Driving around Lake Tahoe is a must-do activity while you’re here. We recommend carpooling, and going on non-weekends during non-peak times to avoid congestion, and we recommend spending as much time as you see fit in each of these places. The 72 mile drive around the lake is stunning at all turns. See below for our driving around Lake Tahoe itinerary.
Start: The Franciscan Lakeside Lodge
Make sure that you make yourself a delicious breakfast in your room (all of our rooms feature fully equipped kitchens or kitchenettes). Exit The Franciscan and head west, toward Tahoe City. If you’d prefer to go out to breakfast, we recommend Pep’s Place, located across the street, or The Old Post Office Cafe, located just down the road in Carnelian Bay.
2nd Stop: Tahoe City
Do you need gas? Did you forget to bring water or sunscreen? Stop in Tahoe City for essentials, there won’t be another gas station for a while. If you want to do some shopping on your trip, Tahoe City has a variety of boutiques and stores as well–from photo galleries to shops selling jewelry made by local artisans.
Take 89 South (a left at the stoplight in Tahoe City) to continue your trek around the lake.
3rd stop: The West Shore Market or The Tahoma Market
If you plan on grabbing your lunch to go, these two delis, both located on Tahoe’s west shore, offer delicious sandwiches and snacks. West Shore Market is located just about 2 miles south of Tahoe City, and the Tahoma Market is located about 9 miles south of Tahoe City.
The water around Sugar Pine Point State Park is a beautiful deep blue, and the grounds are peaceful, with many walking or snowshoeing trails. Enjoy the views from the Hellman-Ehrman dock, or take in a bit of Tahoe history by taking a tour of the Hellman-Ehrman mansion.
5th Stop: D.L. Bliss State Park
This state park offers a ton of hiking trails to explore the shores, beaches, and rocks to jump off of. The hike up to the Rubicon Lighthouse in D.L. Bliss is worth the 2 mile hike for the views and the piece of history–the lighthouse was built in 1916 to help the boat traffic on Tahoe avoid the rocky shores.
6th Stop: Vikingsholm Estate
Highway 89 winds itself around Emerald Bay, and at the mouth of the bay, you will see a parking lot for Vikingsholm. Built by Lora J. Knight in the 20s, Vikingsholm was designed in a Scandinavian style. Emerald Bay reminded Ms. Knight of fjords in Norway, and wanted the architecture to reflect that. The one mile hike down to the estate is worth it, even if you are unable to tour the mansion. There is a beach at the mouth of Emerald Bay, where you can observe Tahoe’s only island, Fannette Island. If you are there in the summertime, it is well worth it to rent a kayak or paddleboard and make the short paddle over to the island to explore the rocks and the tea house that was constructed to entertain Ms. Knight’s visitors. If you brought your lunch, this is a great place to relax and enjoy it.
7th Stop: Eagle Falls
Tahoe isn’t all about the lake. Get a taste of Desolation Wilderness, one of the most visited wilderness area in the U.S. with this short 2 mile hike to and from Eagle Falls. The Falls are set back in the granite hills, and the trail is easy to follow and offers great views of the surrounding wilderness.
8th Stop: Inspiration Point
Enjoy views of Emerald Bay 600 feet above the famous bay. Great for photo ops and to stretch the legs, Inspiration Point offers great views of Lake Tahoe. If you’re up for another hike, head across the road and pick up the Bayview Trail, to Cascade Falls. Enjoy beautiful views for the full 2 mile hike, which ends with Cascade Falls, stunning falls dropping off into Cascade Lake.
9th Stop: Taylor Creek Visitor Center
If you’re here in the fall, stop to see the famous salmon run at the Taylor Creek Visitor Center. There are also a variety of well-marked educational interpretive trails around the Visitor Center–learn something new about Tahoe history, or the flora and fauna that you see around the lake. If you have any questions, the friendly staff at the Visitor Center will also be able to answer them.
Once you reach South Lake Tahoe, take a left onto Highway 50 to continue around the lake.
10th Stop: South Lake Tahoe
If you didn’t pack a lunch, South Lake Tahoe offers a variety of options for you to fuel up for the remainder of the trek. South Lake Tahoe also offers many shopping options-from boutiques to larger stores, for you to get any supplies you may need, or any souvenirs that you’d like to bring home. South Lake Tahoe also hosts events frequently, check to see if there is a Brewfest or a festival that you’d like to check out while there.
11th Stop: Zephyr Cove
Sandy beaches and rustic charm define Zephyr Cove. If you have the time, book a cruise on the M.S. Dixie for a one-of-a-kind Lake Tahoe experience.
Just past Glenbrook, take the exit on the left to get onto Highway 28 West to continue around the lake.
12th Stop: Spooner Lake
If you’re up for another hike, the Spooner Lake trail is worth a stop. Stretch the legs and enjoy this beautiful mountain lake surrounded by walking and biking paths, meadows, and wildflowers when the season is right.
13th Stop: Sand Harbor
You can’t do a drive around the lake without stopping at one of the East Shore’s beaches, and the most spectacular beach is Sand Harbor. With a long, sandy beach, huge rocks, and tropical turquoise water, Sand Harbor is well worth the stop. If the day is nearing an end, this is the perfect place to take in a spectacular Tahoe sunset.
14th Stop: Incline Village and/or Kings Beach
If you need to stop in town, to get dinner or to recharge your provisions, Incline Village and Kings Beach are great places to stop. If you’re looking for keepsakes or unique Tahoe products, both towns offer great shopping options.
And there you have it! We hope that you have the opportunity to take a pleasure drive around Lake Tahoe on your next visit, and that our Drive around Lake Tahoe itinerary helps you to plan your trip! We are sure that this itinerary will be helpful, but we are sure that we missed some things-but this covers many of the main attractions. We hope that you feel free to pull over (when it is safe) to take in a beautiful vista, or maybe stop in a village or town along the way to enjoy a snack and some local hospitality.
Book your Tahoe getaway at The Franciscan Lakeside Lodge. Check out our lodging options to book your stay today.