Nevada’s pioneer heyday may be long gone, but you still gotta have that renegade spirit to cut it in Reno Tahoe. That out-of-the-box, anything’s-possible kind of thinking is just as necessary as a full tank of gas and ample time to explore. You have to think in 3D here, readying yourself to navigate a vertical wilderness, an infinite expanse of both water and sand, and the lights of the “Biggest Little City.”
Welcome to Reno Tahoe, where High Sierra peaks are the backdrop to hidden hot springs. Where the world’s largest alpine lake sits just over the ridge from one of the West’s most colorful “thirst parlors.” This insider’s guide will walk you through just what you’ll discover here — you ready to go for gold?
The experience: Experts should head to the aforementioned Headwall zone. The rest of us can enjoy the gentler mid-mountain slopes or try the Pacific Crest South Bowls at Alpine Meadows.
The claim-to-fame: The 1960 Winter Olympics took place in Squaw Valley. Beyond that major historical milestone, the resort is famous for its sun and snowfall — at the time of writing (it’s only late February!), 500+ inches had already fallen during the 2018-19 season.
The snapshot: Hit up the Main Lodge sun deck at Alpine Meadows for a view of the mountain (camera in one hand, pint in the other). For action shots and speckled sunlight, there are plenty of gladed tree-skiing zones off the Red Dog chairlift.
The experience: It takes less than an hour to snowshoe up to Chickadee Ridge — 2.1 miles out and back — and at the end, Lake Tahoe awaits below. Note that you’re climbing up a sledding hill to get to the ridge, so those two miles can be more than meets the eye. Though if you bring your toboggan, you can slide down!
The claim-to-fame: The 31,000-acre Mt. Rose Wilderness is one of Nevada’s most popular playgrounds. It runs from near the northern tip of Lake Tahoe along the state border, and it’s full of canyons, meadows, trails, peaks, lakes, and lowlands.
The snapshot: A bird in hand is worth two in the bush, right?
The experience: Sand Harbor is made up of three parts: beach, cedar, and rock. Which means the recipe is: Sunbathe on the beach, picnic under the cedars, and paddle around the rocky shoreline. This is a popular spot — come early to get some R&R with Mother Nature.
The claim-to-fame: Lake Tahoe is already a beautiful turquoise anomaly resting among the granite peaks of the Sierras. Throw in gently sloping beaches, and it’s no surprise that Hollywood has come calling.
The snapshot: A half-mile trail runs from Sand Harbor north to Memorial Point, exposing the harbor (and its hidden coves) at different angles.
The experience: If you’re a first-time visitor, come Thursday, Friday, or Saturday afternoon for a tour — ideally in the summer, when teams from around the world gather to take on huge projects. Scope out which artists grab your eye and watch them in action.
The claim-to-fame: Those amazing photos of Burning Man you’ve seen with the art structures the size of buildings (that disappear overnight)? That’s The Generator.
The snapshot: Whoever’s causing sparks, flying paint, or bending metal oughta do it (just make sure to get their permission first).
The experience: The hotel is located feet from the famous Reno arch and 45 minutes from Lake Tahoe. You’ll want to take some time out from exploring the lake to hit up the onsite Basecamp, ranked one of the best hotel gyms in the country by Outside Magazine.
The claim-to-fame: How many hotels have the world’s tallest artificial climbing wall? The answer is one.
The snapshot: The top of the 164-foot climbing wall, of course! From the bottom looking up can do the trick, too.
The experience: Come for the five mineral hot springs at David Walley’s Hot Springs Resort, leave having experienced the Eucalyptus steam rooms, heated swimming pool, and a geothermal soak against the shadow of the Sierras.
The claim-to-fame: David Walley’s sits just two miles from Genoa, Nevada’s oldest town. The history here spans from the geological to the pioneer.
The snapshot: Settle into one of the mineral hot springs around sunset, and frame it against those peaks. Just don’t drop your camera!
The experience: You have to go for the Picon Punch — the “national drink of the Basques.” It’s famous at Louis’, and it’ll hit you like a haymaker.
The claim-to-fame: Louis’ is a family-style restaurant, so get ready for lots of Basque comfort food, and bring your sharing manners.
The snapshot: A spread of tongue Basquaise, tripas callos, lamb chops, oxtails, and sirloin won’t last long, so you best take a picture of it while you can.
The experience: Sip a Silver Donkey or nurse The Luchador while digging into some cornbread fritters, mac n’ cheese bites, or a slice of smoked chocolate cake (with smoked chocolate ganache and whiskey sugar). And happy hour? 3-6pm, every day.
The claim-to-fame: Brunch — 11-3pm on weekends — comes with liter-sized drinks.
The snapshot: The giant, old-school depot doors sure know how to light up a burger. Particularly one with house-cured pastrami, sauerkraut, swiss cheese, and Russian dressing.
The experience: When’s the last time you sidled up to a drink next to an original “wanted” poster for John Wilkes Booth? Or sat in the same room as Mark Twain, John Wayne, and Clint Eastwood? (Not all at the same time.)
The claim-to-fame: Their renowned 14-ingredient bloody Mary. And maybe also the “bra safe.”
The snapshot: The diamond-dusted mirror shipped here from Scotland in the 1840s, the buffalo heads, Raquel Welch’s bra, the original oil lamps — if you can’t get a good photo here, your lens cap must be on.