Whenever we plan a big family vacation, I tend to grow anxious as we approach the big day. There is a little voice in the back of my head that wonders if we will have fun? Will the kids adjust to a new environment and sleep well at night? Will there be enough to do to entertain everyone? Our recent week long trip to Tahoe was no exception. I spent hours and hours researching things to do in the area and left for the trip with a pretty short list. In trying to find family friendly destinations that were unique and didn't cost tons of money, I was hitting some major road blocks. Thankfully, with the help of some good finds from my brother-in-law and his wife (who also joined us on the trip) we ended up with some great day trips to share with everyone.
In no particular order, here they are!
Lake Tahoe is dotted with dozens of amazing beaches, but a lot of them can become over-crowded with visitors. The best way we found to avoid the crowds was to visit during the weekdays and to find beaches that require a hike, which seems to deter most people. The hike down to Skunk Harbor is a piece of cake. It's all downhill and approximately 1.5 miles with wide fire trails to follow. The beach at the bottom is nothing short of spectacular. The juxtaposition of the large white boulders against the vibrant blue water is so beautiful, and the peacefulness of the setting is only enhanced by the fact that there is hardly anyone else there! We might have seen 3 other groups of people during our hour long stay.
I mentioned that the hike down to Skunk Harbor is a piece of cake. The walk up however, was borderline torture with a kid on each of our backs. The trail is 1.5 miles of switchbacks, so the incline is not horrible, but it is a continuous uphill climb covering almost 650 feet of elevation gain. With that said, it was worth every last ounce of energy that it took from us and I would do it again in a heartbeat. The dirt road is also stroller friendly, so if you have a great off-road stroller (like a BOB), then it might be a little less painful...but I would imagine it would still be a tough trip up the hill.
|You know it's a special place when even your 4 year old wants to relax!|
We had an amazing time on our trip to Tahoe and had a lot of really great days, but this might have been my favorite. Visiting Angora Lakes is like stepping back in time. Both lakes are dotted with small cabins, most of which were built in the 1920's and exude so much charm! It was hard to control my urge to immediately book another week long vacation! The lower lake appeared to have privately owned cabins (if anyone knows how to rent these, please let me know!), while the upper lake was home to Angora Lake Resorts, which offers nine rustic cabins that are rented on a weekly basis.
|I think it was in the moment of taking this picture that I looked over at my husband and said "staying here might need to go on the bucket list"|
We eventually made our way to Upper Angora Lake and it was icing on the cake! Another beautiful lake to enjoy, and this one had boat rentals and a snack shack!! This was a fun surprise for us, since we were expecting the resort to be closed, but they happened to open a couple of weeks early this year. We rented a row-boat and bought an It's-It to enjoy on our leisurely paddle (side note: I haven't had an It's It in forever...and they are soooo good!). The upper lake is surrounded by some dramatic cliffs and we had the pleasure/horror of watching a couple of people dive from ledges more than 50 feet high!
|Look closely and you can see the guy who did the back flip off the top of this rock! So scary!|
A funny side-note: I mentioned to my dad this amazing trip we took to Angora Lakes and it turns out this wasn't my first trip! Apparently we had gone a couple of times when we were kids. Ha!
|In order to calm the kids, I had to sit on the floor of the boat and hold them. I love how grumpy they look! The frowns went away after the first 15 minutes or so :)|
Hiking at Northstar
|Taking in the views from the edge of a black diamond ski-run!|
We were expecting to ride in an enclosed gondola the entire way up the mountain, but the lower gondola was under repair, so we took a regular chair lift to mid-mountain. I was a little nervous about this since we have young kids, but it ended up being fine and the kids LOVED the thrill of being up in the air.
Once we arrived at the top of the mountain, we decided to hike to Lookout Mountain. It was so fun to see all the ski slopes turned into hiking trails, and since they are usually used for skiing, the trails were wide and easy to tackle with kids.
Directions: Once you arrive at the Northstar Resort, you can follow signs for the Bike and Hike Park and lift tickets. At the time of our visit, adults were $13, kids 4 and under were FREE, and kids 5-12 were $6. The hike from the Zephyr Express Gondola to Lookout Mountain was 2.4 miles roundtrip. For an easier hike, the hike to Sawmill Lake is also 2.3 miles roundtrip, but with less elevation gain and we were told you could see fish in lake. Note that the Bike and Hike Park is open June through August, with limited hours in June. You may want to call ahead to confirm that all gondolas are operating if you have young kids or an infant and do not want to take the chairlift.
Donner Pass: Abandoned railway hike
For those of you who keep up with the blog, then you will probably recall the post I did on our hike through the abandoned railway along Donner Pass. This was such a fun hike for us, and since it's only a short drive from Lake Tahoe I had to include it in this post. High above Donner Lake you can see the remnants of the railway that was originally constructed in 1867. From the freeway, most would safely assume that these are still operating train tracks, but this particular portion of the railway has been out of commission since 1993. Since it's closure, the tracks have been torn out (which gave us some much needed piece of mind knowing that we weren't accidentally going to walk through an active train tunnel!) and much of the interior has been covered with graffiti. Along the tunnel there are openings where you can step outside and get some pretty amazing views of Donner Lake and the Sierras.
Directions: Please refer to my original post for additional pictures and directions. And a special thanks to California through my lens for writing about this hike!
What are your favorite places in Lake Tahoe?
Don't forget to follow along on Instagram.
Don't forget to follow along on Instagram.
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Weekend Getaway: Truckee
Travel tips: If you are planning a trip to Lake Tahoe, Truckee is a great place to call home base and offers some more affordable options than staying in Lake Tahoe (we booked a great place on our recent trip to Truckee on airbnb for ~$125/night). And while I find the casinos kind of depressing, they are centrally located and offer some great mid-week deals on accommodations if you are just looking for an inexpensive place to sleep at night. Plus, hopefully you are going to be spending your time outdoors, right?