Moon Tahoe & Reno

Local Spots, Getaway Ideas, Hiking & Skiing


By Nicole Szanto

By Moon Travel Guides

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From the glittering lake and trail-lined mountains to Old West towns and artsy urban centers, experience the best of this adventurous region with Moon Tahoe & Reno. Inside you’ll find:
  • Flexible itineraries, including a week-long Lake Tahoe road trip, long weekends for both winter and summer, and the one-week best of Tahoe and Reno
  • Strategic advice for hikers, skiers, beach bums, families with kids, foodies and brewery lovers, and more
  • The best hikes in Tahoe: Find your adventure, from challenging mountain treks to serene meadow walks, with trail descriptions, difficulty ratings, and maps
  • Outdoor adventures for any season: Hit the slopes and get the first tracks through snow-covered pines or spark your adrenaline on the Heavenly Blue Streak zipline. Mountain bike along the breathtaking cliffside Flume Trail, whitewater raft down the Truckee River, and kayak the crystalline waters of Emerald Bay. Hike the rugged Rubicon Trail along the shores of Lake Tahoe to the remarkable Vikingsholm Castle or trek a section of the famed Pacific Crest Trail. Take a relaxing dip in a natural hot spring, soak in the serenity of a secret beach, and watch the sun set over the lake
  • Must-see highlights and unique experiences: Drive around Lake Tahoe’s 72-mile shoreline, stop at scenic viewpoints, and meander through Old West mountain towns. Stroll past the sculptures and boutiques of Reno’s Truckee Riverwalk or explore the interactive installations of Reno Playa Art Park. Take a ride on a 150-year-old railroad route or descend deep into an underground mine. See what’s on tap at Reno’s award-winning craft breweries, sip craft cocktails in a trendy lounge or try your luck at a casino
  • Expert advice from Tahoe local Nicole Szanto on where to eat, where to stay, and how to minimize your environmental impact
  • Full-color photos and maps throughout, including a fold-out map
  • Thorough background on the weather, wildlife, and history, plus tips on getting there and getting around by car and public transportation
With Moon Tahoe & Reno’s practical tips and local insight, you can plan your trip your way.

Want to keep on driving? Pick up a copy of Moon Northern California Road Trips.


Eldorado National Forest

view from Inspiration Point

DISCOVER Tahoe & Reno


Planning Your Trip


Best of Tahoe and Reno

Around the Lake in 7 Days


Weekend Warrior


Skiing and Snowboarding


Best Hikes

Best Breweries

Best Beaches

Emerald Bay from the top of Eagle Falls.

There’s a Tahoe for every season. In winter, days speed by as you rush down the slick slopes. In autumn, you can wander in golden and red valleys. Summer days call for jumping off boulders into the lake’s crisp water. In spring, trails painted with wildflowers lead to alpine lakes you may have all to yourself. Any time of year, take to the mountains to hike, bike, and climb, or get out on the lake by sailboat or kayak. Then relax with a soak in natural hot springs. With the shifting colors of the sunset, these days fade into nights spent sampling craft brews or sharing fireside s’mores.

To the east, granite mountains give way to stark desert and Reno, “The Biggest Little City in the World.” The nickname fits now more than ever, as the town’s Wild West saloon hospitality blends with a newer, more modern sensibility, marked by Burning Man creativity. Casinos radiating neon nostalgia sit side-by-side with a growing Midtown district filled with urban art and farm-to-table restaurants. Throw back a beer at a century-old bar, or sip spirits in a high-tech distillery.

Now is your time in Tahoe: when the sapphire blue of the water pierces the pine-studded greenery and your heart skips a beat.

the Potholes in Eldorado National Forest

climber on Tahoe’s Via Ferrata


1 Ski and Snowboard: Hit the slopes bright and early to set down the first tracks in the snow at one of Tahoe’s renowned mountain resorts.

2 Take a Hike: Discover Tahoe’s breathtaking scenery on trails to alpine lakes, secret beaches, and mighty peaks.

3 Hit the Beach: Bask in the sunshine on one of Tahoe’s 270 sunny days a year.

4 Get Artsy in Reno: Enjoy Reno’s colorful murals, Burning Man sculptures, and world-class exhibits.

5 Catch the Sunset: Watch the sun sink into the lake from the granite crags of Cave Rock, or from onboard a sunset cruise.

6 Celebrate: There’s always fun to be had at a local festival, whether you’re dancing on the sand to live music, seeing a Shakespeare play, or heading for the sky in a hot-air balloon.

7 Drive Around the Lake: Make the spellbinding drive around Lake Tahoe’s 72-mile border, stopping at scenic viewpoints and meandering through charming mountain towns.

8 Sample Local Brews: See what’s on tap at Tahoe’s award-winning craft breweries… or opt for something with a stronger kick at high-tech distilleries.

9 Ride Back to the Wild West: In nearby frontier towns you can soak in hot springs, tour silver mines, and raise a glass at Nevada’s first bar.

10 Paddle Emerald Bay: Explore its crystalline waters and rocky shores by kayak.

Planning Your Trip

Where to Go
South Shore

The South Shore is Tahoe’s rambunctious side. Its casinos and strip malls might not radiate mountain charm, but they certainly come with a lot of liveliness. This is the spot for travelers who want to pair alpine adventure with a bustling social scene and phenomenal entertainment. The South Shore provides the easiest access to Desolation Wilderness, Emerald Bay, and D. L. Bliss State Park. The ski areas of Heavenly and Sierra-at-Tahoe are located on Tahoe’s South Shore.

North and West Shores

Hugging Tahoe’s laid-back North and West Shores are cozy mountain towns and picturesque beaches. The West Shore is quieter than the North Shore, with only a few small enclaves and little in the way of amenities. Tahoe City is the biggest town on this part of the lake, with a walkable downtown, restaurants, and beaches. Twenty minutes north of Tahoe is Truckee, a hip mountain town with an Old West feel. Truckee has its own lake, Donner Lake, and is close to many of the North Shore’s ski resorts.

Tahoe in autumn

East Shore

Miles of untouched land and isolated beaches represent the East Shore. The least developed part of Tahoe, the East Shore is an amazing escape for those looking to lose the crowds and be one with nature—this is the place to find your own private pocket of shoreline. Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park is home to Sand Harbor, Spooner Lake and Backcountry, and Cave Rock. The wealthy lakeside towns of Crystal Bay and Incline Village rest on the East Shore’s northern edge. This is where visitors will find accommodations and restaurants. Skiers and snowboarders can head to Diamond Peak or Mt. Rose.

beach chairs at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe in Incline Village

Carson Pass

Miles of granite mountains, secret hot springs, and secluded swimming holes greet those who venture into the remote ranges of Carson Pass. There is very little in the way of visitor services here, aside from the quaint town of Markleeville, a few small resorts in Hope Valley, and Kirkwood Mountain Resort. This region is designed for outdoor adventurers looking to bag peaks, camp at alpine lakes, and bike the craggy terrain.


Reno’s portrayal in pop culture is a far cry from the real town. Reno is happening. Artists are filling its streets with murals, an eclectic culinary scene is growing by the day, and tech companies are redefining the economy. The neon downtown is still a destination for gamblers, but Reno’s up-and-coming neighborhoods offer much more. Reno is home to world-class craft breweries, beautiful city parks, miles of hiking and biking trails, and top-notch museums.

Nevada’s Frontier Towns

This region outside Reno was the center of Nevada’s economy during the silver rush. Carson City, Virginia City, and Genoa embody the spirit of the Wild West. History buffs can explore mines, stop at trading posts on the Emigrant Trail, and drink at the state’s first bar.

Know Before You Go
When to Go

Tahoe has four very distinct seasons, each with its own advantages. Winter and summer are the busiest times of year in Tahoe, and weekends are always more crowded than weekdays. During the peak seasons, rates skyrocket, parking can be tricky, and sights are often crowded. If you’re visiting during this time, try and hit the major tourist spots in the early morning or late afternoon.

If hiking and biking are high on your list of activities, make a point to get to trailheads early. In summer, when it stays light until 9pm, hikes can be started later in the afternoon to avoid midday crowds. In fall and winter, when the sun sets earlier in the day, it’s important to allow plenty of time to arrive back at the trailhead before dark.

Visitors who come in the off-seasons of fall and spring can find great deals and will often have trails and sights all to themselves.


Tahoe winters are bustling with skiers and snowboarders, especially on weekends. The most crowded and expensive times to visit during the winter are Thanksgiving, Christmas, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and Presidents Day. Many tourist attractions and state park trails are closed during winter. Tahoe is sunny all year round, and the snow on the mountains can turn into the infamous “Sierra cement” by late afternoon. For the best snow, stay in the trees.


From the time the ski resorts shut down—usually in April—until summer, Tahoe is quiet. Access to trails can vary depending on how snowy the winter was. Low-elevation trails usually open during this season, but snowshoes may be necessary depending on the year. Snow is still on the peaks, and the towns around the lake feel empty. Hotel rooms will cost up to 70 percent less than peak-season prices.


Tahoe summers are full of adventure. The warm weather makes swimming in the crisp waters refreshing, and there’s full access to the area’s trails. This is the most popular time of year to visit: Expect crowds everywhere. Campers looking to book the coveted campgrounds at Emerald Bay State Park, Fallen Leaf Lake, Nevada Beach, or Sugar Pine Point should reserve well in advance. Fourth of July and Labor Day are the busiest weekends of the year.


Fall is a wonderful time of year to visit Tahoe. Crowds usually clear out around September, but snow hasn’t yet closed the trails. Mountain bikers and hikers can have the trails all to themselves, and travelers can have their pick of restaurants and hotels. Fewer water-sport-rental companies post up on the beaches, but kayak and paddleboard rentals are still available around town, so visitors can enjoy a serene day on the unoccupied lake.

Travel Tips

Fighting through traffic is a horrible way to start a trip—especially on a weekend. If you’re coming from the San Francisco Bay Area, leave before or after peak times. Get on the road before 10am or after 7pm. If you haven’t left by noon, there’s no point in leaving before 7pm. You’ll wind up stuck in gridlock traffic leaving the Bay Area, passing through Sacramento, and getting in to Tahoe. When leaving Tahoe, it’s best to leave before 10am or after 7pm: Leaving midday on Sunday will add hours to your drive home.

When at all possible, avoid driving in the snow. Not only is it more dangerous, it drastically increases drive times. Road closures are common and chains or 4WD are often required in the winter.


Advance reservations are highly recommended for summer and winter weekends. It’s always possible to book last-minute weekend trips, but expect options to be limited and prices high. If you want to book a nice hotel at a decent rate or one of the more popular campgrounds, you should plan at least a month to three months in advance. Campgrounds in particular book up far in advance, especially the most popular (Fallen Leaf Lake and Emerald Bay), which can book up six months in advance. To snag a table at a nice restaurant, book at least a week in advance. Travelers who come during the shoulder seasons of spring and fall will have their pick of hotels and restaurants.

Best of Tahoe and Reno

Get big-city fun and little-city hospitality in Reno, then head to Lake Tahoe to bask in natural splendor. Along the way explore Nevada’s frontier towns, where the spirit of the Wild West lives on.

Day 1: Reno Midtown and Riverwalk

When you arrive in Reno, drop off your bags at one of its noncasino downtown hotels, like the Whitney Peak Hotel or The Jesse. Head to Midtown to fuel your stomach and mind. Join a food and mural tour with Reno Food Tours, or create your own tour with Art Spot Reno and a stop at Perenn Bakery. Whichever option you choose, don’t miss the excellent Nevada Museum of Art. After admiring world-class art, head to The Eddy to enjoy a local brew. Make some time to stroll along the Riverwalk District and pop into the quirky shops. For dinner, snag a table at Liberty Food and Wine Exchange. End your night with a cocktail and live music at the hidden speakeasy Shim’s Surplus.

Day 2: Reno Downtown and Breweries

Check out awe-inspiring art installations from Burning Man at the Reno Playa Art Park before settling in for breakfast at nearby Daughter’s Café. Put that breakfast-food fuel to good use back in Downtown, where you can channel your inner daredevil to conquer Basecamp’s Big Wall at Whitney Peak. Once you’re back on the ground, sample German fare at Von Bismarck. After lunch, cruise to 4th Street to check out some of Reno’s craft breweries and distilleries. End your brewery walk at The Depot, where you can enjoy more local brews and spirits alongside American pub food.

Tonglen sculpture by Ryan Mathern in Reno Playa Art Park

Day 3: Carson City, Virginia City, and Gardnerville

Wake up early and drive to historic Virginia City, where you can travel back in time to the days of Nevada’s silver rush. Take a ride on the Virginia & Truckee Railroad, then tour one of the town’s mines. Settle in for lunch at The Cider Factory’s quaint, stone restaurant, then make your way down to Minden for a tour and tasting at Bently Heritage Estate Distillery. Next, visit Nevada’s oldest settlement, Genoa, where you can drink at the state’s very first watering hole, the Genoa Bar. The Pink House, across from Mormon Station, is a must for dinner. Spend the night at 1862 David Walley’s Resort, and soak in the natural hot springs there.

Day 4: South Lake Tahoe

Continue your tour of the area with a 40-minute drive over the Sierra to Lake Tahoe’s South Shore. Start your exploration with a gondola ride to the top of Heavenly for an aerial look at the lake. When you’re done admiring the bird’s-eye view, travel back down for lunch at Sprouts Café. Head to the shoreline to spend the rest of your day relaxing on the beach and playing on the water at Kiva, Pope, and Baldwin Beaches.

In the evening, check into the Edgewood Resort and enjoy an elegant dinner at Edgewood Restaurant (get a table by the floor-to-ceiling windows to take in a dreamy Tahoe sunset). After dinner, s’mores around the resort’s outdoor fire are the perfect way to cap the night.

fire pits at Edgewood Resort

Day 5: Emerald Bay State Park and West Shore

Today is all about the jewel of Lake Tahoe: Emerald Bay. Get an early start so you can drive to Inspiration Point before the crowds come in. Pack your bags with breakfast and lunch from Crazy Good Bakery before leaving South Lake Tahoe and continuing west to Emerald Bay. Tour the Scandinavian castle Vikingsholm, then relax at Emerald Bay Beach or find adventure with a short hike. Eagle Lake and Cascade Falls are both great options. When you’re ready for dinner, leave the beautiful Emerald Bay area and continue to West Shore, where you can enjoy an intimate dinner at West Shore Café. End your evening with a comfortable stay in a West Shore or nearby Tahoe City hotel.

Emerald Bay

Day 6: North Shore and Truckee

Start your day with a tasty breakfast in Tahoe City’s Fire Sign (call ahead and put your name in). Walk off your meal with a shoreline saunter to Fanny Bridge at Lake Tahoe Dam. Pop into the Gatekeeper’s Museum nearby for interesting local history. When you’ve had your fill of Tahoe history, hop in your car and head northeast to Squaw Valley. Take the Aerial Tram to High Camp or hike there via Shirley Canyon. Spend a few hours enjoying the wide variety of recreation High Camp has to offer: Relax in the hot tub or heated swimming pool, rent skates at the roller rink, or find hidden treasure geocaching. From Squaw Valley, make the 20-minute drive north to Truckee. Explore the historic downtown and shop locally made products before checking into your room at the Cedar House Sport Hotel. Enjoy a family-style dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, Stella.

Day 7: East Shore

Spend your last day exploring the untouched backcountry of Tahoe’s East Shore. You’ve got a big day ahead, so fuel yourself well with breakfast in Truckee before driving to Incline Village. First stop is a tour of the Thunderbird Lodge, the grand estate of billionaire George Whittell Jr., the guy to thank for the East Shore’s pristine, undeveloped shoreline. After getting some history of the area, head to Mountain High Sandwich Company to grab sandwiches for a picnic at one of Tahoe’s most beloved spots: Secret Cove. After the trek back from Secret Cove, reward yourself with a pint at Brewforia Beer Market before making your way back to Reno to catch a flight home.

Around the Lake in 7 Days

Get acquainted with Tahoe’s 72-mile shoreline and you’ll find Big Blue has something for everyone.

Day 1: South Shore

Start your vacation in South Shore settling in at Basecamp Tahoe South. If it’s your first day at elevation, you won’t want to jump into any physically strenuous activities. Give yourself a chance to adjust to the mile-high elevation with a relaxing day exploring the shops at Heavenly Village or sunbathing at Round Hill Pines Beach. When you get hungry, grab lunch with a view at Artemis Lakefront Café. After spending the day admiring the lake, you’ll want to get on it, and there’s no better way than a sunset cruise. Book a trip on the paddle wheeler MS Dixie II out of Zephyr Cove, which includes dinner. End your evening with a visit to The Hangar Taproom and Bottle Shop for a wide variety of tasty brews.

Day 2: Emerald Bay

The best way to get up close and personal with Lake Tahoe is with a kayak. Paddle along Tahoe’s gorgeous shoreline to Emerald Bay. Here, you can hike to the top of Fannette Island and snorkel in the crystal-clear waters. After a fun-filled day of paddling, take in dinner and a magic show at The Loft. Retire for another night at Basecamp Tahoe South.

Day 3: D. L. Bliss State Park

Fill up with breakfast at the Getaway Café and pick up sandwiches for the road at nearby Social House Craft Sandwiches, then drive north along Tahoe’s West Shore. If you haven’t gotten enough of Emerald Bay, stop at Inspiration Point for a bird’s-eye view, then continue your drive to D. L. Bliss State Park. At D. L. Bliss, lace up your hiking boots and set out on the Rubicon Trail for breathtaking Tahoe scenery, making sure to stop at Calawee Cove. When you’re finished admiring the natural splendor in D. L. Bliss, pop over to Ed Z’Berg Sugar Pine Point State Park and tour the Hellman-Ehrman Mansion. End your day at the cozy West Shore Café and Inn.

views from the Rubicon Trail


On Sale
Oct 6, 2020
Page Count
250 pages
Moon Travel

Nicole Szanto

About the Author

Nicole Szanto is a freelance writer who lives in Glenbrook, NV, a stone’s throw from gorgeous Lake Tahoe. She’s a hiker, backpacker, skier, and kayaker, but she’s also passionate about the less adventurous aspects of Tahoe travel, including its amazing beaches, local shops, and breweries.

Nicole has kayaked all Tahoe’s shores and drank a pint at every craft brewery between South Lake and Truckee. She’s sought out the area’s best swimming holes and gone on expeditions to find its hidden hot springs. She can lead travelers to that perfect stretch of beach even on crowded weekends, and knows how to have a stellar ski trip without breaking the bank.

Nicole has developed content for Reno Food Tours, and currently covers outdoor recreation in Tahoe for websites such as Weekend Sherpa.

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Moon Travel Guides

About the Author

Moon City Walks is an innovative series of pocket-sized guides to the world's trendiest cities, designed to help travelers explore on foot, discover hip neighborhoods, and experience the city like a local. These full-color guidebooks feature foldout maps, turn-by-turn directions, and lively pages jam-packed with photos. Moon Travel Guides are published by Avalon Travel, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, in Berkeley, California. For more information, check out the full series at

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