Getting to Know The Lake Tahoe Region
“Lake Tahoe is not a town, it’s a region in both the states of CA and NV.”
This was one of the first lessons I learned upon arriving to the area as a guest of the Squaw Creek Resort. Like most people, I didn’t really understand the geography of the area and, like most people, I had limited knowledge about how diverse the region was, or even that extends beyond the limits of one single geographic landmark. I flew into Reno, NV, which most people use to get to the area by plane, though I’ve heard Amtrak is also a fabulous choice if driving is not an option.
There are some cities and parks nearby that I would want to discover more, such as Truckee, where the HGTV Dream Home that I didn’t win is located, as well as some great shops and restaurants. For the record, if I had won that house, I totally would’ve moved to Truckee!
We got to dine at Moody’s Bistro Bar and Beats, where must-haves include the Truffled Deviled Eggs with Mushroom Duxelle, Aioli and Frisee, Yellow Fin Ahi Poke with Crispy Wonton, Avocado, Sesame and Sambal, the Avocado, Farm Egg, Pork Belly, and the Smoked Salmon Creek Pork Chop.
Yellow Fin Ahi Poke with Crispy Wonton, Avocado, Sesame and Sambal
Avocado, Farm Egg, Pork Belly
Smoked Salmon Creek Pork Chop with Kabocha Squash Puree, House Bacon, Brussels Sprouts, Whole Wheat Spaetzle, Cider Espagnole
Emerald Bay State park has gorgeous water and mountain views, including that of Fannette Island and of Knight’s tea house.
I got to see and learn a lot simply by taking a ride around the lake. It’s about 72 miles, and can take at least an hour and a half, depending on when you visit. The summer months tend to be hectic and crowded, especially because there are a lot of spots that will make you want to stop to take in fully.
When I arrived to Squaw Valley, the weather had been a bit warmer than should be a expected for the season. Avid skiers were still taking to the slopes, but a beginner like myself was just not going to make it work. One would think that there wasn’t much to do otherwise, but what I found was that there was quite a nice selection of activities in the area, some of which can be coordinated through the resort itself.
I was able to still enjoy some wintry fun through snowmobiling. I had never been snowmobiling before in my life and I was really excited to give it a try. It was thrilling!
We met up with Larry of Coldstream Adventures and he took us on a morning ride through the backcountry towards spectacular views of the Sierras. Even though the day of the ride was cloudy, the experience was one I enjoyed more than I thought I would and one I would try again. We just did a simple ride, but you can also schedule to have lunch at the top of one of the mountains, or ask to rest and have lunch in their cabin in the woods to continue the fun right after.
Another wonderful way to take in the mountains from Squaw Valley is to the aerial tram from the village to High Camp. It’s a like a totally different world up there. At 8,200 feet, guests can enjoy ice skating during the colder months and swimming during the warmer months – though “warmer” is relative from up there as people can still ski up to the pool. I know, insane.
You can take in a bit of local history and pride by touring the free Olympic Museum. Squaw Valley hosted the 1960s Winter Olympics, the first to be televised live making it possible for the first time for millions of viewers to enjoy the games as they happened.
An Olympic celebratory moment. In my mind, anyway.
For even more history on the area visit Thunderbird Lodge, the estate of multimillionaire, the late George Wittle. Learning about his history and contributions to the area while walking around and taking in the breathtaking views from his humble lake abode make for a wonderful day tour.
The Thunderbird yacht. It has two P37 fighter engines in it. The cost to ride $5,000 an hour, seating up to 20 people.
The Squaw Creek Resort has a lot to offer as well. It has several pools, both for cold and warm weather, an ice skating rink, a wonderful spa – because nothing says “ski resort vacation” to me better than a spa experience, shops, and delicious dining options. So much delicious food!
There are a few dining spots that you should check out. For one, start your day at the breakfast buffer at Six Peaks Grille. I know that when I say “buffet” you are probably imagining some cheesy, non-creative selections of your basic eggs and bacon. There definitely are eggs and bacon, but there is also a morning cocktail bar and a waffle and pancake toppings bar, where I’m pretty sure my kids would loose their minds.
You must have the Signature Burger at Sandy’s Pub. No, really. I’ve had my share of burgers and this one is on my list of the best ones around. I was so in love with the flavors that I had to ask Sous Chef Gregory Andrew to share the secret behind it. Turns out that it is more than just a great balance of seasoning and flavors. Says Chef Andrew:
We are very proud not only of the burger, but also of the relationships that allow us to produce it. Our beef is from Durham Ranch and is 100% natural with no hormones or antibiotics used in their cattle. We also use thick cut pepper bacon that we source locally. As for the cabernet soaked white cheddar, we are using local white cheddar that we soak in-house with California Cabernet for 48 hours and then we top the burger with our house made caramelized onion marmalade. The onions we use are sourced from several small farms in the Smith Valley of Northern Nevada as well as Northern California. Lastly, we put it all together with an oatmeal bun that comes from Franco Bread in Reno, Nevada. Our philosophy is simple: we take quality local ingredients, simply prepared to create an exciting and tasty food experience.
I mean, what else needs to be said other than it’s a must have? After further inquiry about the food at the various restaurants in the resort, I found out that this level of local partnership and commitment to serving the best, locally sourced ingredients is something you can expect of almost every meal you have there.
Other must-haves at Sandy’s Pub include their nachos (they are massive and worth every calorie), the pretzel balls, and the Ahi tuna salad.
It’s not just the food that’s locally sourced. When visiting, make sure to stop at the bar at Six Peaks and ask the bartender to hook you up with a cocktail drink made with Tahoe Moonshine. After chatting it up with master distiller and owner, Jeffrey VanHee, and hearing about his success story, I had a chance to taste his product. The variation of flavors and blends in everything from vodka to rum to gin makes for some pretty creative drinks and a fun time. After a day of playing in the mountains this would be a nice way to wind the day down, no matter what the season.
Some other things I learned from my short time in the Lake Tahoe region is that your vacation experience can be quite different depending on where you end up around the lake.
The area where I spent most of my time, and where the Squaw Creek Resort is located, is what’s called the North Shore. It’s laid back, quiet, and a nature lover’s paradise with its views and sense of serenity. When I think about how my family and I like to vacation, this is it. This area is also a bit more upscale and where a lot of the vacation home rentals with lake views are located, so it’s not always the most affordable spot.
Not as affordable as the South Shore can be, where there are more people as well as more of a party scene. I also noticed that there are a bit more motel style lodging options, as well as campsites. I think that for families and other visitors who love camping and want more lively town-like feel, this is a great spot.
No matter where you are, you will have access to the lake and the mountains. It’s really just a matter of vacation style preference as well as budget. Lake Tahoe was one of those places that I never got tired of photographing. On my last day there, as I was heading out, the snow finally started to fall. It was all anyone talked about the day before. I’m sure it made a lot of the skiers really happy to hit the fresh pow that next morning. Though I left too early to enjoy it, I don’t feel I missed out. Just the views I got to enjoy while there will keep me smiling for many more months to come.
You can see more images and check out some other stops I made along the way in this trip through my Storify: Tahoe Fun. #GGTinTahoe.
Many thanks to Kristin Yantis, of Malen Yantis PR and the team at Squaw Creek Resorts and partners for this wonderful experience. I enjoyed spending time and meeting you all, and most importantly getting to learn about your beautiful destination!
All photography is property of Girl Gone Travel and may not be used without direct consent of the publisher.
Disclosure: I was invited as a guest of Squaw Creek Resort for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.