Top Picks For You
Lake Tahoe Travel Guide

Opinion: We Were on the Fodor’s ‘No List.’ But That Doesn’t Mean We’re Closed to Visitors

Gatekeeping one of America’s most stunning alpine lakes isn’t the answer to protecting this precious resource. Responsible stewardship is.

Lake Tahoe, which straddles the California-Nevada border, is known for its pristine clarity, a vibrant blue high-alpine lake surrounded by mountains and forest. Famous for its outdoor recreation, North Lake Tahoe alone is home to dozens of picture-perfect beaches, 11 ski resorts, and hundreds of miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. All of these natural features and recreation opportunities make the Lake Tahoe area a popular destination for travelers coming from near and far and a desirable place for many to call home.

While many people love Lake Tahoe dearly, in 2023, Fodor’s listed it on its annual “No List,” citing Lake Tahoe as having a “people problem” and recommending the destination take steps to protect its unique ecosystem and minimize overtourism.

It’s true that during the COVID pandemic, visitor numbers to the Lake Tahoe area increased, with a noticeable growth in single-day visitors, as opposed to overnight visitation. But since then, visitor numbers have returned to pre-pandemic norms, and the area’s community-focused organizations have taken major steps to implement changes that will improve the Tahoe experience for all.

Continue Reading Article After Our Video

Recommended Fodor’s Video

How do you protect a place like Lake Tahoe from being overrun without locking the gates to entry or shutting down its economy? The answer, it turns out, isn’t to shut the door entirely.

Telling travelers not to visit an area that depends heavily on tourism for its economic stability creates its own set of problems. It could do more damage than good, as the communities in Lake Tahoe rely on the area’s $5 billion tourism economy for everything from transportation solutions to workforce housing for local labor force and other improvements that enhance the visitor experience and the quality of life for residents. So, how do you protect a place like Lake Tahoe from being overrun without locking the gates to entry or shutting down its economy?

The answer, it turns out, isn’t to shut the door entirely and turn off the flow of economic activity that supports these communities. Instead, we must encourage everyone in the Lake Tahoe area—visitors and residents alike—to tread lightly, to do their research before they set out, and to travel and recreate responsibly within the region, knowing that the lake’s future depends on it.

The Lake Tahoe of Tomorrow

Lake Tahoe is not a national park, though efforts were once made to convince Congress to turn it into one. Unlike regulated lands such as national parks, there is no gated entry to the Tahoe Basin and no overarching infrastructure for enforcing behavior or restricting visitor numbers. Instead, protecting Lake Tahoe requires a collaborative, multi-faceted approach. Destination management organizations like the North Tahoe Community Alliance (NTCA) and Travel North Tahoe Nevada (TNTNV) have decisive roles to play in this challenge.

In June 2023, over a dozen destination management, land management, and non-profit organizations in the area—including governmental jurisdictions, the Washoe Tribe, and the U.S. Forest Service—collaboratively released the Lake Tahoe Destination Stewardship Plan, a course of action that guides the efforts and investments of the member organizations, which now make up the Destination Stewardship Council, led by a newly hired executive director. The plan contains 32 action items across four strategic pillars, including fostering a tourism economy that gives back, turning a shared vision into action, and advancing a culture of caring for Lake Tahoe to improve the experience for everyone.

The next chapter of Lake Tahoe is already here. NTCA has directed over $20 million in grants generated by taxes and self-assessments from tourism businesses to support workforce housing, transportation, mitigation of tourism impacts, and trail building and maintenance. TNTNV has contributed over half a million dollars to support innovative transportation solutions in addition to over $300,000 to local organizations in support of a vibrant tourism economy. TNTNV invests its tourism-generated funds to support transportation enhancements, partnerships with key organizations on sustainable recreational options, and innovative programming focused on environmental and community improvements, like a first-ever below-the-surface clean-up dive of neighboring Marlette Lake.

Eco Clean Solutions

Beach-cleaning robots—funded by tourism-generated dollars—are pulling plastic out of the sand before the waste breaks down into microplastics that could pollute the lake. Increased public transit and micro-transit around the region offer alternatives to driving, while foot and bike travel thrive through a growing network of accessible, multi-use pathways. Continued workforce housing projects are in development to provide affordable, attainable accommodations for long-term and seasonal employees, supporting both the business community and reducing the need for employees to commute into the Tahoe Basin.

At popular beaches and trailheads during the busy summer season, a brigade of Lake Tahoe ambassadors greet Tahoe users, offering friendly smiles and reminding folks to pick up their trash, drink Tahoe tap water instead of buying plastic water bottles, and clean up after their pets. They kindly offer education and equipment to help people clean, drain, and dry their inflatable paddleboards to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

Paddlers and boaters explore the region from the water instead of the road through the use of the Lake Tahoe Water Trail, while cyclists navigate the region’s roadways and pathways, thanks to user-friendly bike maps created by the Lake Tahoe Bicycle Coalition.

Getting Cars off the Roads

A major investment of tourism-generated revenue has funded transportation solutions throughout the Lake Tahoe region that make it easier to leave personal vehicles behind. The goal is to reduce the number of cars on the road, mitigate parking challenges, and cut down on traffic congestion and air pollution.

Community organizations like NTCA and TNTNV have invested in transportation initiatives like a free on-demand shuttle service called TART Connect, a local workforce vanpool program, and park-and-ride options during ski season.

Kimera Collective

From December 14 through April 7, TART Connect serviced more than 114,000 riders and, in April, reached one million rides since its launch in June 2021. Ski resorts have implemented parking reservation systems to eliminate the surplus of personal vehicles on the road, and in 2023 alone, Mountaineer, a shuttle system that operates in Olympic Valley and Alpine Meadows serving the Palisades Tahoe ski area, diverted over 20,000 vehicles from the road. Last winter, Mountaineer serviced over 50,000 riders, a 12% increase from the year prior, and 80% of those riders also used the area’s fix-route bus services.

Environmental Efforts

Many organizations within the Tahoe Basin are proactively working to promote sustainability and protect Lake Tahoe alongside NTCA and TNTNV. The UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC) plays a crucial role in understanding and addressing Lake Tahoe’s environmental concerns. Their long-term water clarity monitoring program tracks changes in the lake, aiding in efforts to combat invasive species.

The center’s Citizen Science app allows people to submit observations along with photos that share important information on what’s visible around the lake, such as algae blooms, cloudy water, invasive species, or high concentrations of litter. Additionally, UC Davis TERC has partnered with local visitor’s centers to display custom-developed interactive environmental learning exhibits focused on microplastics in the Tahoe environment, the watershed, and what makes Lake Tahoe unique.

Know Before You Go

Lake Tahoe is open for visitors. But those who arrive to enjoy this pristine place must understand that their visit comes with responsibility. Visitors should consider coming during less crowded times, like midweek or during the slower shoulder seasons of fall and spring. During these periods, you’ll find extra elbow room at the more popular beaches and trailheads and support the business economy when the need is greater.

North Lake Tahoe

Those who arrive to enjoy this pristine place must understand that their visit comes with responsibility.

If you’re out enjoying the area’s legendary wilderness, from trails to beaches, leave no trace on the land and water. That means parking responsibly, packing out what you brought in, being wildfire-safe, and giving space to wildlife. Consider giving back to the place you’re visiting through volunteer cleanups, buying locally, and supporting community initiatives. Ample resources are available for sustainable travel tips, area information guides, and the latest updates on weather, road conditions, and other critical things to know.

The duty of preserving the quality of life and protecting the fragile ecosystems in Lake Tahoe is not a singular job. Community organizations like NTCA and TNTNV are working hard on solutions and partnerships that are poised to make positive change, with many impacts of those efforts already being felt. And to those who get to spend time in the beautifully wild landscape that is Lake Tahoe—lucky you. Whether you’re here for a day or you stay for a lifetime, it’s on all of us to work toward a future of Lake Tahoe we can be proud of.

For more information about North Lake Tahoe and the efforts being made to continue to sustain and protect the region, please visit

Andy Chapman is originally from Reno and has lived in Tahoe for about 30 years. He has worked in the Lake Tahoe tourism industry for more than 25 years. Andy is actively involved in the region’s stewardship and visitor management initiatives and is a board member of the Tahoe Transportation District and the Truckee North Tahoe Transportation Management Association. Andy is also a board member on the One West Tourism Alliance and the Lake Tahoe Stewardship Council.

Tony Karwowski is responsible for leading the North Tahoe Community Alliance in its efforts to build a successful, sustainable future that includes economic health, community vitality, and environmental stewardship. Previously, Tony was the Director of Base Area Operations at Northstar California Resort, where he served on both the Truckee North Tahoe Transportation Management Association (TNT/TMA) board and the NLTRA’s Capital Infrastructure and Transportation committees, as well as being involved in employee housing. When you don’t find him passionately working for the future of North Lake Tahoe, you can find him mountain biking on the extensive singletrack network throughout the Tahoe Basin.

yb5995 June 3, 2024

I remember news anchors in the Bay area was saying the same thing about lake Tahoe and they were actually turning away visitors at one point. My family has since vacationed there, yes it's beautiful, but shouldn't we respect and keep all of California clean and preserved for us all, not just certypla es or areas. At the time it seemed real rude and the locals were in the news saying for non tahoe residents to stay home, they can't have it both way.

Faedus June 1, 2024

The above article may not be exactly unbiased, but then, Fodor’s 2023 “No List,” as I recall thinking when I first saw it, was not exactly intelligent.  Honestly describing the problems with  certain destinstions may be legitimate, but telling readers “No, don’t go there” is usually just simple-minded,  a stunt which seems to be aimed primarily at getting excited “clicks”; and, as seems to be the case with Tahoe, one which could actually do economic damage to places still worth visiting.
Now I would never accuse the Fodors editors of lacking honesty or integrity, but I do believe that travel editors who possess these qualities will stick to presenting information about various destinations, honestly and fairly, and leave it up to readers to decide whether in their respective individual cases, a “No go” conclusion is justified.