Lake Tahoe — which officially reopened to tourism in June — offers a chance to reset in the
great outdoors during the summer of social distancing.
Sprawling cobalt-blue Lake Tahoe, fringed with ponderosa pine forests and mountain peaks, doesn’t have to try very hard to boost travelers’ mental and physical well-being. Merely breathing in the pristine air and gazing at the alpine lake, a five-hour drive from Marin and split by the California-Nevada border, can do wonders for frazzled minds. Mindfulness is also in the destination’s DNA. Washoe Indian tribes used to gather for sacred ceremonies on the lake’s southern shores each summer. North and South Lake Tahoe’s hotels and resorts have reopened, cautiously, with a renewed focus on wellness and nature. Protocols designed to keep travelers safe are also in place. Take Care Tahoe is a regional initiative encouraging sustainable travel and safety during the era of Covid-19 that offers useful advice on social distancing guidelines, wearing masks and staying home if visitors feel unwell. From a via ferrata climb to a “touchless” spa treatment, here are the best ways to enjoy a safe and relaxing escape to Lake Tahoe this summer.
Reimagined Spas and Stays
Spread across 235 lakefront acres, the LEED-certified Edgewood Tahoe (from $449 per night), where fitness gurus like Tracy Anderson and Harley Pasternak have hosted retreats, offers plenty of space for guests. The bright and airy lobby, with 38-foot-tall glass windows overlooking the lake, seems uniquely suited to social distancing. Guests can rest assured that the property, which is reservations only for now, has implemented all the stringent cleaning and distancing requirements. Still, it’s the care put into reopening signature amenities that stands out. Morning mountain yoga on the event lawn — with mats spread six feet apart — has resumed, and a menu of “hands-off” services is available in the bright white spa, which features a floor-to-ceiling glass retractable wall that creates a feeling of airy spaciousness. While guests can still have a traditional hands-on massage, there’s also Reiki Energy Healing (a therapist channels soothing Rei energy and hovers their hands over the client to address mental, physical and spiritual imbalances) and a self-guided Hypervolt massage using percussion technology. The full-body treatment works wonders on sore muscles.
Evening activities have also been reworked. Additional telescopes, which are cleaned regularly, have been added for safer stargazing, and guests receive s’mores kits in individually wrapped packages. Few activities are more comforting to the soul than roasting marshmallows in a fire pit as the sun sets behind the Sierras.
Also on Lake Tahoe’s South Shore, Camp Richardson Historic Resort & Marina (from $115 per night) also offers urbanites a place to relax and renew. Nestled in an old-growth forest, Camp Richardson is like summer camp for the whole family; there are no phones or televisions and buildings are spread throughout the property, including a general store and an ice cream parlor. Guests can stay in a charming 1926 hotel with wood beam ceilings or in rustic cabins, many with porch swings and gas fireplaces (due to Covid-19, cabins no longer have utensils and cookware). Camp Richardson has a swimming beach and a marina renting out boats, Jet Skis, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards, but there’s also plenty to explore nearby. The Tallac Historic Site next door is where California’s rich and famous built their summer estates in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The 35-foot Rum Runner yacht, which has reduced capacity, offers several cruises a day from the marina to Emerald Bay, a beautiful blue-green inlet surrounded by state parkland.
A few blocks from the Heavenly Gondola, the Coachman Hotel (from $170 per night) is a more stripped-down retreat and gateway to the great outdoors. Originally two motels built during the tourism boom from the 1960 Tahoe Winter Olympics, the buildings were given a hip upgrade in 2016. The renovations included a sleek black paint job and modern mountain guest-rooms with hand-built plywood vanities and leather chairs. The hotel — a five-minute stroll to the lake — is popular for remote working and lounging by the pool; deck seating has been rearranged so guests can stay distanced. Fire pits and outdoor summer movies on the poolside lawn are also part of the draw.
New Outdoor ActivitiesTahoe has invested millions of dollars into new trails and activities in recent years. The year-old East Shore Trail snakes along a stunning section of Nevada lakefront that was once difficult and dangerous to get to. The wide three-mile-long walking and biking path connects Incline Village to Sand Harbor State Park with access to public beaches and coves along the way.
Tahoe Via Ferrata, which opened in Squaw Valley in 2018, operates four guided via ferrata routes. Via ferratas use steel cables, rungs and ladders and provide more protection than typical rock climbing; most via ferratas are in Italy and Austria. The company has enacted socialdistancing measures. Climbers must stay six feet apart and wear gloves, and private group rates have been reduced to encourage climbs with immediate family only. The new Loophole Route includes climbing up granite towers and traversing a cable bridge while taking in panoramic views of the valley.
Home Away from Home
Airbnb stays on Lake Tahoe come in all sizes and shapes. A midcentury modern cabin, the Tahoe A-Frame (from $325), designed by Jennifer Henry-Novich, has its own Instagram following. Located on Lake Tahoe’s West Shore, the 1963 cabin has two bedrooms and a sofa bed, a gleaming white subway tile kitchen and statement decor like a Malm freestanding fireplace and honeycomb chandelier.
A five-minute drive from Tahoe City, the one-bedroom Breathtaking Lake View Remodeled Old Tahoe Cabin (from $295) is a meticulously renovated chalet perched above Carnelian Bay. It has stainless steel appliances, works by local artists and radiant floor heating in the bathroom. The most stunning feature is the large deck with a panoramic view of the lake.
The four-bedroom, three-bath Mountain Modern Beauty w/Full Chamberlands Access (from $341) is more modern, and it comes with all the upscale neighborhood’s perks, like access to a private beach with a wooden pier. Guests adore the vaulted white wood ceilings, large open kitchen and luxurious bedrooms with Egyptian cotton sheets and Pendleton blankets from the National Parks Collection.
Full Moon Kayak Tour
One hour before sunset, kayakers meet at Commons Beach for a moonlit tour along the lake’s west shore (from $65 per person). The American Canoe Association–trained instructor provides dry bags, kayaks, paddles, headlamps and life jackets, plus history about the area.
Wilderness Hike to Secluded Lakes
This Desolation Wilderness day trip (from $160 per person) begins at Emerald Bay. It’s not for the faint of heart, hikers climb over 2,000 feet in the first two miles. The reward is a dip in a secret alpine lake with lunch. Expect plenty of breaks for photos along the way.
Yoga Hike with a View
Join experienced yoga teacher Kristen for a three-hour adventure beginning at High Meadow Trail (from $45 per person). It takes an hour to hike to the stunning vista overlooking the lake and mountains, where the instructor leads students through a 75-minute flow.