Lake Tahoe, California, is known for dramatic landscapes, adventure sports and chill West Coast vibes — but there’s more to this storied town than meets the eye.
Lake Tahoe is rich in Old West lore dating back to the silver rush in nearby Virginia City. Suddenly, the quiet lake that was primarily occupied by Native Americans became a vibrant timber-mining area to provide support beams for the local mines. Today, the remains of flumes and other structures crumble alongside trails and waterways, offering the ideal opportunity to get your heart rate soaring while stepping back in time.
Below are a few ways to pedal, paddle and take a peek inside Tahoe’s fascinating history. After all the excitement, you can return to your Diamond Resorts’ suite — at properties like the Lake Tahoe Vacation Resort, Tahoe Beach and Ski or the Tahoe Seasons Resort — for some well-deserved R&R.
Pedal the Marlette Flume Trail
Roll along singletrack that retraces the route of a mining flume that funneled water from Marlette Lake down to Virginia City in the mid-1800s. Rent a bike from the Flume Trail Bike Shop in Incline Village, Nevada, and you can grab a shuttle to the Flume Trail trailhead. Get into gear for a 4-mile glute-kicking climb that takes you 1,000 feet high.
It’s mostly downhill from there as the trail descends 1,500 feet, rolling along the Carson Range from Marlette Lake to Tunnel Creek Road — just south of Incline Village — delivering spectacular views of the lake along the way. End your journey at the Tunnel Creek Cafe, where you can grab refreshments and upload your Insta-worthy pics.
Check the Flume Trail website for opening dates — usually mid- to late-June, depending upon snowmelt. The trail stays open through October, letting you whoosh along through golden leaves as you enjoy picturesque autumn colors.
Hike the Incline Flume Trail
Although you could mountain bike this one, forget about it. The Incline Flume Trail holds so many stunning views you’ll want to take your time along the way. Here, aspen groves, wildflowers, twinkling streams and breathtaking vistas of the lake await.
Along the trail, crumbling remnants of an old, wooden water flume and a giant bull wheel that once powered a tram for transporting timber to local mines provide a scenic Old West backdrop. If you feel a sense of familiarity, it might be because the area is part of the Ponderosa Ranch from the TV series, “Bonanza.”
Don’t let its name fool you — the Incline Flume Trail is almost level, starting and ending at 7,600 feet, making the hike suitable for all ages. Find the trailhead on the Mount Rose Highway (NV-431), approximately half a mile beyond the Tahoe Lake Viewpoint. Start early, as the small parking lot fills up on weekends.
Late June through mid-July is the best time for viewing and photographing wildflowers. Pass by fields of corn lilies and look for strands of mountain pennyroyal, horsemint, scarlet skyrocket, yellow sulfur flowers and purple penstemon.
Paddle the Lake Tahoe Water Trail
Advertised as 72 miles of pure liquid fun, the Lake Tahoe Water Trail lets you kayak, paddleboard or canoe to historic vistas around the lakeshore. Rent a stand-up paddleboard, kayak, canoe or skiff at one of a half-dozen places in South Lake Tahoe within a few blocks of Diamond’s Lake Tahoe Vacation Resort.
Paddle nine miles west to Emerald Bay to marvel at Vikingsholm, a Scandinavian reproduction of a Viking Castle built in the mid-1800s. Tie up your watercraft and take a tour through the 38-room manse from June through September. Emerald Bay is also home to Lake Tahoe’s only island, as well as Eagle Falls, a dramatic whitewater waterfall tumbling into the lake.
Head back in time and paddle to the Tallac Historic Site, which was known as the “Grandest Resort in the World” a century ago. Here, take a tour of lavish mansions that were once the summer homes of socially elite families. You can check out the property from late May through September.
Other paddle-to points of historic interest in South Lake Tahoe include Camp Richardson — once the summer hunting grounds for the Washoe Indians along Taylor Creek — and the Valhalla Boathouse Theater, where you can enjoy music and other live entertainment from the vista of a historic lakeside structure.
Jump in a Lake
Don a wetsuit and participate in one of the Tahoe area’s alpine open-water swimming events. Sure to get your heart racing, the events take place the last weekend of each summer month in Lake Tahoe and Lake Donner. Registration fees for each event include a barbecue, recovery food and souvenirs such as T-shirts and caps.
Kick off the summer with the Lake Tahoe City Swim just off Commons Beach in Tahoe City. The annual competition takes place at the end of June with half-mile, mile and 2-mile swimming competitions in open water for adults, youth and seniors. The beach area has served as a shipping and railroad hub, jail, post office and firehouse before its present incarnation as Commons Beach Park. The lake’s clear alpine waters are also the scene of the annual 2.7-mile Donner Lake Swim, which begins at the Donner Lake Museum and ends at the West Beach Parking Lot.
July brings the Alpine Freshwater Swim in Donner Lake at Truckee, California, to West End Beach. The site lies on the opposite end of the lake from Donner Memorial State Park, where the infamous California-bound pioneers were trapped in winter snows. The Donner Lake Triathlon takes place the same weekend at the lake.
Finally, flex your swimming skills during the last weekend of August at the Lake Tahoe Open Water Swim. Sign up for a half-mile, 1.2-mile, or — if you’re particularly hardy — a 2.4-mile swim at California’s Ed’ZBerg Sugar Pine State Park. Or, stick around for a full triathlon on Sunday. The historic Hellman-Ehrman Mansion, built in the 1920s, is the backdrop for the event. Water temps are in the high 60s during this timeframe, so wetsuits aren’t required if you can handle cold water.
Get your heart pumping during your next Lake Tahoe vacation — and learn a history lesson or two along the way.
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