Only a two-hour drive from Sacramento, cobalt-blue Lake Tahoe is Northern California's mountain playground. The lake's North Shore towns-Tahoe City, Truckee, Kings Beach, and Carnelian Bay-set the stage for summertime fun by the lake and wintertime snow play. Whatever your favorite season, these communities have vacations covered with gear rentals and tours, ample dining and nightlife options, and lodgings that range from luxury resorts to knotty-pine cabins. Combine all that with North Shore's cozy mountain-town vibes and you have a perfect recipe for alpine play, lakeside dining, and fireside chats.
Play on the water
In summer, the mountain wildflowers appear at Lake Tahoe, and so do the water toys-stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, speed boats, and almost anything that floats.
Cruise the lake aboard the paddle-wheeler Tahoe Gal, or steer your own (much smaller) craft. Rent a jet ski or open-bow boat from North Tahoe Water sports or take waterski lessons from High Sierra Water Ski School. Try stand-up paddling or aqua biking at Kings Beach Recreation Area. Join in a guided kayak tour with Tahoe Adventure Company or Tahoe City Kayak.
For family-friendly fun, rent an inner tube or raft and float the Truckee River. In Tahoe City, Truckee River Rafting or Truckee River Raft Company can set you up with gear to gently bob downstream to River Ranch Lodge, an 1888 stone-and-timber tavern. Nab lunch on the deck, then ride a shuttle back to your starting point.
Explore mountain trails
See Lake Tahoe from way up high by hiking a section of the Tahoe Rim Trail, a 165-mile path that traverses the basin's high ridge line. For an easy half-day jaunt, stroll to Picnic Rock from Brockway Summit to savor blue-water views or wander through the wildflowers at Page Meadows. Other great North Shore hikes include the trek to Castle Peak's volcanic turrets or the half-day ascent up Shirley Canyon at Palisades Tahoe.
Play in the snow
In winter, melt some snow at the North Shore's big resorts-Palisades Tahoe, Sugar Bowl, or Northstar California-or skip over to smaller ski hills like Homewood, Granlibakken, or Donner Ski Ranch. Try out a skinnier pair of sticks at Royal Gorge, North America's largest cross-country ski resort with 100 groomed trails for cross-country striders and skate-skiers. The North Shore has plenty of activities for non-skiers, too, from aerial tram rides to tubing hills and ice-skating rinks.
Dine with a lake view
Any meal at Lake Tahoe tastes better with a view of its remarkably blue waters. In Carnelian Bay, score a spot on Gar Woods' lakefront deck for fish tacos and rum-rich cocktails. Cozy up with baked brie and braised short ribs at Jake's on the Lake in Tahoe City, or reserve a table at Christy Hill for Mediterranean-inspired cuisine paired with a lofty lake view. Near Homewood, Sunnyside Lodge doles out fish tacos and a summer-party atmosphere-even in January-while West Shore Cafe delivers on lakefront apres-ski warm-ups and date-night dining.
No matter what you do, Lake Tahoe is Paradise on Earth.