Top 5 Places to Explore within an Hour of Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is spectacularly beautiful; however, the town of South Lake Tahoe can get rather crowded, especially if you visit in the summer or the peak of ski season. It’s certainly well-worth taking time to explore the region just outside this famed lake to really experience the amazing scenery and perhaps find a little more peace and tranquility.

Grover Hot Springs

The Grover Hot Springs are a little less than an hour’s drive from Tahoe off highway 89 outside the town of Markleeville and set in an alpine meadow. You won’t find a glamorous resort here, but you will find peace, tranquility and relaxation as you soak in these hot mineral springs in the remote and beautiful wilderness of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. Visit mid-week or during the off season and you’ll have a much better chance of experiencing it without bumping elbows with other guests.

Donner Memorial State Park

This park is located just outside Truckee, California about a half an hour northwest of Lake Tahoe. It preserves the site of the famed Donner Camp where members of the Donner Party were trapped by weather in the mid-1800s.

Here you can visit the Emigrant Trail Museum and Pioneer Monument year-round and learn about this early pioneer wagon train. The park has trails that wind through the beautiful landscape while the lake is typically rather serene – perfect for kayaking, canoeing or quiet contemplation.

North Shore

Just heading to North Lake Tahoe will allow you to leave the sprawl behind. It’s far less crowded with more spectacular views and lots of wonderful hiking opportunities. Take the west side route and visit Emerald Bay, the most photographed spot in the area. A short one mile hike will bring you to Vikingsholm Castle, a wonderful example of Scandinavian architecture.

Cascade Creek Fall Trail is another easy one mile hike near Bayview Campground just across from Inspiration Point. Here you’ll experience breathtaking views of the 200-foot towering falls as well as Cascade Lake. If you happen to visit in the spring, runoff from the snowmelt creates a magnificent scene.

Virginia City

This old boom town is located 40 miles east of Lake Tahoe and about an hour’s drive away. One of the most fascinating towns in the west, a visit to Virginia City, Nevada is like taking a trip back in time. Here you’ll find authentic board sidewalks, Victorian-era homes, Old West saloons along with stagecoaches, horse-drawn carriages and even a steam engine train. Explore its many museums including the MacKay Mansion Museum, The Way it Was Museum, V.C. Radio Museum and more.

If you happen to visit in early October, don’t miss the World Championship Outhouse races.

Scenic Highway 49

An especially picturesque drive north along highway 49 to Sierra City, 58 miles northwest of Tahoe provides a great escape from the hustle and bustle. This drive is a little over an hour, but you’ll find 40 different lakes along the way as well as Sierraville’s Sierra Hot Springs where Native Americans regarded this land as a sacred healing place.

Sierra City is a mountain village bordered on the south by the North Yuba River with the craggy Sierra Buttes as its backdrop. The town has a charming main street with several good places to stop for lunch.