South Lake Tahoe
The beauty of the Lake Tahoe area is momentarily forgotten as you enter South Lake Tahoe: with 25,000 permanent residents, it is a large settlement, sprawling for 8 miles along the lake and dominated by motels, quick-eat outlets and boat-rental offices. South Lake Tahoe makes a convenient touring base (and is ideal for anyone aiming to make their mark on the casinos of Stateline) but otherwise deserves little of your time.
Be sure, however, to drop into the useful visitors’ centre, beside Hwy-89 on the town’s western approaches, and take a look around the neighbouring cultural stop the Lake Tahoe Historical Society Museum (http://www.laketahoemuseum.org/), 3058 Hwy-50, which carries displays on the lake’s formation and recounts the story of its human habitation.
Detour – Meeks Bay
18 miles North West of South Lake Tahoe. Judging by the scores of centuries-old arrowheads, which have been found here, gracefully curling Meeks Bay held as much appeal to Native Americans in the past as it does to vacationing families of the present who fill its rustic campsite. With a short stay in mind, aim for the picnic sites spread invitingly at intervals along the bay’s mile-long beach.
Detour – Kings Beach
The major town on Lake Tahoe’s northern shore, Kings Beach has an enjoy-ably low-key seaside-resort mood and – while palm trees and surfers may be in short supply – warm summer days turn the lakeside sands of Kings Beach State Recreation Area into a surprisingly accurate imitation of a southern Californian beach scene.
Detour – Ponderosa Ranch
Anyone weaned on Hollywood Westerns and the television cowboys of the 1950s and 1960s will need no encouragement to continue east from Kings Beach to the Nevada town of Incline Village. Here, the Ponderosa Ranch (open May – Oct) is a Western theme park built around the actual buildings used as the Cartwright family ranch in the series Bonanza. Other cowboy-connected attractions include a re-created saloon and a boardwalk-lined Main Street reverberating to the sound of staged shoot-outs (http://ponderosascenery.homestead.com/ponderosa.html).