This post was most recently updated on November 29th, 2018
With it’s seventy-two miles of shoreline, expansive lake, and equally majestic mountains, Lake Tahoe has it all! I hadn’t been back since I was a kid, so our little family decided to take a spontaneous trip to check out the beauty of Lake Tahoe.
We chose to visit during the end of September when the peak summer season had died down. Because the crowds were minimal and the beaches less populated, we really got to experience Tahoe in its unadulterated form: pristine beaches, well-kempt trails, and stunning vistas!
Where did we stay?
With only three weeks to pull this spontaneous trip together, Airbnb or HomeAway options within our frugal budget were limited. We were hoping to find something around $125/night that would accommodate our family of four. Luckily, there were several last minute resort deals in South Lake Tahoe near Stateline, the border of California and Nevada.
We booked a Junior Suite at 3 Peaks Resort & Beach Club (via expedia.com), complete with a king size bed, a living area with pullout couch, and a kitchenette. The total for three nights was $390.
I was very pleased with the accommodations, although check-in time was later than I’d ever experienced before (check in starts at 4 pm). They had a heated pool and jacuzzi which was especially nice after a long day exploring the lake! And, to top it off, the resort was centrally located to many family friendly attractions.
Lake Tahoe Beaches and Parks
Less than half a mile away from our resort was Lakeside Beach, which made for a perfect stroll to the shore. My kids loved playing in the sand, as well as exploring the playground and swing set. Restrooms are also available at the beach.
A bit further away, we visited Sand Harbor along the northeast side of Lake Tahoe. We were warned about the popularity of this beach; during peak season the parking lot fills quickly, sometimes by 9 am! Fortunately for us, we went around 2 pm on a Monday and there were very few visitors. There is a $10 fee for parking, but it was most definitely worth it! Not only is the beach pristine and extremely picturesque, a paved boardwalk meanders through the landscape so you can further explore the coastline. There is also a visitor’s center, gift shop, restrooms, and restaurant.
Bijou Community Park
Because we were traveling with children, we sought out a playground where our toddler could run, climb, and play! Bijou Community Park proved to be the perfect destination for our little family. When we arrived, I was amazed to see just how expansive the park was with its play structure and swing set, disk golf course, bike trails, basketball and volleyball courts, skatepark, fenced-off dog park, restrooms, and picnic tables.
Kid-friendly hikes near Lake Tahoe
Near Lake Tahoe there are many wonderful hikes, ranging in difficulty for anyone who wants to get out and explore nature. With a toddler and infant in tow, we were looking for more kid-friendly hikes, ideally ones with paved or well-established trails.
Van Sickle Bi-State Park
My husband should get the credit for this fantastic find! In searching for a great (and nearby) hike for our little family, he came across Van Sickle Bi-State Park within a mile of our lodging. It’s free to enter the park and is open to pedestrians year-round, sunrise to sunset. There are even picnic tables, as well as restrooms near the entrance. No wonder the park’s website claims to be “one of the most accessible parks in the Tahoe Basin”!
We set out on the Rim Trail Connector and hiked for about half an hour along the well-groomed path, dodging in and out of gorgeous trees and huge boulders. While the trail continued another 6 miles to the Tahoe Rim Trail, we headed back towards the car as the sun began to set. The sounds of the birds chirping and squirrels running through the trees overhead made for a very serene stroll through the woods, and it was exactly the right speed for our toddler. Both my husband and I would like to return to Van Sickle Bi-State Park to explore the other trails!
Fallen Leaf Lake
Another fun hike was actually a recommendation from a local. They suggested visiting Fallen Leaf Lake, a small and very quiet lake adjacent to South Lake Tahoe. We enjoyed walking from the Day Visitor Parking area (which was free!) over to the Fallen Leaf Lake Trail; a quick quarter-mile hike led us to this beautiful view of the lake and surrounding mountains.
There were very few people at the lake, which made for a quiet and peaceful visit. My son and husband enjoyed throwing and skipping rocks into the calm water. And my 10-month old and I sat listening to the waves as they gently lapped against the shoreline.
Lake Tahoe vista points
Of course, no Lake Tahoe visit is complete without witnessing a breathtaking sunset! We sought out a location where my husband could get drone footage (the flying regulations are pretty tight in State parks and near airports) and settled on a parking lot just above Chimney Beach, called Secret Harbor.
It was a spectacular location to sit and watch the sun as it set. The sky turned a golden yellow and the hazy purple mountains reflected off the glimmering lake. The trees in the foreground framed the entire scene perfectly. Getting an aerial view of the sunset via drone was a plus, too!
I also noticed a sign for the Logan Shoals Vista point as we were driving; while I cannot say how it compares to the view from Secret Harbor, I did notice quite a few people gathering there, undoubtedly to take in the magnificent sunset. In fact, with a sunset this spectacular, I’m sure the view is good from just about anywhere!
• One evening, we ventured to Incline Village (North Lake Tahoe) and ate at Gus’ Open Pit BBQ. I bought a platter of tri-tip steak, with baked beans and macaroni and cheese on the side. I proceeded to inhale the whole thing; it was delicious! My only regret was not ordering a second plate to go…
• While staying at 3 Peaks Resort & Beach Club, I kept thinking just how convenient a location it was! So many lively restaurants were just a block away, the beach was within walking distance, plus there was a Raley’s supermarket just up the road. Our room only had a kitchenette, but we were able to stock up on grocery store breakfast foods and keep them in our mini-fridge for the following morning. Plus, after one such quick grocery run, we may or may not have devoured an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s in one evening (cuz there was no room in the mini freezer, of course!).
• The best part of Tahoe is that while you are there, it seems like you are worlds away from the day-to-day grind of work and real-life! Even though we live only 4 hours away, Tahoe was a great (and easy) getaway that provided us opportunities to relax, play, and see new things. I very much enjoyed touring Lake Tahoe with my family!
You’ll be happy to know I have partnered with GPSmyCity to create a GPS-guided tour of Lake Tahoe, so you can easily visit the places mentioned in this post. You can download the article free or upgrade for a small fee to download it with GPS coordinates to guide you from place to place without data or internet. If you do, I will receive a small commission to help with my blog expenses – thank you!
Written by guest blogger, Heather Young, whose photography is featured on her blog, Heather Hiding Photography. Heather is my daughter, and I am so grateful she has caught my travel bug! I love that she is teaching my grandchildren to appreciate the beautiful world we live in!