Spring in the Lake Tahoe area brings forth a unique blend of winter and summer’s best. Where one day might call for a delicate sprinkling of snow, the next may be 75 degrees and sunny. At its center, the large, sparkling lake is one of the country’s most precious gifts; whose towering evergreens and alpine mountains completely encompass the world’s clearest waters for a postcard-perfect setting.
Looking for the top things to do in Lake Tahoe? Click here to open a new tab for my South Tahoe guide and here for my North Tahoe guide to read next!
As you venture off along the rugged Sierra Nevada you’ll find a different type of untouched gem waiting to be uncovered in the Carson Valley, Nevada. Here, the disparate landscape is rough around the edges and the noticeably slower pace will have you yearning to explore what lies between the tranquil waters of Lake Tahoe and bright lights of Reno. As the weather warms and winter activities make way for summer, there are endless opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy the pristine, natural scenery from Reno, Nevada to Tahoe’s state-line of California. Whether its the wild outback of Carson Valley, the tree-lined beaches of the Lake, or the high concentration of signature golf courses in the area that encapsulate the beauty of the surroundings, there are so many ways to get outside and enjoy Lake Tahoe beyond its ski slopes.
Getting to Lake Tahoe
To visit Lake Tahoe and the surrounding areas, you will need to fly into the Reno-Tahoe International Airport located in Reno, Nevada. From the airport, you can rent a car or use the Shuttle transportation to Tahoe for $29.75 one-way for adults or $53.00 round trip. The shuttle runs every 1-2 hours from 10:30AM to 12:30AM and the commute time to Lake Tahoe is about 1 hour long. Lyft, Uber, Chariot, and taxis are also available in the area. I recommend renting a car for full freedom of exploration.
Staying in Reno
After arriving at the Reno-Tahoe airport, you may want to consider spending a night or two in Reno, Nevada. Reno has rightly earned the title, “The Biggest Little City in the World” for its big vision and bountiful opportunities. The charming downtown area is filled with hotels, casinos, shops, restaurants, and nightlife entertainment much like downtown Las Vegas, but far more quaint and contained. “The Row” in Reno is a series of 3 interconnected hotels and casinos and is an ideal place to stay for its location and entertainment options.
As part of the row, the newly renovated Silver Legacy Resort and Casino features luxurious rooms, a 21,000-square-foot spa, outdoor pool and cabanas, state of the art casino, live entertainment, and 7 dining options. The newest addition of Silver Legacy’s Topgolf Suite gives visitors the chance to play virtual reality simulation games in a lively atmosphere, including the popular Topgolf target game, Zombie Dodgeball, Hockey Shots, Quarterback Challenge, Baseball Pitching, Carnival Classic and more. The Topgolf Suite also offers food, a full bar, large TVs and a VIP room.
Golfing in and around the Reno-Tahoe Area
Lake Tahoe and the surrounding areas are home to some of the most notable and award-winning golf courses in the U.S. A golf-enthusiast’s dream, there are 48 courses found in Lake Tahoe and the neighboring areas of Truckee, Reno, and Carson Valley. No matter which course you choose to play, you will be sure to be surrounded by the spectacular scenery.
It may come as a surprise, but I grew up playing golf and was even on my high school’s golf team; so when I was invited to come check out a few the area’s best courses and explore more of what the neighborhoods in and around Lake Tahoe have to offer, I knew I shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to bring out the old clubs. Something about the fresh cut lawns, elegant club houses, and hitting golf balls on the driving range bring on a revitalizing sense of nostalgia while providing a fun and social, yet leisurely form of physical activity (read: I’m kind of lazy and I hate running, so golf is a perfect sport for me. I highly recommend you give it a try!)
Whether you’re the pro-golfer, are on a family vacation with dad, or on a romantic getaway with the special man (or lady!) in your life, the courses here will be sure to impress. Not into golf? No problem, the Reno-Tahoe area is full of options to either unwind or get moving.
Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course
The Edgewood Golf Course in Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful courses in the world. Surrounded by the snowcapped mountains and towering pines, each hole gives a vantage point that seems to be more beautiful than the last. Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course is a top 100 ranked course and the host of the annual American Century Championship every July. The incredible 5-star lodge at Edgewood was ranked #1 in the Top 15 Continental U.S. Resort Hotels and the Top 10 West Resort Hotels categories in the 2018 Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards. If golf-luxury in an unbeatable scenery is what you are after, Edgewood Tahoe is a course that should not be missed.
More Outdoor Tahoe Activities
Lake Tahoe in the spring and summer is a haven of the great outdoors. Begin your morning with an invigorating hike at Van Sickle Bi-State Park to disconnect and get in touch with the beautiful surroundings. Straddling the state-lines of California and Nevada, the easy-to-moderate trails take you through the forest and up to vista points which offer impressive panoramic views of the shining lake. About 1.1 miles into the hike you will come across a gorgeous waterfall that further elevates the peace and serenity of the environment. The 6.3 mile Rim Trail Connector adjoins the famous Tahoe Rim Trail, which has been named one the country’s top ten trails by National Geographic Adventure magazine. The trails are open to hikers, mountain bikers, and horse riders.
Warm weather in Lake Tahoe means trading the ski slopes for the beaches to fully enjoy the beauty of the Lake. After your hike, head to Round Hill Pines Beach for lunch at their restaurant followed by an afternoon of water activities or sunbathing on the sandy tree-lined beach. Round Hill Pines offers rentals for all types of water sports including kayaks, stand up paddle boards, jet skis, and boats. The water of the lake is so clear you’re able to see up to 65 feet deep, and is perfectly cool and refreshing to even take a swim in. After your time on the lake, stick around Round Hill Pines for sunset while enjoying an alpine-Carribbean rum punch at the newly renovated rum bar, before heading off to Capisce for dinner– a charming family-owned restaurant serving the best homemade Italian food in Lake Tahoe.
Where to stay in Lake Tahoe
The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is perfectly located in South Lake Tahoe and offers modern rooms with expansive views of the lake. Amenities include a large swimming pool that’s open year-round, a fitness center, yoga, 4 dining options, 6 bars, a full casino, live entertainment, and Hard Rock’s signature music program. The hotel is pet- (and family-) friendly, too!
Carson Valley, Nevada: The Unassuming Gem
About a 45-minute drive from Lake Tahoe you will find the charming agricultural town of Carson Valley, Nevada. Compared to Lake Tahoe, you will feel the jarring juxtaposition between the new world and the old, as the ranch-lined highway leads to the astonishing backdrop of the Eastern slope of the Sierra, where fields of cows and horses graze on wild, open land. An unassuming gem of the Tahoe-Reno region, Carson Valley can often be overlooked by travelers who visit Nevada for outdoor recreation; but the undeniable beauty of the natural setting and deep-rooted history are what make Carson Valley a must for all visitors.
Genoa Lakes Golf Club
If you are in search of more luxury golf courses with outstanding sceneries around the Tahoe-Reno area, look no further than The Lakes Course at Genoa Lakes Golf Club in Carson Valley. The Lakes Course is a PGA Champion designed, links-style course that combines rolling fairways with lush wetlands, the winding Carson River, and the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to make for 14 holes of challenging yet picture-worthy drives. The elegant clubhouse, with its luxury amenities and full service restaurant is the perfect place for lunch or a cocktail with a view overlooking the scenic fairway. Whether you are a golfer or not you will surely appreciate The Lakes Course stunning landscape.
Three More Things You Cannot Miss in Carson Valley
Carson Valley Wildlife & Photo Tour: The Carson Valley Visitors Authority welcome nature, animal, and photography lovers on a tour of the backcountry of Carson Valley to witness the majestic wild horses and other wildlife that inhabit the Valley. Led by acclaimed wildlife photojournalist JT Humphrey, the tour is a unique and unforgettable experience that will leave you in awe and with a sense of connection to these beautiful free-running stallions and mares. On acres of vast, open fields where the horses roam freely in bands, you will have the opportunity to learn about and observe the behaviors and social hierarchy of the horses while capturing some incredible photos to take home as souvenirs.
The Genoa Bar and Saloon: Carson Valley is home to the oldest thirst parlor in Nevada, known as the Genoa Bar. Established in 1853, the bar served many notable figures including Mark Twain, Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. Carol Lombard and Clark Gable even partook in a game of high stakes poker with the local cattle barons of Carson Valley. The deep-rooted history of this tiny dive is evident throughout– with original light fixtures and decorative wall offerings that range from original artwork and jukeboxes, to a black leopard-print bra which belonged to 1960’s iconic actress, Raquel Welch. The bra, much like the rest of the decor, is now collecting cobwebs as it hangs from deer head antlers on a dusty wall. There have been many famous movies filmed at the Genoa Bar such as Honky Tonk Man with Clint Eastwood; many musicians have come through such as Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson; and there was even a Coors commercial filmed at the Genoa Bar. Most importantly however, it continues to serve the community as the local watering hole with its same welcoming atmosphere.
The Bently Heritage Estate Distillery: At the complete opposite spectrum from the Genoa Bar you have the Bently Distillery – the most impressively modern spirits distillery you will ever visit. With over 100 million dollars of all custom stainless steal and copper fully-automated machinery, there is no alcohol production operation that even comes close to the magnitude of Bently. Not even the most luxurious and state-of-the-art wineries of Napa Valley can compare. The distillery boasts temperature-controlled rooms to emulate the weather of Scotland and Kentucky at any given time for the aging process of their scotch and bourbon, so even the most pretentious whiskey connoisseurs will be sure to appreciate Bently’s offerings. They use all sustainably grown and harvested rye, wheat, and barely from their very own Bently Ranch to produce their spirits, which can be tasted in their immaculate third floor tasting room. What is most unique about their spirits however, is that they are made with oat. Oat vodka, oat gin, and even sherry rested oat vodka make for an indistinguishable smoothness to their alcohol. The vodka old fashioned with its reminiscent oakiness will have you fooled its not whiskey, so be sure to order one at the tasting room’s bar. After a brand new renovation, the distillery lays in its original home of more than 100 year old Minden Flour Mill and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The attention to detail at Bently Distillery is unmatched, and you will never find such a luxury alcohol production operation like it anywhere else.
SoaringNV: Take a glider plane ride and soar 10,000 feet over the Tahoe Basin, Sierra Nevada Mountains, and Carson Valley! This scenic and exillerating ride will make for the trip of a lifetime. Whether you’re looking for smooth and peaceful soar, or a wild ride that’ll flip you upside down, you’ll be sure to appreciate the beauty of the landscape as you experience the weightless feeling of gliding through air.
Three places to eat in Carson Valley
Kristopher’s Restaurante & Bar specializes in homemade Italian cuisine. Their wine cellar houses an impressive selection of bottles from Napa to Italy, and their patio is the perfect place to enjoy a glass.
Overland Restaurant & Pub is a lively, family-friendly restaurant featuring a menu of fresh, locally-sourced food and a full bar to hang around. Entrees can be served family-style and include classics such as pasta dishes, burgers, sandwiches, and salads.
CV Steak at the Carson Valley Inn offers a Nevada-style steakhouse in a relaxed-formal environment. Their menu goes beyond classic steak entrees to include plenty of seafood, pasta, and vegetarian dishes. They also make some of the best desserts in Carson Valley, perfect for a special night out.
Where to Stay in Carson Valley
The Carson Valley Inn is a charming hotel and casino with the most spacious standard-type rooms I’ve ever come across (request the 5th floor!) There are 3 dining options found on the property and a cabernet lounge which offers free nightly entertainment.
There is so much beauty to be found in and around Lake Tahoe, and I encourage you to go beyond the beaten path that surrounds the Lake to explore the corners of the Sierra that many travelers overlook. Whether you are a golfer (especially if you are a golfer!), an outdoor adventurer, or simply appreciate nature’s various landscapes (and maybe also enjoy a good stiff drink or two), Reno, Tahoe, and Carson Valley are three areas of Nevada that offer vastly different experiences, yet are beautiful all the same.
Disclaimer: This post was kindly sponsored by the Tahoe South CVB, the Nevada Commission on Tourism, Visit Reno Tahoe, and the Carson Valley CBV. A special thanks also to the sponsoring tourism boards’ generous partners for providing all the lodging, dining, and experiences for this trip. As always, all opinions are strictly my own.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Disclosures page.
Cover photo by JT Humphrey
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