My Favorite – The Five Lakes Hike

Hiking in Lake Tahoe is one of the top attractions visitors and locals enjoy throughout the basin.  There are hundreds of miles of trails to choose from and explore, but year after year my favorite hike to enjoy each summer is the Five Lakes Hike on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe.

The Five Lakes Trail is located in the Granite Chief Wilderness in between Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley ski resorts and is easily accessible at the intersection of Alpine Meadows and Deer Park roads.  The 5-mile moderate trail ascends approximately 900-1000 ft. along granite canyons and pine forests to a high-altitude meadow that creates a bowl of five lakes in between the rugged mountain peaks towering from above including a peak of Squaw Valley ski resort.  As you ascend the trail, you will enjoy view of the Alpine Meadows ski resort from a distance, traverse under an abandon ski resort chair lift (said to be created to link the two ski resorts at one time) and climb along the rocky, granite cliff until you pass a waterfall and reach the high-altitude meadow.  The hike takes only about one-hour to reach the meadow and lakes but I recommend spending at least a 1/2-day on the trail in order to fully explore and enjoy the lakes above.  Since it is such a popular hike, the trail can become crowded, especially on weekends, but not to worry as there are plenty of nooks and coves to relax, picnic, swim and even fish in the lakes.

Check out a video of my recent trips along the Five Lakes Hike in Lake Tahoe and learn tips and see pictures of this gorgeous trail!

A few local tips on the Five Lakes Hike:  

  • Be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen!  This hike is primarily exposed and can be very hot during the midday until you reach the shady meadows above
  • Pack lots of water and snacks.  As you quickly ascend the trail it is roughly a 2.5-mile straight climb until you reach the top.  The added elevation factor in the mountains can surprise out-of-town visitor
  • Sometimes finding all 5 lakes can be tricky but take your time enjoying and exploring the high elevation meadows and trails connecting the lakes throughout.
  • Worth the wait!  Due to its high elevation, I recommend enjoying this hike later in the summer season as high-altitude snow is likely to remain throughout spring.  One year over 4th of July friends and I did this hike and there was still snow covering the trail and the lakes were frozen over!

To learn more about this popular trail visit this online trail guide that including stage by stage directions as well as this complete review in  Have you ever hiked Five Lakes?  If so do you have any tips to share on how to find all five lakes? Please share them in the comments below.

If you enjoying learning about Lake Tahoe follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.


Truckee Thursday Time!

Truckee Thursday ReturnsThis past Thursday evening Truckee-Tahoe locals from all around gathered to welcome back a favorite summer event, Truckee Thursday!  Every Thursday evening from 5-9pm this summer until August 29th locals will gather to eat, drink, shop and reunite on the city blocks of downtown historic Truckee, CA  for this weekly celebration.  Hosted by the Truckee Downtown Merchants Association, Truckee Thursdays are a fantastic way for visitors,  locals and businesses to reunite and celebrate their local community.

Truckee Thursday ReturnsSo what exactly is Truckee Thursdays?   Picture farmer’s market meets street party in the mountains.  The downtown blocks of historic Truckee are closed to vehicle traffic for the evening and in its place local merchants including farmers, artisans, crafters and restaurants and invited to secure booths to feature their products, services and culinary arts.  It is great event celebrated by guests of all ages from newborns to seniors and even dogs are welcome!

Truckee Thursday Returns
Allow me to take you on a quick tour of my usual visit to Truckee Thursday to give you a better picture.  I usually carpool with friends and park in either the lot on East River Street (if it isn’t full already) or along the street.  First stop, I like perusing the local vendor booths set up in the street selling fruits and vegetables along with crafts such as candles, jewelry and home furnishings – perfect for gifts!  These vendors often leave on the early side so it is good to go there first.  Then after a bit of shopping, I head to the beer garden to grab a draft, meet up with friends and listen to the guest band performance.  By now I have worked up an appetite and head to the food trucks and stations to see what looks good for the evening.  My two favorites… anything from Red Truck or the famed Tri-Trip sandwich from Full Belli Deli (both pictured below).  End your evening with one of the many sweet treats available including crepes, chocolate covered frozen bananas on a stick or ice cream that you can find throughout.  As the sun sets, temperatures drop and the Truckee Thursday celebration winds down, if you aren’t quite ready to go home I recommend continuing the party at the historic Bar of America in the hub of downtown Truckee.

Truckee Thursday ReturnsTruckee Thursday ReturnsEach week at Truckee Thursday presents a local merchant sponsor along with a non-profit partner band showcasing the main stage in the beer gardens.  Check their website for the schedule of events of sponsors including Burger Me!, Northstar California and California 89 to see what lies ahead this summer at Truckee Thursday.

This season, Truckee Thursday also announced a few new additions to their line-up!  New is a second ‘corner stage’ on the corner of Bridge Street and Donner Pass Road and enjoy Bike Valet hosted by the Truckee Thursday ReturnsTruckee Donner Historical Society so you can ride your bikes and avoid the parking jam.  New lifestyle and apparel store, California 89, will also be featuring movies for downtown visitors seeking a break from the busy street action.  I also heard rumor that for those residents living in Tahoe Donner, a new shuttle route has been added to transport residents after Truckee Thursday events.  Can anyone confirm if this is true?!

 A few local tips to enjoy the BEST evening at Truckee Thursday.  Be sure to arrive earlier in order to find parking as it fills up fast!  Bring cash as that is all most vendors accept.  Another good reason to come early is that the best food will sell-out fast and you won’t want to miss it!  Carpooling helps with parking AND be sure to have a safe and sober driver with you if you plan on drinking.

If you frequent Truckee Thursday, what do you most look forward to buying, eating, sipping while you are there? Share your comments below.  I hope to see you next Thursday!

If you enjoying learning about Lake Tahoe follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

Midsummer Night Dreams Come True!

IMG_1909Picture yourself sitting in a beach chair, your toes in the sand, sipping on a glass of your favorite wine while you nibble on tasty cheese and crackers, listening to the waves clap against the sand in the background.  Just another day at the beach in Lake Tahoe?  No way!  Instead you are sitting amongst an audience under the stars at Sand Harbor State Park enjoying a live performance of William Shakespeare’s as part of Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival.  And the best part, you don’t even have to be a fan of Shakespeare’s work to have an extraordinary time.

Last year marked my first visit to the amphitheater at Sand Harbor where I immediately became enchanted by the venue and its magical performance full of music, singing, costumes, theater and even… a dog amongst the cast members in last year’s rendition of Two Gentlemen of Verona.  Upon return home that evening, I jumped online and quickly purchased tickets to return to the performance later in the season since I had such a remarkable time.  Even my husband loved going and Shakespeare is not his typical cup of tea.

Each year the cast at Sand Harbor performs a different Shakespeare classic.  This upcoming summer they will feature one of my all-time favorites, A Midsummer Night’s Dreama perfect fit for this venue along the shores of Lake Tahoe.  A famous Shakespearean classic, this comedy celebrates the story of love, mischief and magic. Not your traditional screening, this season’s Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival’s rendition is inspired by a rock ‘n’ roll infused 1960s London culture which is sure to be the biggest craze in Lake Tahoe this summer.  I can’t WAIT to go see it.

So I realize that there may be some of you that I haven’t yet convinced.  That you may still be traumatized from your high school English teachers when it comes to anything Shakespeare related.  Don’t worry, you can still enjoy this remarkable venue which offers a wide variety of performances all summer long.  Others include:  The Reno Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance of Broadway on the Beach, the Reno Chamber Orchestra’s performance of Classical Music Under the Stars with the Nevada Chamber Music Festival at the Lake, the Sierra Nevada Ballet’s rendition of Coppelia,  The Jazz Soul of Porgy and Bess by the Reno Jazz Orchestra, Les Miserables in Concert performed by TOCCATA and the 2013 Lake Tahoe Summerfest.  Talk about a line-up.

The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival performances run from mid-July through the end of August and are presented on a stage whose backdrop is Lake Tahoe along the East Shore at Sand Harbor State Park.  The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival is a nonprofit organization established for the cultural benefit and entertainment of all visitors and residents to the region.  It began in 1972 and was originally hosted at Sugar Pine Point State Park on the opposite side of Lake Tahoe until four years later it was relocated to Sand Harbor State Park where it has been held ever since.

The venue includes a large amphitheater with stadium seating amongst the sandy hillside overlooking Lake Tahoe.  Facilities include ample parking, restrooms and delicious culinary options provided by Brimm’s catering, a full-bar and even table service depending on which section you purchase your seats.  You can learn everything that you need to know about the venue including seating maps and how to book your ticket’s on the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival website.

Have you been to the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival before? Which Shakespeare play or live concert performance would you like to see at Sand Harbor State Beach this summer?  Share your experiences in the comments below.

If you enjoying learning about Lake Tahoe follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

Fore! Golf Season in Lake Tahoe is here


This last weekend we celebrated Memorial Day, which officially launches summer in Lake Tahoe. Besides the numerous hiking and water sports activities available in the area, Lake Tahoe boasts dozens of world-championship golf courses for visitors to enjoy.  It’s no secret that here in the high Sierras, your tee shots will drive higher and longer soaring through the high altitude elevation.  Here I am going to share with you a few of my favorite courses to play in Lake Tahoe, from South Lake to North Lake to Truckee, CA.

Edgewood Tahoe is located along the beautiful sandy shores of South Lake Tahoe, minutes from the downtown action of state line.  The course was designed by George Fazio and opened in 1968 and rated by Golf Digest Magazine as one of “America’s Top Golf Courses.”  The course ranges in length from 5567 to 7555 yards and challenges players of all levels.  It also the well-known host of the annual American Century Celebrity Golf Championship which draws large celebrity and spectator crowds, both by land and boat, and will be hosted on July 16-21 of this year.

Traveling north around Lake Tahoe you will reach The Golf Courses at Incline Village including  two 18-hole courses, the Championship Course and the Mountain Golf Course.  With two diverse courses, The Golf Courses at Incline Village are designed to suit every golfers style of play.  The Championship courses is a classic Robert Trent Jones Sr. design and offers beautiful, scenic views of Lake Tahoe from afar and challenging terrain.  The Mountain Golf Course offers a scenic mountain terrain, elevation changes and a more affordable price.  There are also a variety of competitive packages available allowing players to experience both courses during their visit to Lake Tahoe.

In the nearby town of Truckee you will find the two premier golf courses in Lake Tahoe – Old Greenwood and The Golf Club at Gray’s Crossing.  Both golf courses are Audubon International Gold Certified Sanctuaries, representing the highest level of environmental commitment which only 16 courses in the world have achieved this level of distinction.  Old Greenwood was rated among Golf Digest’s “America’s Top 100 Greatest Public Courses” in 2011, and The Golf Club at Gray’s Crossing ranked in Golfweek Magazine’s “Top 50 Best New Courses” in 2008.  And, The Golf Academy at Old Greenwood is led by the 2011 NCPGA Teacher of the Year, Keith Lyford as is the most renowned golf academy in the Lake Tahoe basin.

Are you ready to take a swing on your next summer visit to Lake Tahoe?  For a complete list of golf courses available to play in Lake Tahoe visit this Lake Tahoe Activities Guide.

If you enjoying learning about Lake Tahoe follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

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Lake Tahoe’s Original Mansion Masterpieces

Sorry Larry Ellison but when it comes to building mansions at Lake Tahoe, you were not the first.  Since the turn of the century, elite have flocked to Lake Tahoe building luxury summer homes along its shores.  I am often asked about the history and facts about the mansions that adorn the shores of Lake Tahoe.  Here I share what I consider to be the crème de la crème!

The historic Thunderbird Lodge and its world famous Thunderbird Yacht sit stately along Lake Tahoe’s tranquil East Shore.  George Whittell, Jr. born in San Francisco in 1881 into great wealth, lived a fast life as a playboy of California and Nevada and later became a recluse.  His immigrant grandfathers exploited the gold rush, founding his family’s financial empire in the San Francisco Water Company, today Pacific Gas and Electric.  In early 1929, Whittle sold $50 million in stock holdings later insulating him from the stock market crash and became one of the wealthiest men in California.  Eventually Whittell acquired over 40,000 acres on the East Shore, including 20 miles of shoreline.  Thunderbird Lodge was completed in 1939, and consists of a main lodge surrounded by three cottages, a card house, a boathouse, an elephant house, a lighthouse, three garages, and a gatehouse!  Many stories surround Whittell’s activities including colorful parties and high-stakes gambling in the card house. Whittell loved exotic animals which he collected, including elephants and lions, who made guest appearances each summer!

images3Vikingsholm & Fannette Island House
Vikingsholm is known as one of the first summer homes as well as for its unique location incorporating the only Island and nearby the only waterfall on the Lake.  Mrs. Knight purchased the land from previous landowners in 1928 and decided she wanted to build a summer home that would compliment the natural surroundings.  She commissioned her nephew, Lennart Palme, a Swedish architect, to construct a Scandinavia masterpiece. It was completed in 1929 and occupied by Mrs. Knight, her staff of 15 and many guests and enjoyed for 15 summers thereafter.

images4The Pine Lodge
The Ehrman Mansion is located at Sugar Pine Point State Park and was originally built by Isaias Hellman in 1902.  Hellman was a German immigrant in 1842 and as a young 16 yr old boy began working in his cousin’s dry goods store.  He had a natural talent for business and shortly was running his own stories and decided eventually to open a bank. Banking became his true passion in life, later moved to San Francisco and became the President of Nevada National Bank which eventually became the Wells Fargo Bank that we know today.  Hellman hired Walter Danforth Bliss to design a summer home in Lake Tahoe and bought 2000 acres of the surrounding land.  The home was completed in 1903 and the family began summering at the estate that July.  The Mansion is complete with the main house, barn and coach house, water tower, various worker cabins and a pier.

Unknown4The “Godfather” Estate
Also formally knows as the Kaiser Estate was originally built by Henry J. Kaiser from San Francisco in 1935 as an exclusive hideaway for him and five other owners who joined forces to build the Hoover Dam.  The walled compound was originally a 16-acre mansion which included 17 large homes, small cottages, servant quarters, a yacht club and boat house and is found on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe.  The mansion’s was nicknamed  “Fleur du Lac” or “Flower of the Lake” after Kaiser’s favorite hydroplane.  The mansion became most famous when it was featured in “The Godfather II” movie and site of Freddo’s death on the Lake.  Today the property has been redesigned into private residences and only the original boat house, harbor and lighthouse remain.

Most of these mansion offers daily tours starting in late spring through early fall which is a great activity to enjoy during the shoulder seasons in Lake Tahoe.  Share if you are interested in visiting any of these historic mansions at Lake Tahoe in the comments below.

Enjoy learning about Lake Tahoe?  Follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

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Ready, Set… Let the Hiking Season Begin! Tunnel Creek Trail

montrail4Spring has sprung, ski resorts are closing and to Lake Tahoe residents and visitors that means it’s time to take a hike!  I am thrilled for this time of year when the snow melts from the high Sierra’s granting more and more access to backcountry terrain for  summer exploring on foot to begin.  As a resident of North Lake Tahoe one of my favorite hikes nearby is Tunnel Creek, a favorite amongst locals for its convenient access, great work out and of course, the unparalleled views!

Tunnel Creek offers unbelievable views as you ascend trails hovering above some of the most spectacular and scenic shores of Lake Tahoe above Highway 28, Hidden Beach Unknownand Sand Harbor State Park off in the distance.  Not only does the trail offer spectacular views, but it’s also a fantastic workout!  To access the trailhead simply park across the street from the old Bonanza parking lot on Highway 28 just as you leave Incline Village traveling towards South Lake Tahoe (if you reach Hidden Beach trail head on Highway 28 you have gone too far). Today there is the new Tunnel Creek Station which includes Flume Trail Bikes and the Tunnel Creek Cafe making the entrance to the hike easier to spot.  Park along the shoulder of the highway, there is no public parking allowed in the lot nor along Tunnel Creek Road itself for hikers.   The Tunnel Creek Trail also connects with the world famous Flume Trail, which eventually connects with the Tahoe Rim Trail, making this trail a multipurpose access point to many Lake Tahoe adventures!

IMG_7294To begin the hike, cross Highway 28, walk towards the Tunnel Creek Station along Tunnel Creek Road and climb the short paved road/driveway.  After a few hundred yards you will reach a flat, sandy trail that stretches for about a 1/4 mi above Highway 28 until you reach the official trailhead shown on the right.  From here it is a fairly steep uphill climb for about a mile along a dirt path under shaded pine trees.  The next mile+ of the trail is the most enjoyable of the hike offering a windy, sandy trail along the East shore with unobstructed views of the Lake Tahoe and the beautiful shores below.  The mostly flat and clear trail also make it perfect for trail running if you want an extra workout.  Towards the end of this portion of the trail it enters a shaded, wooded area which leads away from the Lake and continues on to the Flume Trail and is where most hikers turn around.

5051203881_8c91508e30_oI most enjoy hiking the Tunnel Creek Trail early in the morning or later in the afternoon, during spring and fall.  During these times the trail is less crowded, especially with mountain bikers.  Since this trail is connected to the Flume Trail, it can become heavily congested with mountain bikers racing down the trail so be sure to be on alert.  Also, much of the trail is exposed so be sure to wear sunscreen and bring additional coverings to avoid sunburns.  The Tunnel Creek Trail is also an excellent location to catch sunset views over the ridges across the Lake during evening hikes.

If you enjoy hiking in Lake Tahoe, share your favorite hiking trail in the comments below and whether or not you have hiked the Tunnel Creek trail!

Enjoy learning about Lake Tahoe?  Follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

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Lake Tahoe – The “Most Beautiful Drive in America”!

Screen Shot 2013-04-13 at 2.29.28 PMToday I woke up and decided to enjoy the BEST of Lake Tahoe by enjoying the scenic drive around the Lake which has been named one of the “Most Beautiful Drives in America”!  Driving around Lake Tahoe is 72-miles and can take anywhere from 3-4 hrs to all day.  I recommend spending the entire day to do the drive in order to give you plenty of time to stop along the way at all of the marvelous spots to see!  This is a perfect activity to enjoy during the spring months of April and May before the summer beach crowds flock in, traffic is minimal and picnic grounds, beaches and hiking trails are nearly empty.

You can begin the drive anywhere along the Lake wherever you are staying.  Since I live in North Lake Tahoe, that is where I started and below I am going to highlight my favorite spots to visit along the way:

IMG_2076First stop, Sand Harbor State Park, my favorite beach in Lake Tahoe.  It’s a spectacular expansive, sandy beach with far-off distance views of the Thunderbird Lodge.  When I am here I feel like I am back in Hawaii.  It also has picnic areas, a boat launch, a restaurant and home of the Shakespeare Festival each summer.

Next, drive along the East Shore enjoying views of Lake Tahoe, the crystal-clear clarity of the water and the rocky outcroppings that make the East Shore famous.  You will pass through Cave Rock and I recommend stopping at the Cave Rock Vista Point, once a sacred site of the native Washoe Indians.  Cruise into South Lake Tahoe where you will be greeted by Casinos, Hotels and a Golf Course, take a break and place a bet if you are feeling lucky!

IMG_0332Welcome to California!  Travel west on Highway 50 and soon you will be rewarded with what are my favorite sightseeing wonders along Lake Tahoe’s East Shore.  First,  head to the Emerald Bay Lookout which offers break taking views overlooking Emerald Bay, Fannette Island and waterfalls season depending. Emerald Bay is famed one of the most photographed places in the world.  Next, you will reach D.L. Bliss State Park, a secluded beach and picnic area with views of the renowned Rubicon Bay.  Afterwards, keep traveling until you reach Sugar Pine Point State Park, home of the Hellman-Ehrman Mansion, picnic grounds, hiking and biking trails and great kayaking location in the summertime.  Last, travel along the East Shore enjoying views of quaint cabins and piers, you will reach Tahoe City.  Here take a break at Fanny Bridge and overlook as waters rushes into the Truckee River from the only outlet in Lake Tahoe.  Stroll along the sidewalks of Tahoe City and reward yourself with shopping, coffee and afternoon snacks.

As you return to North Lake Tahoe you are greeted by the “Welcome to Nevada” sign near Crystal Bay.  End your journey by taking a moment to stop and traverse up the State Lookout Trail to enjoy stunning views of Lake Tahoe at sunset to end your remarkable day!

If this has inspired you to enjoy the drive around Lake Tahoe on your next visit to the area check out the Most Beautiful Drive in America’s website to learn more about the journey, places to stop and even download a copy of driving map featured in this blog.

What is your favorite place to stop and visit while driving along Lake Tahoe?  Please share your favorite spot in the comments below.  Enjoy learning about Lake Tahoe?  Follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

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