The Lake is 72 miles around, a drive that can be completed in about 3 hours, but take your time and enjoy some of California's most beautiful scenery. Drive to the Lake's shore to Highway 28 to carnelian Bay, Tahoe Vista, and Kings Beach. Cross from California over the state line into Nevada. Kings Beach State Recreation Area (tel. 530/546-7248), a long, wide beach and picnic area, is one of the most popular beaches on the lake. As you approach Crystal Bay you'll see the small casinos. The larger casino, Cal-Neva Resort, Spa & Casino, was once owned by Frank Sinatra. The state line goes right through the lodge, and gambling is allowed only on the Nevada side.
Your journey next takes you to woodsy Incline Village, a beautiful community on the lake. Take a right on Lakeshore Boulevard to view the elegant estates. The Lone Eagle Grille, at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe, offers gorgeous panoramic lake views.
The east shore of the lake is largely undeveloped and very scenic. Drive about 4 miles south of Incline Village to Sand Harbor, home to the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival. In Sand Harbor, there is a wide, sandy beach, nature trails, picnic areas, and boating.
Going south you will come to an outcropping called Cave Rock where the highway passes through 75 feet of solid stone. Farther along is Zephyr Cove Resort and Marina. Cross the stateline into South Lake Tahoe, loop around the western shore on Highway 89 to Tahoe City and beyond. Head west, and stop at Tallac Historic Site, site of the former Tallac Resort and a cluster of 100-year-old mansions . This is the site of summertime's Valhalla Festival of Arts and Music, the Valhalla Renaissance Festival, and August's Great Gatsby Festival.
From here the highway winds north along the shore until you reach Cascade Lake on the left and Emerald Bay on the right. The Emerald Bay Lookout is a spectacular picture-taking spot. Emerald Bay's deep green water is the site of the only island in Lake Tahoe, Fannette Island. The small structure atop the island is the teahouse, built by Mrs. Lora Knight, who also constructed Vikingsholm, located at the head of Emerald Bay. Tours are available from mid-June to Labor Day every half-hour from 10am to 4pm. It's only about 2 more miles to D. L. Bliss State Park, with one of the lake's best beaches. It fills up in summer, so arrive early for a parking place. The park also has 168 campsites and several trails.
Continue 7 miles north to find Sugar Pine State Park, the only park one that has year-round camping. In summer, you can visit its beaches, a nature center and trails; in winter, you can cross-country ski on well-maintained trails.
Continuing on through the town of Homewood, Sunnyside, is a great place to stop for a lakeside lunch. Or, if you feel like taking a stroll, drive on to Tahoe City with its beautiful paved path along the Truckee River. On Hwy 28, as you leave Tahoe City, you will pass a string of small malls at 700 through 850 North Lake Blvd. If you like to wander around, this is a good area to stop and eat, watch the activity at the Tahoe City Marina (parasailing, cruises on the Tahoe Gal, and boat rental), or visit the shops.
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*some restrictions apply, 3 night min.