Enjoy Lake Tahoe in summer and avoid the crowds…find hidden corners of the lake!

Beat Lake Tahoe’s summer crowds; focus on quiet places along Tahoe’s south and southwestern shore…

Lupine frames Mount Tallac, off Hwy. 89 north of South Lake Tahoe.

Sure, Lake Tahoe can be jammed by tourists in summer months. But, you can still find quiet, secluded places near the lake, hang out for three or four days and mostly avoid the warm-weather crowds. We’re on a budget, so camping was our answer to keeping expenses down. Here’s our latest adventure.

Campgrounds abound, including Forest Service and state parks. Fallen Leaf Lake is our favorite, just off Lake Tahoe on an almost equally impressive Fallen Leaf Lake. A Forest Service campground, the federal America the Beautiful senior pass (just $10, age 62 and up), cuts the price in half, just $16.50/night.  It’s a forested, spacious campground, with 200+ sites, with nice shower facilities and a bike trail to the Lake Tahoe shore.

Pick up a map of hiking/biking trails from the Forest Service Supervisors Office in South Tahoe. We started with a fairly easy hike, right out of the south end of Fallen Leaf lake campground, the Moraine Trail, which winds along the edge of Fallen Leaf. It’s a forested, shady trail, easy – along our trek, a coyote followed us for 100 meters through a thick forest swale.

Another option is the paved bike trail that heads north out of the campground towards Lake Tahoe and interconnects with the bike trail following the lake’s shore along the Tallac Historic District.

Eagle Creek thunders down towards Emerald Bay, just off Hwy. 89. One can hike up the creek to pretty Eagle Lake.

The next day we departed early and drove north on Highway 89 to Emerald Bay, parked and hiked up the Eagle Creek Trail to Eagle Falls, thundering with snow melt. It’s only about 1/2 mile to the spectacular falls, though fairly steep; the trail continues on to Eagle Lake, scenic and very pretty with snow remaining on high.

Or final trek was the toughest, a portion of the Mount Tallac Trail. From South Lake Tahoe, looking north, Tallac is the broad peak, 9700 feet, still thick with snow above 8500 feet. The trail, in its entirety, is 9.5 miles and climbs 3100 vertical feet. We began at the trailhead, about a mile and a half off highway 89, and quickly started up.

Snow plant brightens the Mount Tallac Trail heading up towards remaining snow fields.

Our hike led us up a long, steady slope on an exposed breezy ridge, with views of both Fallen Leaf Lake and Lake Tahoe. Plenty of wildflowers, from crimson-red snow plant, purple Lupine and Indian paintbrush enlivened the trail. As we got closer to Mt. Tallac’s snowfields, the views became even more dramatic. The thinning air and our relative lack of fitness precluded continuing on – but even this portion of the trail ranked high in our hiking experiences.

Tahoe is laced with dedicated bike and hiking trails, throughout South Lake Tahoe, just north heading up Highway 89, further north along 89 starting at Homewood and along both the Truckee River and Tahoe’s north shore. Hardy cyclists can tackle the entire 72 mile loop around Lake Tahoe, though it has its share of narrow, twisty turns and several steep vertical climbs –  not for the faint of heart.

The beach adjoining the Tallac Historic District looks north to Baldwin Beach, with Mount Tallac looming in the background.

Tahoe lakefront options, for sunny beaches, hiking or cycling, are rich, indeed.  Camp Richardson is a favorite stop, with historic hotel, cabins, store, ice cream shop, bike rental and a lovely beach. Part of that beachfront scene is the Beacon Restaurant – dine on the beach, have a drink and sample the fish and chips. Later in the summer, music Wednesday through Sunday on their deck makes for an even more fun vibe.

Just north of Camp Richardson is the Tallac Historic District. Stop at the Forest Service Visitor Center, get details on these three historic former luxury waterfront estates, the Baldwin Estate, the Pope Estate and Valhalla. Then walk the paved trail to view what life was like for Tahoe’s glitterati in the 1920s and 30s. Here you can also walk to the sandy beach for incredible lake views.

Further north on Hwy. 89 is Emerald Bay, perhaps the most photographed place on the lake. On the bay is the lovely Vikingsholm estate, built in 1929. A steep hike down to the bay allows tours of the old mansion and close-up views of this highly-visited portion of the lake. Eagle Creek thunders into the bay nearby, heavy with snow-melt.

Wildflowers frame Lake Tahoe in distance, and Fallen Leaf Lake, right, from trail up to Mount Tallac.

We usually breakfast at our campsite, and occasionally pack a lunch for our daily tours. For dining out, our favorite restaurants in this part of Tahoe include The Beacon and Lakeside Beach House and Artemis Lakefront Café in South Lake Tahoe. Though we didn’t get up to Tahoe City, our favorite breakfast place in the entire Tahoe area is Rosie’s – try it!

A variety of upcoming Tahoe events make for good reasons to pick travel in the next several months. Truckee Thursdays run every Thursday evening, June 9 to August 18 with a beer garden, live music, farmers market and craft vendors. Information, TruckeeThursdays.com. The Valhalla Art, Music and Theater Festival kicks off June 22 and concludes August 31 with a variety of music, art and theater. Information, ValhallaTahoe.com.

Music on the beach can be found at the South Shores Lakeview Commons on Thursday evenings; Kings Beach offers free music on Fridays and Tahoe City’s concerts at Commons Beach take place on Sundays through much of the summer. Harveys in South Tahoe offers big shows and concerts at their Outdoor Arena, information, Caesars.com/Harveys-Tahoe/shows.

The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival in its 44th season features two mainstage productions, “The Comedy of Errors”, and “Forever Plaid” at Sand Harbor State Park. Information, LakeTahoeShakespeare.com. Tickets start at $15 and offer classy plays right on Tahoe’s magnificent shore.

Tahoe Queen and MS Dixie II prepare for scenic cruises of the lake from Zephyr Cove. Midday, sunset and dinner cruises are options for this delightful tour of the azure lake.

A variety of higher-priced options abound, from ziplines, renting jet skis, SUPs, boats, golf and taking in big acts at the casinos. If you haven’t taken a Tahoe paddlewheel excursion, consider taking the several hour cruise on the MS Dixie II or Tahoe Queen out of Zephyr Cove on the Nevada south shore.

Heavenly Valley’s new Epic Discovery Summer Adventure Park debuts, promising lively activities like Alpine coaster, ziplines, canopy tour, rock climbing, ropes courses, 4×4 expeditions and interactive learning stations. Check it out at ski heavenly.com/epicdiscovery.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in the west!

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