If you think that stunning Lake Tahoe is only worth a trip in the winter, you're missing out. An autumn weekend on the lake equals fantastic food, great outdoor adventures from whitewater rafting to hikes in the mountains, and fewer crowds than you'd find come ski season.
Flying into Reno-Tahoe International Airport is the easiest way to start. For the most scenic way to reach the lake, rent a car, as you won't want to miss the beautiful hour-long drive through the majestic Sierra Nevadas. Look for the famous Tahoe blue water peeking through the trees as you crest the mountains around the world's biggest alpine lake.
For short stays, the Zephyr Cove Resort is a great choice. The comfortable lakeside cabins (some just steps from the beach) retain a historic charm while offering modern conveniences. Whether you’re on a romantic getaway, a family vacation, or are just looking to relax, you’ll find nothing but space, privacy, and gorgeous lakefront sunsets here.
Splurge on a weekend stay at the luxe and intimate PlumpJack Squaw Valley, where plush beds and high-end bath amenities welcome you after long days of hiking, biking, and exploring. The hotel sits just steps from the cable car, but you'll want to stick around for meals at the fantastic PlumpJack Cafe and Bar.
Beautiful views are just the start in Lake Tahoe. The area also serves up some delicious and sophisticated cuisine. Take a trip on the M.S. Dixie II, a historic paddleboat restaurant well known for being the largest (and swankiest) boat on the lake. You can take an afternoon ride, but the real magic happens on evening cruises, which feature fine dining, dancing, and Lake Tahoe’s crystal clear water shimmering in the moonlight.
For a more laidback evening try lakeside dining at the Chart House in South Lake Tahoe, or the River Grill in Tahoe City, both of which offer great views and delectable dishes. For a night on the town check out the Ciera Steak + Chophouse at Montbleu Resort. Stick around after dinner for a drink at one of the resorts's clubs, a bit of gambling, or a show.
You don't spend a weekend in Tahoe without enjoying the great outdoors. On warmer days, head to Sand Harbor, the go- to beach on the east side of the lake. The sand and clear blue water provide an outstanding sunning and picnicking spot and the ever popular jumping rocks add a thrill for those willing to take the plunge. You can also rent kayaks from many outfitters that dot the shore, but we like Sierra Adventures.
Or, get your blood really pumping with an adventurous trip down the whitewater rapids that rush through town with Tahoe Whitewater Tours. Be prepared to meet your whitewater-match with rapids like "Jaws," "Pinball," and "Troublemaker."
Spend a day well above sea level in the mountains that surround Tahoe. A fall hike in the aspen groves of Hope Valley is extraordinary and you’ll find many wonderful mountain biking trails there as well. The intrepid can and should attempt the arduous hike up Mount Tallac southwest of the lake. Tallac will reward adventurous climbers with spectacular alpine meadows and the absolute best view of Lake Tahoe in the region.
Photo credits: Lake Tahoe images via Dreamstime.com; PlumpJack Squaw Valley courtesy of PlumpJack Squaw Valley; MS Dixie II courtesy of Zephyr Cove Resort