Updated: May 21, 2015

Lake Tahoe Vacation - Rentals, Lodging, Things To Do

If you have never been to Lake Tahoe, you are missing out on one of the scenic wonders of the world. At over 1600 feet deep, it is the second deepest lake in the US (Crater Lake in Oregon is the deepest at over 1900 feet - technically it is the inside of a hollowed out volcano). And Tahoe is big -- more than 20 miles long and 12 miles wide. Where is Lake Tahoe? This large, alpine lake sits like a granite goblet in the Sierra Nevada mountains, with half of the lake in California and the other half in Nevada -- if you look at a map, it is right where the left side of Nevada "bends". Lake Tahoe attracts visitors throughout the year, with warm sunny weather in the summer and terrific skiing and winter sports in the winter seasons. World-class ski resorts like Heavenly and Squaw Valley are right next door. Summer brings hiking, water skiing, boating, swimming, and much more. So it doesn't matter when you go - just go! Planning a trip to Lake Tahoe means finding a place to stay. There are plenty of lodging option - choose from casino hotels, vacation rentals, or small motels - there is something for every budget. The east and west sides of the lake are the most mountainous, and largely undeveloped. North Shore Lake Tahoe has a bevy of lake front motels and hotels in the Kings Beach area, one or two casinos right at the state line, and a variety of rental properties as you swing around to the east to Incline Village.





Truckee is the nearest city to the north, just a 10 minute drive from Tahoe, and the Northstar ski area is halfway to Truckee. The South Shore is even more populous, with a half dozen large casinos and hotels and lots of rental homes, especially in the Tahoe Keys region. You can see a map of the Lake Tahoe region here (it will open in a new window).

Lake Tahoe Vacation Rentals

Part of enjoying the mountain experience is to stay in a home or cabin instead of a hotel room. There are a number of websites that offer listings of Lake Tahoe rental homes. Let's start with VacationStation.com - they have a good inventory of rentals, ranging from 1 bedroom condos to amazing lakefront estate properties, perfect for those with a bigger budget (maybe a corporate retreat). They've been in the rental business for more than 25 years, and they have people on staff 24 hours per day if you have any problems with your property (all the homes and condos are privately owned). Their office is located on the northeast corner of the lake near Incline Village. They have 2BR condos ranging from $125-$150 per night, and 3BR units from $160-$220 per night. Or how about a lakefront 5BR, 4000sf, for $1800-$2800 per night (Northlake)? Overall, they offer a good selection of homes and condos, all of which are properly equipped and maintained, making your stay a happy one. Check them out. You can also visit LakeTahoeLodging.com, specialists in South Lake Tahoe Lodging with all kinds of vacation rentals to choose from. They list about 50 rental properties on their websites, and some of them really are jaw-dropping, like #139 at Tahoe Keys, an amazing looking all-glass waterfront estate - wow - and just over $3K per night! They have photos and fairly detailed descriptions of amenities for most of the properties. Finally, check out TahoeAccomodations.com - they have more than 400 properties you can browse to find just the right vacation rental for your Tahoe trip. They are a family run business, around since 1979, and they have 4 rental offices located all around the lake. Overall, a great resource for planning your stay -- competitive prices, great service, awesome selection of properties. As another alternative, consider renting direct from a homeowner -- you can often save 30% or more since you skip the management fees. The best site for this is VRBO.com (vacation rentals by owner). On a recent check to their site, we found hundreds and hundreds of listings for the Tahoe area, including plenty right on the slopes of Heavenly Valley. We've rented properties through VRBO before on trips to Hawaii and other destinations, and have been generally pleased. Of course, you are dealing only with private owners here, so do your homework here -- call and talk to owners, get some references of prior guests, etc.

Tahoe Ski Areas

On the map above, you can also see all the ski resorts around Lake Tahoe. The biggest and most famous ski areas are probably Squaw Valley (northwest) and Heavenly Valley (southeast). There are quite a few other Tahoe ski areas as you come in from the north along I-80 and 89 -- Boreal, Soda Springs, Sugar Bowl, Donner Ski Ranch, Alpine Meadows, and Homewood. Northstar sits between Truckee and Kings Beach along 267. On the northeast of the lake is Diamond Peak and Mt. Rose in the Incline Village area. Having spent more than 20 years in the Bay Area, we've had occasion to visit just about all the Tahoe ski areas - I took my first lessons at Northstar when I was about 8, and have returned many times since (most recently in the summer for golf - no snow!). Obviously, Heavenly is the only option in South Lake Tahoe, and it is a great mountain -- you can check out their website with trailmaps at SkiHeavenly.com. If you visit in summer, take the ski lift to the top of the mountain for spectacular views. You can see a map of all the ski resorts at Tahoe here.

Getting to Lake Tahoe

There are small airports at both South Lake Tahoe and Truckee on the north side. The largest nearby airport is in Reno, a little over an hour to the northeast of the lake. If you are driving, I-80 brings you via 89 to Tahoe City, or a little further east, to Truckee and then to Tahoe via 267. On the South, Interstate 50 brings you into South Lake Tahoe via a dramatic road coming in along a steep mountainside cliff before descending to lake level. How far is it to Lake Tahoe from San Francisco? How far is Tahoe from Los Angeles? From LA, it is about an 8-9 hours drive, and about a 4 hour drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, though weekend traffic can lengthen both of those trips considerably, especially during winter storm times when high sierra passes can become driving nightmares.

Lake Tahoe Hotels and Lodging

If hotels and motels are more your style for a quick weekend getaway, Expedia.com is always a good place to start looking at listings of properties. They list over 100 hotel and motel lodging choices around Lake Tahoe, from Truckee to Kings Beach to South Lake Tahoe to Tahoe City. There is a really nice Embassy Suites right at the state line in South Shore, casinos right across the street - just $150-$240 per night. Or the Lakeland Village Beach & Mountain Resort with condos from just $100-$150. Another nice hotel right at state line is the Marriott Grand Residence Club, just steps from the Heavenly Valley gondola, with rooms from just $150-$225 per night. You'll find smaller motels with rooms as cheap as $50 -- but keep in mind there are a lot of older, not-so-nice rooms in this price range -- if you can afford a little more, we recommend aiming closer to the $100 mark, though there are decent spots like the Days Inn with rooms from $50-$100.