Lake Tahoe straddles California and Nevada. It is the largest alpine lake in North America which means it is cold but beautifully clear. In the summer it is filled with boats, jet skis, kayaks and more recently paddle boarders. Paddle boarding is described as stand up paddle surfing. This is done on a 12 foot board that is very buoyant. Florida has some great beaches for this popular activity, Ormond Beach is the place. The surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains have all sorts of trails for mountain bikers and hikers if you want to take a break from the lake for a few hours.
Lake Tahoe is a super nice place if you are wealthy and don't mind spending big money on pretty much any activity there is to do here. Boat rentals are $300 a day, meals cost $20 for lunch and $30+ for dinner, gas is over $3 per gallon, parking $5 even when shopping, canoe and kayak rentals are $40 a day or more depending on the season, and hotels cannot be found for less than $200 a night during the warm months. It is obviously not a place we recommend for strict Vanaboding. There are few places to Vanabode park for the night and not much to see unless you were on the miles long hiking and biking trail or on the water.
Above: Picture of boats anchored in Lake Tahoe. We are sitting on the California side looking east across the lake towards Nevada.
Another fun lake in California to visit is Lake Isabella south of Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Forest. On the west side of Lake Tahoe I really liked seeing the pedestrian path around the lake for walking, biking or skating. You could get around by using the public transportation here, Tahoe Area Regional Transit, aka, the bus. There is also a seasonal shuttle bus. Casino shuttles have ferries that go back and forth across state lines. And there are sightseeing tour buses that go around the lake. This town is all about being out of doors throughout the year. And, every outdoor activity you can think of is played here on the water, in the air, on horseback, bike or on foot. However if you did want to be inside there are some casinos on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe to play at.
Above: Picture taken while eating lake side at Captain Jon's in Lake Tahoe, California.
We were so hungry and it was close to getting dark and we didn't want to have to search for a place to park for the night in the dark. So we stopped at Captain Jon's. The food was delicious and the waterfront view was spectacular but the price for dinner was steep. Bad planning on our part because we really didn't want fast food and didn't know what restaurants were around and let a few other factors get in the way of keeping our cost down. The most populated area is South Lake Tahoe and Stateline. The architecture on the west side of the lake is more rustic with houses and hotels made from native wood and stone, and you can see them tucked away among the trees. And then the newer buildings have followed so the look is cohesive and true to the old Tahoe style.
Much of the land along the lake has been bought up and developed so open parking and hanging out in private quiet areas is pretty much not possible. We are a week away from the 4th of July holiday and already there are zero parking spots for every single place we stop. Everyone is parking on the street and running across traffic to get to a waterfront restaurant or store. Do not bring a large RV here unless you plan to park and pay for a premium spot in a commercial campground. The small towns around the lake have typical small shops with tourist junk for sale. If you have any budget issues whatsoever do not come here. There are thousands of better places for camping and exploring free or for much less in the U.S.
Above: Picture taken of Mount Shasta from inside the van while driving south on I-5 in northern California. We just left the Oregon coast and was heading to Lake Tahoe.
The lake is almost completely surrounded by a National Forest, it is 72 miles long and 12 miles wide boasting a water visibility of up to 125 feet. Now that's 99% water purity which is cleaner than drinking water. But even though the numbers look good I would have to be pretty desperate to drink this water after seeing the hundreds of watercraft motoring around. 80% of the days have sunshine and the average temperature is 53 degrees, and that means thick sleeping bags and sweaters in our Vanabode. The snowfall can be as much as 40 feet in one season, and with that you will not be seeing us in Lake Tahoe during the winter. More than 60 streams flow into Lake Tahoe and only the Truckee River flows out of the lake ending at Pyramid Lake 70 miles northeast in Nevada - Lake Tahoe Vacation
This page is part of a 20 day, 2,866 mile, Vanabode trip.