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Adventure Travel

A Perfect Getaway: 3 Days In Lake Tahoe

Live it up like a local on your Lake Tahoe vacation with this 3-day itinerary

The Vacationeer
Crystal clear waters, blue skies, alpine-lined shore, Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, California.

Lake Tahoe is a nature-seeker’s paradise and year-round playground for all-season adventuresWinter is a wonderland where skiing and snowboarding reign supreme. Then summer shines a light    on the shoreline as beach days, watersports and hiking trails take the crown. You could easily spend weeks shredding slopes, wandering trails and visiting shores — but a quick trip is plenty of time to live it up like a local and embrace the mountain life.         

Here's how you can turn a 3-day getaway into one big adventure on your next Lake Tahoe vacation.         

Day One: South Lake Tahoe

Alpine view, boat cutting through emerald waters, Lake Tahoe, California.   

South Lake Tahoe is an ideal place to start. As the name suggests, this California resort city is on the southern end of the lake (and even touches Nevada). It puts you right in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and surrounds you with alpine views. It also keeps you close to Reno, in case you want roll the dice on the casino scene.

Bert’s Cafe for breakfast.

Welcome the day with a bite and a brew (of the coffee variety, that is). Breakfast is the best way to fuel adventure, and it’s delightfully delicious at Bert’s Cafe. That’s because Bert brings back the good ol’ days with hearty comfort food like biscuits and gravy, eggs Benedict and chicken-fried steak. Bert’s also ranks high on the list of favorites for the locals, so you know good eats are on the menu.

Visit all the local gems.

  • Have a Heavenly day. You’ll find adventure in all forms on Heavenly Mountain. It’s famous for skiing and snowboarding in the winter. Then summer opens the door to seasonal thrills such as the gravity-powered Ridge Rider Mountain Coaster and Heavenly’s Epic Discovery — a playground for all ages with ziplines, gemstone panning and a granite-peak climbing wall.
  • Beach day or bust. The beaches are bountiful in South Lake Tahoe and beg to be explored. The most idyllic and most photographed is Emerald Bay State Park. El Dorado Beach gives you a great access point for the Lake Tahoe Water Trail. And Regan Beach is the area’s only dog-friendly water spot, so your furry friends can enjoy the fun, too.
  • Back in the hike life again. There are dozens of family-friendly hiking trails near South Lake. One of the most scenic is the Rubicon Trail, which hugs the shores of Emerald Bay and Lake Tahoe’s west shore. It’s perfect for finding panoramic view, waterfalls and wildflowers. Fun fact: The trail connects two of the most beautiful state parks in all of California — D.L. Bliss and Emerald Bay.

Bet on epic entertainment.

Snow covered chair lift, wintertime skiers, blue skies, Heavenly Mountain, Lake Tahoe, Nevada.    

After a day spent on the slopes or at the beach, you’ll be ready to rally for a night out. Lucky for you, South Lake Tahoe seamlessly straddles the border with Nevada — which means world-class casinos are calling. Start your evening with some craft beer and local food-truck fare at South Lake Brewing Company, then go get your game on.

Day Two: North Lake Tahoe     

Now it’s time to visit the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe and explore the beautiful east and north shores. The mountain wilderness morphs into a top spot for cross-country and downhill skiing in the winter. The pristine beaches, clear-blue waters and scenic trails draw hikers, mountain bikers and sun seekers in the summer. Whatever season you select for your stay, know that natural beauty and endless entertainment are waiting.

Rise ‘n shine for a sweet treat.

Start your day with freshly roasted coffee and a fresh pastry from Tahoe House Bakery & Gourmet. This mom-and-pop shop is one of the best bakeries around. Treat yourself to a cinnamon roll, bacon-cheddar scone or black forest ham and gruyere cheese croissant.

Trek the Tahoe East Shore Trail.

Stunning aerial image, Tahoe East Shore Trail, snow-covered, North Lake Tahoe, Nevada.    

Say hello to 2.6 miles of stunning water views. The Tahoe East Shore Trail is a must-see stop on your Lake Tahoe activities list. This paved path hugs the shoreline from Incline Village to Sand Harbor and only takes about an hour to complete. You can go walking, running, biking or birding — all while being surrounded by natural beauty of one of the most pristine alpine lakes in North America.

Spend the afternoon at Sand Harbor.

Your trail adventures take you all the way to one of Tahoe’s most famous beaches: Sand Harbor. You can also easily drive to the area for an afternoon of fun. Relax and unwind by the shore, dive in for some epic water sports, go for a kayak tour and paddle past granite boulders to find hidden beaches, or just splash around and swim in the crystal clear blue water.

Cozy up for an inspired evening.

Wrap your day with a trip to one of North Shore’s best kept secrets: Tahoe National Brewing Company. This cozy space goes beyond craft beer and creative cocktails to offer a globally inspired menu that rotates every few months, highlighting flavors from all over the world.

Savor a flight of house-made beers while you listen to live music and enjoy stunning view of the lake.

Day Three: Truckee

Aerial image, historic houses lining mountain river, Truckee, California.    

Your third day takes you to Truckee — a quaint California town about 30 minutes from North Lake Tahoe. Named after the nearby river, Truckee pairs Old West vibes with modern shops, unique boutiques, artisanal stores, craft breweries and plenty of delicious eateries. It’s also a top spot for all-season outdoor activities, from snowmobiling to whitewater rafting.

Squeeze In for breakfast.

You’ll enjoy a one-of-kind breakfast experience when you visit Squeeze In. The menu highlights Northern California fare and showcases an impressive list of signature omelets (with over 60 gourmet combinations!). Fun fact: The restaurant’s name celebrates its cozy, 11-foot-wide interior and distinct Grateful Dead vibe.

Visit the jewel of Truckee.

Donner Lake, known as the shimmering blue jewel of Truckee, is tucked along the town’s western edge. It’s only a fraction of the size of Lake Tahoe, at just under three miles, but remains a much-loved, uncrowded alternative for water sports and mountain adventures. The lake is a haven for year-round recreation, from snowshoeing in the winter to trout fishing in the summer. It’s also a great place to picnic and camp.

Wine down on Donner Pass Road.

Gorgeous mountain scene, fall foliage framing lake, mountains in distance, Donner Lake, California.    

Shop and stroll, then wine and dine. Historic downtown Truckee is home to Donner Pass Road, the town’s charming main street. You’ll find everything from custom jewelry and home décor to bespoke gifts and California fashion. You’ll also stroll by several delicious restaurants, bars and coffee shops. One of the area’s most notable is Pianeta Ristorante — an elegantly designed Italian restaurant known for its extensive wine list and authentic pasta dishes.

Where to stay in Lake TahoeHilton Vacation Club Lake Tahoe Resort. Nestled in beautiful South Lake Tahoe, this four-season destination is a picturesque playground for your whole family. Spacious Suites give you more room to relax and rest up before stepping out to enjoy all kinds of entertainment. It’s a welcoming retreat and a great way to experience the benefits of vacation ownership with Hilton Grand Vacations.

Get more Lake Tahoe vacation ideas with this all-season travel guide to Lake Tahoe

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The Vacationeer

The Vacationeer is a collective of Hilton Grand Vacations storytellers whose goal is to inspire travelers to go further. We're always on the lookout for new destinations to explore, useful travel tips, and unique ideas to help you plan the most memorable vacations possible.

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