor (8 miles past the NV 28 turnoff from Hwy 50)
Your journey between Cave Rock and Sand Harbor is primarily National Forest Land, with curvy, tree-lined roads and rare glimpses of the lake until you hit Sand Harbor Beach, considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches on the shores of Lake Tahoe. If you have pets in tow, skip Sand Harbor and head down another 1.5 miles to the trail to Hidden Beach. There is a small placard welcoming you to “Nevada’s Lake Tahoe” and a small sign reading “Trail to Beach.” It’s a challenging path that takes you to a small secluded beach with clear, shallow waters over immense granite boulders. This is one of the few dog friendly beaches on Lake Tahoe but parking is limited and restrictions are heavily enforced along NV 28. After leaving Sand Harbor, continue North on NV 28.
Incline Village (Make a left onto Lakeshore Blvd 2.5 miles past Sand Harbor)
On your way through Incline Village, take the turn off 28 toward the lake and admire the big mountain homes lining the shores. If you are ready for dinner, stop at Bite or Jack Rabbit Moon on Tahoe Boulevard (Hwy 28) for cocktails and tapas or continue up the stretch of Tahoe Blvd and enjoy dinner at Soule Domaine, a log cabin tucked behind the Tahoe Biltmore at the Stateline, perfect for an intimate dinner for two. Kids in tow? Head into Kings Beach for dinner at Caliente or Jason’s Beachside Grill.
Kings Beach (4 miles past Incline Village)
Before heading back up the mountain, stop at Kings Beach to watch the sunset on the Sierras. Once you are ready to head back up to the resort, continue through Kings Beach and make the right at 267.