Lake Tahoe for Valentine’s Day, or, anytime; take the sunglasses and binoculars!

The Tower of Nations, at entrance into Squaw Valley, is testimony to the 30+ nations that took part in the 1960 Winter Olympics.

Emerald Bay on a hazy Tahoe winter day is perhaps the most photographed location around the stunning lake!

Several friends, and my wife, upon reading my recent Record feature and blog about romantic Valentine’s Day destinations in northern California, all noted “you omitted Lake Tahoe?”.  OK, perhaps a big oversight.  Revisiting my list of destinations within a few hours of the Central Valley, let’s include that lovely destination.

Six weeks into winter…Lake Tahoe and the surrounding Sierra have almost no snow.  The ski areas are surviving primarily on man-made snow on selected runs, and motels, hotels and restaurants are running at reduced capacity.  With little snow in the forecast, and days reaching into spring-time 65 degree temps, it’s a great place for a one-day or weekend Valentine’s Day road trip!   Take your hiking shoes, sunglasses and bikes!

For the most scenic drive (admitting in advance we like Tahoe’s  north shore), from Sacramento, go east on US Highway 50 into South Lake Tahoe, then go  north on Highway 89, trekking up the magnificent lake’s west shore.  A fun and romantic place for libation on the way is Camp Richardson’s The Beacon Restaurant for lunch, always a fine lake-front restaurant with views of the almost snowless Sierra across the lake.

And, make time to stop above Emerald Bay and take in the view that has been the subject of a billion photos over the years!  You will find gorgeous views all along the lake’s western and northern shore; stop and enjoy the scenery with your sweetheart!

A bit further north, consider a detour off Hwy. 89 into Granlibakken Resort, Tahoe’s oldest ski and tubing area since 1922.  With only a small ski and tubing hill, it offers historic lodging and another good place for lunch.

Our favorite destination is the Tahoe City area and the stretch further northeast to King’s Beach.  In and around Tahoe City, and at Squaw Valley, you can discover ghosts  of the 1960 Winter Olympics, which took place on the lake’s western shores (for cross-country and biathlon events) and at Squaw Valley for the balance.  That stretch of lake shore also offers multiple lodging choices, from vintage motels, bed and breakfasts to upscale hotels.

Favorite places to dine, particularly for Valentine’s Day: Plump Jack at Squaw Valley, River Ranch Lodge and Restaurant on the Truckee River at entrance into Alpine Meadows Road and Gar Woods on the lake at Carnelian Bay.  For perhaps the finest breakfast on the north shore in a rustic setting, try Rosie’s at Tahoe City; get a table near the fireplace and order a Bloody Mary!

Hence, if you’re seeking a weekend, romantic getaway, consider North Tahoe (or the Russian River/N. CA coast, Gold Country like Murphys or Sutter Creek, or Old Sacramento, all profiled in my previous post) – but,  book soon, lest all the good lodging and restaurant options are sold-out!

How to get there: From Stockton: go north on I-5 to Sacramento, then east on Highway 50 to South Lake Tahoe, take Hwy. 89 north to Tahoe City; it’s about a three hour drive.

What to take: Binoculars, camera, good walking shoes and snacks for the trip. Bikes if you are a cyclist; for all these old towns are bike-friendly!
For more information:  Tahoe City Visitor Information Center, 100 North Lake Blvd, next to the Fanny Bridge at the Wye in Tahoe City, CA 96145; (530) 581-6900;

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog:; to contact me,

Happy travels in the West!

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