Local's Budget Friendly Lake Tahoe Guide

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By Meg Atteberry
Meg is a freelance writer, photographer, climber and she-mountaineer. You can find her scrambling up a challenging peak, working on her sport climbing game and spending time outside with loved ones. As a life-long explorer, she’s committed to empowering others to get out there and have an adventure. She’d rather be dirty than done up. To learn more about Meg, check out her website.


Budget-friendly isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when visiting Lake Tahoe. When I met Callie along the Pacific Crest Trail, they were excited to explore the Tahoe Basin, since most thru-hikers skip this area due to the high cost of lodging on the south side. However, with a little local know-how, you can unwrap plenty of budget-friendly activities in the Tahoe Basin.


Head to the North Shore of Lake Tahoe

The south shore of Lake Tahoe feels like arriving in Manhattan after spending months along the Pacific Crest Trail. Tall buildings, tour buses and crowded streets await you. Slip off to the North Shore of Lake Tahoe for a more low-key experience. There are plenty of spots to camp on the west side of the lake or stay in the hostel at King’s Beach. Hitching is easy around the lake if you don’t have a friend to meet you in the area.


Discover Secret Beaches

My family lives in Lake Tahoe and I’ve been combing the shores of this magnificent lake for over 16 years. The best beaches are located along the eastern shore, just south of Sand Harbor. Use one of the many pull-offs and simply scramble down to the rocky shores of Lake Tahoe for your slice of paradise. Keep in mind if you’re near Secret Cove, swimwear is optional!


Explore Emerald Bay

Emerald Bay is one of those iconic Tahoe views that’s worth the crowds. The glistening emerald waters and gold-flecked sand give this place its namesake. A short, 10-minute hike leads to the sandy shores of Emerald Bay. Or, for a bird’s eye view and spanning vistas of the Desolation Wilderness, hike to Eagle Lake (three miles round-trip). The granite in this area is prime for scrambling if that’s your thing. Keep in mind, both of these areas get packed by mid-morning, so opt for an early start if you’re looking to beat the crowds.


601 × 400Boulder and Climb in Lake Tahoe

The Lake Tahoe Basin has some of the best climbing and bouldering in all of the Sierra. D.L Bliss State Park, along Tahoe’s Western Shore offers several easily accessible bouldering problems that will keep you craggin’ all day. If you have some climbing partners and can nab some gear, head to Lover’s Leap in the Desolation Wilderness for some of the best sport routes in the state. Dog-friendly bouldering check out nearby Truckee (another resupply stop along the Pacific Crest Trail). I love Split Rock because when the crag gets too hot, you can take a dip in a nearby reservoir. 


601 × 451Hike the Tahoe Rim Trail

If you really just can’t stop hiking, consider checking out the Tahoe Rim Trail a 128-mile thru-hike that circumnavigates Lake Tahoe. There are views for days of the stunning blue Tahoe waters. If you’re thru-hiking the PCT, these two trails meet through the Desolation Wilderness. The trail is broken into eight segments. A few of the more breathtaking sections include Brockway Summit to Mt. Rose and Mt Rose Summit to Spooner Summit. 


Catch a Tahoe Sunset 

My favorite thing to do when I’m visiting my family in Lake Tahoe is to find a high perch and enjoy the setting sun. Cave Rock Trail (roughly a mile round trip) offers a quick and easy viewpoint perfect for watching the setting sun. Catching a sunset in Tahoe is simple, just walk towards the shore and relax as the sapphire waters meet the fierce orange sky.


Lake Tahoe has plenty to offer the budget-friendly thru-hiker, you just need to know where to look. Get the most out of your Tahoe experience with a little local know-how. 

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