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Vacation Lake Tahoe in California and Nevada USA

Updated on October 24, 2017
Phyllis Doyle profile image

Historical and archaeological sites are a favorite subject for Phyllis to write on for tourism ideas.

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay and Fannette Island
Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay and Fannette Island | Source

Beautiful Lake Tahoe

What could be better than camping in the great outdoors, or living in a rustic cabin where pine wood forest meets the beach? How about cruising over deep blue waters under a wide open sky while having dinner and champagne? Maybe spend the evening in a fabulous resort watching a great show or testing your luck in an exciting casino? A good guess is there is not anything quite so relaxing and beautiful as a vacation in Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada, USA. It is a popular destination for vacationers from around the world.

Lake Tahoe has it all. From fabulous resorts, beautiful casinos on the Nevada side, restaurants galore, high rated hotels, motels, water sports and other outdoor activities, dinner cruises on the lake aboard authentic paddle wheel boats, historical sights, adventurous hiking trails like the historical Tahoe Rim Trail, cabin rentals and camping at any level from tent to RV camping. There are so many fine places to camp around Lake Tahoe. And winter sports at beautiful resorts are a favorite time for skiers.

Beautiful Ski Slopes

Ski slope overlooking Lake Tahoe
Ski slope overlooking Lake Tahoe | Source

Hiking and Bicycle Trails

Hikers and mountain bikers will be pleased to find some of the best trails all around the lake, where bicyclists will find paved off-road bicycle paths to enjoy. Then there are the rugged bike trails for mountain bikers.

Eagle Falls Trail Head in Emerald Bay State Park, just a few miles north of Camp Richardson on California State Route 89, provides access to the Tahoe Rim Trail, Granite Chief Wilderness (great wilderness camping and hiking), Desolation Wilderness and numerous trails.

On the east shore of the lake is Flume Trail, which has been featured in Mountain Biking Magazine's Top Ten Trails in the U.S.

On the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT), serious hikers can circle around the entire lake and enjoy some awesome views,and one might even see some eagles. The entire trail is 165 miles of glorious Nature. The elevation is 6,240 feet and ranges up to 10,338 feet at Relay Peak in Nevada. About 50 miles of the trail, above the west shore of Lake Tahoe, is part of the Pacific Crest Trail, which is 2,663 miles long. It stretches from the border of the U.S. and Mexico, to the U.S. - Canadian border. The trail runs through California, Oregon, and Washington.

The TRT is open year round and all but a small portion in the north is open to equestrians.

Eagle Falls

On the Eagle Falls trail, El Dorado National Forest, in the Sierra Nevada
On the Eagle Falls trail, El Dorado National Forest, in the Sierra Nevada | Source

Tahoe Rim Trail

Looking north at Lake Tahoe from the TRT
Looking north at Lake Tahoe from the TRT | Source

Cruise the Lake on Authentic Paddle Wheel Boats

Taking a cruise on the Tahoe Queen or the M.S. Dixie II is a unique way to spend the early evening on a dinner cruise, or sightseeing during the day with optional lunch. Being out on the beautiful alpine lake and breathing the fresh mountain air is invigorating and is so far away from the daily tasks and stress of everyday life. It is so magical and romantic.

This is a great opportunity for taking wonderful photographs to remember your cruise.

It is a lovely and relaxing way to see the lake, the surrounding shoreline, have a romantic dinner with your beloved and maybe listen to the Captain tell of the legends and history of the area. Both the Tahoe Queen and the M.S. Dixie II are authentic paddle wheel boats that bring back the nostalgic days on the Mississippi with the experience and romance of a different era.

You might imagine people in the fashion of yesteryear strolling the decks, or even see Mark Twain who once piloted a similar boat on the Mississippi River in another time. Wonderful things can happen with the imagination when on a paddle wheeler surrounded by such beauty of Nature.

A Sailboat on Lake Tahoe

Beautiful Lake Tahoe
Beautiful Lake Tahoe | Source

Water Sports

Water sports at the lake are very popular. Sailing, jet ski and paddle sport rentals, parasailing, and kayaking are increasingly popular.

Every August the Lake Tahoe Concours d'Elegance is considered one of the most esteemed wooden boat shows in the USA. The lake is huge and because it is an interstate waterway, is subject to the United States Coast Guard and maritime law enforcement.

SCUBA diving is allowed at the lake and has become very popular due to some dramatic under water drop-offs -- however, this is for advanced divers because of the high altitude of the lake, which increases the risk of decompression sickness.

Cave Rock Where Tessie Lives far Below

Cave Rock at Lake Tahoe
Cave Rock at Lake Tahoe | Source

Tahoe Tessie and Other Legends

Many popular lakes around the world has a legendary lake monster -- Lake Tahoe is not to be left out of these legends. Tahoe Tessie has been sighted by many over the years. According to the early Paiute and Washoe tribes, indigenous to Northern Nevada, Tessie was first sighted in the mid 1800s. The serpentine creature lives in a tunnel far under the water, beneath Cave Rock on the southeastern shore of Lake Tahoe.

Reports from people who have sighted Tessie say she is anywhere from ten feet to eighty feet long. She has serpentine-like features, but the skin is smooth. She is supposedly jet black, but sometimes a brilliant turquoise is seen on her -- maybe picking up reflections of the water which ranges from light blue to deep blue, with patches of turquoise here and there.

Another local legend is that of the bodies of executed mob victims wearing cement shoes being sunk in the deep waters in South Shore Lake Tahoe during the 1920s and 1930s. Where these bodies are supposed to be is over 900 feet down in water that is close to freezing. The deepest depth of the lake is 1600 feet, where the temperature is 4c. According to the local lore, there seems to be hundreds of bodies down there, in a somewhat preserved state due to the very cold water. There is one story that Jacques Cousteau, in the 1970s, who had an experience down deep in the waters that he would not expound on. Credited to Cousteau is the quote:

"The world isn’t ready for what was down there."

What did he mean by that? Was it Tessie, or maybe some mob victims Cousteau had a brush with? Maybe he was right and we are not ready for whatever is down there.

A showgirl, who supposedly committed suicide in the Tahoe Biltmore, still lingers and roams the casino area.

Marilyn Monroe evidently loves to haunt guests in the Cal-Neva, by turning hall lights on and off. Frank Sinatra once owned the Cal-Neva, where Miss Monroe was a frequent guest.

Park Rangers have reported sightings of a ghost over at the Ehrman Mansion at Sugar Pine Point State Park.

Old Indian legends tell of a bird that lived at the bottom of the lake and gobbled up children -- now, that could have been to keep the children out of the lake, for the Washoe tribe believed it was bad luck to go out onto the lake.

Other Lake Monsters, Do you recognize any of these names and places?

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Pierce Arrow Cabin

Camp Richardson Cabin, Pierce Arrow
Camp Richardson Cabin, Pierce Arrow | Source

Camp Richardson Memories

When my kids were little, Camp Richardson was our favorite summer vacation. There are many memories of the little old cabin we rented for one week every August. When my son was seven he got his first fishing pole and learned from his Dad how to fish. He caught six large trout one day in the lake. We barbecued them with lemon, butter and pepper that same evening for supper. When my daughter was eleven months old, she took her first steps in the cabin.

Breakfast, cooked in the kitchen on a very old little stove was always special and we took our time enjoying it. The kitchen was tiny yet cheerful, with a window that let in the early morning sun. It was fully stocked with pots, pans, dishes, glasses, cups, an old-fashioned coffee pot I had to set on the stove to brew, and silverware. A small, very old, refrigerator was sufficient enough for all the food we needed. We arrived on Sunday, would unpack everything, get organized, then I went into town to shop for the week. Putting groceries away in the tiny kitchen was fun. I had to bend over a bit to use the little stove, which had a warmer shelf above the burners to keep the plates warm and a small oven just large enough for a pot of beans, or six baking potatoes, or a casserole. There was a little pyramid shaped antique wire toaster that held two slices of bread that I had to place over one of the gas burners on low heat. Yet, the lack of convenience was like living in times past and I enjoyed every minute I spent in that kitchen.

The cabins at Camp Richardson are all very old and quaint with nice covered porches where one can sit and relax while watching the kids, chat with other vacationers who walk by, and gaze out to the lake. They are 1920s-1930s era style, quite rustic, yet quite comfortable and charming. Each cabin is named after a car model. We stayed in Pierce Arrow each August, and one year stayed in the Overland. It was hard to decide which cabin was our favorite. Pierce Arrow was right in the center of a fork in the old dirt road, where we met a lot of new friends as they passed by each day on their way to the lake. Overland was more secluded and quiet. We loved both cabins in their unique settings.

Overland Cabin

Camp Richardson Cabin, Overland
Camp Richardson Cabin, Overland | Source

Rustic Cabins

There are several size cabins -- some small for two people and some large enough to accommodate eight people. Bedding and firewood is supplied by the camp staff. Each cabin has a wood burning stove for heat. Even in the summer, late night and early mornings can be quite chilly because of all the pine trees that shade the whole area and the breeze that came off the very cold lake which fills with snow melt from the surrounding mountains.

We would start a small fire after supper just before we took showers, then another fire about 5:00 in the morning. We woke up early, because of the loud thunk on the porch that we heard every morning when the firewood was dropped into the wood box by one of the maintenance men -- that was our alarm clock, which started our day off early with excitement for all the things we would do.

After the kids were bedded down for the night, we sat at the old round table with friends, playing cards sometimes for a few hours and talking about our day.

It has been many years since we stayed in the cabin -- kitchen appliances might have been updated since then and I am sure the old wood box is still on the porch, but the scent of the pine forest and sense of nostalgic living in a different, slower time is still there. And memories linger.

Do you love camping?

What is your favorite place to stay on vacation?

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Camp Richardson Location map

California (white) and Nevada (tan), USA. Location of Camp Richardson
California (white) and Nevada (tan), USA. Location of Camp Richardson | Source

Daytime Activities

Day time activities for us were walking, tennis, badminton, croquet, sun bathing on the lovely beach, playing with the kids in the water, swimming, and visiting the old original store for an ice cream or other treats.

Up by the store is the old lodge that has never lost its charm and welcoming warmth. The rooms are quite comfortable, each with a private bathroom. The lounge area (Great Room) is very old fashion and comfortable to relax in, read, watch television, play board games, or just to sit and chat with friends.

Across the road from the main area are campgrounds for RVs or tents. There are stables with several horses that can be rented for riding through the forest with a guide. Hiking trails around the lake can be accessed from a designated parking lot just a few miles north of Camp Richardson.

There is a really nice restaurant now down by the water and they serve excellent food. Paddle boats can be rented by the hour. There is a roped off area for swimming. Although the water is quite cold, one gets used to it quickly. Going in for a swim after sunbathing is very enjoyable. I spent most of my time on the beach with my aunt as we played scrabble while the kids played in the sand near us.

Snowmobiling in Lake Tahoe

Tallac Historic Site and Vikingsholm Castle

Two memorable places to visit at South Shore is the Tallac Historic Site and Vikingsholm Castle

Right next door to the Camp Richardson property is the Tallac Historic Site Where the restored buildings of Baldwin Estate, the Pope Estate and Valhalla are open for tours, weddings, art and music festivals and other events.

A few miles north of Camp Richardson is Vikingsholm Castle, a 'must see' if you are in the area. It can be seen from one of the paddle wheel boat cruises, or can be walked down to from a parking lot above the castle. The walk down and back up is very steep and quite long, but well worth the effort for those who are healthy and able to take on the hike.

Another way to arrive at the castle is from a trail off the TRT, which is ten miles of easy hiking. A guided tour through the interior of the castle is very interesting.

Vikingsholm Castle

Vikingsholm Castle in Emerald Bay
Vikingsholm Castle in Emerald Bay | Source

South Lake Tahoe

U.S. Route 50 Stateline:
US-50, Stateline, NV, USA

get directions

South Lake Tahoe at Stateline

3004 Jameson Beach Rd, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150:
3004 Jameson Beach Rd, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150, USA

get directions

Camp Richardson

CA-89, Tahoma, CA 96142:
CA-89, Homewood, CA 96142, USA

get directions

Vikingsholm Castle

1261 Ski Run Boulevard, South Lake Tahoe:
1261 Ski Run Blvd, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150, USA

get directions

Heavenly Valley Ski Resort

Note From Author

It has been many years since we stayed in the cabin at Camp Richardson, but the memories are as bright and wonderful as ever. There have been some changes in the cabins as Diana Evans, Marketing for Camp Richardson has told me about and that I am happy to update you on:

Camp Richardson Resort has refurbished the majority of their cabins and also offer a historic hotel, among other lodging options. They have kept the look & feel authentically Tahoe, but now have modern amenities and furnishings. The Resort is open year-round for visitors. Visit for more information. I sure miss that little old stove, though -- it was so nostalgic. I wonder if they still have it somewhere and maybe I could buy it from them, just for old times sake.

I have not received any compensation for writing about Camp Richardson, Vikingsholm Castle, Tallac Historic Site or any other mention of Lake Tahoe opportunities for vacationers. I have visited Lake Tahoe and the surrounding areas at least once a year for the last forty years or so and am very familiar with it. I wrote about Lake Tahoe because it is my favorite place to vacation.

Thank you for reading my article. Your opinions are important to me and let me know your interests. This helps me to offer more of your favorite subjects to read about. Your time and interest are very much appreciated. I hope to hear from you in the comments section below.

Blessings and may you always walk in peace and harmony, softly upon Mother Earth.

Phyllis Doyle Burns - Lantern Carrie, Spiritual Mentor

© 2014 Phyllis Doyle Burns


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