After the spring snowstorms become fewer and far between, a sunny exposure of the East Shore warms the steep lakefront to the point that hiking and sunbathing are as good as they get. Springtime in the Tahoe is a special season that not many are aware of, and the locals are not eager to let anyone else in on the secret. The cool, crisp mornings are typically followed by warm sunny afternoons, and if you watch the webcams on the lake and check the wind, you will often find a peaceful afternoon along the lakeshore. Take a few of these local tips to enhance your time in Tahoe, from our Director of Operations, Riley Evans.
The lake water is VERY cold, so not ideal for swimming or watersports. However, it is spectacular for hiking along the shoreline and sunbathing in the sun-warmed rocks, while a 50-degree day feels like 75 on a still afternoon as you find sunbathers soaking up the spring sun. While you can boat Lake Tahoe year-round, the boating season on Tahoe doesn’t typically start until June, and I find the serene quiet that the lake beholds without boating to be an extraordinary experience (typically April and May or early morning hours in the summer).
Consider experiencing one of my three favorite spring adventures…
Head over to Incline Village to have lunch at the Lone Eagle Grille, where the views and food are equally amazing. I suggest parking at the Tunnel Creek Café and then walking or biking along the paved path of the Tahoe East Shore Trail. This 3-mile trail will take you all the way to Sand Harbor State Park. If you make an afternoon of it, Bite American Tapas opens at 5pm in Incline Village and makes for a fun stop with creative cuisine to share!
For those seeking a little more adventure, make your way to Chimney Beach. Access along the highway can be difficult and a bit dangerous, but if you are up to the challenge this is one of the most pristine areas along the lake. The Chimney Beach Trailhead does have a parking lot which makes access a bit easier but is often closed until the summer season. If the lot is full or closed you can find parking about a mile south past the parking lot along the highway, just make sure your tires on not on the white lines, and be super careful when exiting your vehicle into oncoming traffic or the steep bank.
One of my favorite hikes along the shore is down the steep shoreline to Secret Cove, and make a loop from there to Chimney Beach and back to your vehicle. Be sure to bring your hiking shoes, water, and a blanket to relax and take in the beautiful lake views. Mark your parking spot on your smartphone as the trails in this area create a labyrinth that can be challenging to find your way back. I like to head straight down to Secret Cove and then head north along the shoreline until you can see Chimney Beach, from there head up the steep bank towards the Chimney Beach Parking lot and there is a gentle fire road you can walk more easily back to your car along just below the highway (2.6-mile loop). Take your time as you will break a sweat climbing back up to your car! Cell service is generally pretty good in this area and you can reference your smartphone map if you start to feel turned around.
I also love to drive around the lake this time of year because the roads are fairly quiet. Head down to South Lake Tahoe en route to Emerald Bay, the West Shore will have quite a bit more snow, which is not ideal for hiking. However, the spring runoff lends to spectacular views of Eagle Falls, and I always love to take in the scenery from the lookout at Emerald Bay.
If you’re getting tired, make a quick stop in South Lake at Revive Coffee & Wine, they have great lattes and pastries. Watch your clock as they close at 3pm. The Tahoe Bagel Company also closes early, at 2pm, but for any bagel snobs out there, these are legit! There are plenty of wonderful places along the lake and you really can’t go wrong. From Emerald Bay head North towards Homewood and grab a drink or bite at the West Shore Café or to Sunnyside Restaurant & Lodge in Tahoe City, both have different vibes but equally great lake views.
Tahoe City has a lot of wonderful restaurants, if it’s getting late stop for dinner at the River Grill, the Halibut is awesome. If it’s still early, keep driving north and you’ll find yourself in Carnelian Bay where a stop at Gar Woods is sure to be lively. If you enjoy a quieter setting, Old Range Steakhouse opens at 5 pm and I love to grab an appetizer at the bar or dinner if you have an appetite. They serve large portions, which are great for sharing. If you’re headed back to Northstar, a quick stop at Safeway in Kings Beach is super convenient as well. Lanza’s Italian or Spindleshanks are also great dining options in Kings Beach, both have fun bars, and a bit more kid-friendly menus if you were brave enough to sign your kids up for a drive around the lake!
– Riley –