Lake Tahoe is best known for it’s winter activities – and for good reason, with an average of 125 inches of snow falling at lake level each year, and the ski areas getting even more! A lot of dogs are happy to bound along while you snowshoe or cross-country ski. But, for those with more tender-footed pets, Lake Tahoe is also an excellent place to visit other times of the year.
Spring and Summer
Focus shifts from the mountains to the lake itself in the spring and summer months. With 71 miles of shoreline and an average depth of 989 feet, Lake Tahoe is the highest altitude, and the second deepest lake in the U.S. On average 1,400,000 TONS of water evaporate from the lake’s surface every 24 hours – though the resulting drop in lake level is only one-tenth of an inch!
Of course, there are plenty of beaches to check out. And you can easily keep busy of boating or fishing. But circumnavigating the lake and checking out the sites along the way is a perfect way to spend the day.
If you’re lucky enough to be there during the Kokanee Salmon run, stop by Taylor Creek where all the trails are managed by the U.S. Forest Service (we love you guys!) and are pet friendly. Our only challenge was keeping Buster out of the creek – all the splashing salmon had him especially curious.
The next stop you won’t want to miss is Emerald Bay. I’m not sure how they decided on its name – it looks more like Sapphire Bay to me.
From Emerald Bay continue clockwise around the lake, stopping at the lookouts, and moseying through the towns. While the businesses are obviously working to draw the tourist’s dollar, they’re not gaudy about it and the villages still have a “hometown” look and feel to them.
At Tahoe City head northwest for a little detour up to Truckee. You don’t want to miss the famous pass though the Sierra Nevada mountains where the Donner party‘s wagon train was trapped during a particularly brutal winter in 1846/47. From the rock outcroppings, it’s inconceivable to imagine a covered wagon traversing this terrain. Make a quick stop at the Donner memorial for an idea of how deep the snow was that year, and then jump back on the Tahoe Circle.
As you come around the lake, notice how different areas cater to different types of people. If you’re into the casinos, shows and buffets, the east side of the lake – on the Nevada side of the border – is for you. South Lake Tahoe has some great restaurants, lots of recreation options, and you feel like you’re in the middle of it all. If you’re looking for a quiet getaway and don’t mind cooking in, the west side of the lake would be best. Custom homes with lake views and huge pine trees allow you to imagine you’ve got the whole place to yourself. The north side of the lake combines a little bit of everything. The housing isn’t quite as charming as the west side, but with a couple of small casinos and good lake access, it may be just the thing. This is also where you’ll find the lake’s only off leash dog beach.
Fall is the perfect time for hiking, and the options are nearly endless. National forest nearly encompasses the lake and wildlife is abundant, so watch out for bears and coyotes on the trail! Plan it right, and you might hit the aspens at their peak. If you’re up for a little adventure, take a drive through the Stanislaus National Forest down to Murphys, California and visit the Ironstone Winery.
On the map it doesn’t look like much of a dive, but it took A LOT longer to get to Murphys than expected. Part of the delay was due to frequent stops to admire the scenery – including a hike around a little lake. But, the 1-1/2 lane high mountain road also demanded a slower pace. And it was absolutely worth it. Buster had so much fun, and Ty … well, Ty was Ty. He mostly focused on the inside of his eyelids … when he wasn’t busy keeping his paws dry.
The grounds around Ironstone are pet friendly, and their deli makes a great sandwich. Pets aren’t allowed to join you in the tasting room, but there is plenty to explore outside. And, the wine is good. Really good.
The town of Murphys is also worth a visit if you’re not in a hurry to get back on the road. The renovated old buildings brought back to life with cafes, galleries, and boutiques are the picture of perfection.
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