SUP Adventure on Lake Tahoe

IMG_4378My favorite thing to do in the summer in Lake Tahoe is anything a the Lake! When I moved back to the ‘mainland’ from Hawaii being near water was of utmost priority and this is a main reason that my husband and I chose to restart our lives in Lake Tahoe.  Right before I moved to Lake Tahoe the stand up paddle boarding (SUP) craze was taking flight and I jumped on the board… literally.  I first learned to SUP in Maui and was thrilled that it was an activity I could take with me when I moved to Lake Tahoe.  I have been enjoying SUP’ing in Lake Tahoe every summer since and here I want to share with you my favorite SUP adventure.

My favorite is to take a trip from Sand Harbor State Beach to Thunderbird Lodge along the East Shore in Lake Tahoe.   Start by traveling to Sand Harbor State Beach, park in the parking lot and bring your equipment to the sandy shore.  Hop on your board and begin heading south along the East Shore.  As you glide on top of the waters enjoying views of the sandy beach bottom below you will quickly travel past the buoys reaching deeper blue waters.  As you hug the coast you will enjoy various shades of blue as the depths of the Lake change below you. One of my favorite spots is just outside Sand Harbor where the waters are crystal clear blue where sand lies below surrounded by dark blue IMG_4448waters of the giant rocks below.   Half way to the Thunderbird Lodge there is a popular rocky beach and swimming area before you enter the deep blue waters of the cove approaching the historic mansion.  As you sail close to the famous Thunderbird Lodge you will get a insider view of the famous compound including the boat house, lighthouse, private beach, main house and its gardens.  The day I visited I was spectating alongside two other famous boats – the Sierra Cloud Catamaran and the Grand-Craft Wild Goose II, obviously the place to be for the day!  From here I turn around and head back to Sand Harbor and return up the East Shore.   The entire trip takes about 45-mins to an hour each way for a total of 2 hrs.  Once you are back at the beach, ditch your board and enjoy swimming, sunbathing or various games at this spectacular beach for a perfect day at Lake Tahoe.

No description will do it justice so watch my video below and see the beauty of this SUP adventure from Sand Harbor State Beach to the Thunderbird Lodge along the East Shore of Lake Tahoe:

I see a lot of people trying to SUP or wanting to try it but afraid to and really it’s quite easy!  Here are a few tips that I learned that may help you!

  • A body in motion….. will stay in motion! – This is the most common mistake I see – don’t try to start standing on the board from a still position.  Often you will teeter back and forth until you loose your balance and fall, instead sit on your knees and paddle until the board is sailing across the water smoothly and then try to stand up!
  • Don’t look down! – This is the #2 mistake and is very easy to do.  Looking down makes it easier to loose your balance and distracts you.  Instead, look ahead at 12 o’clock and scan the horizon back and forth.
  • Calm waters – This is a no brainer!  Don’t try to learn in choppy, windy waters.  Instead start in calm, smooth waters making it a lot easier to learn and giving you confidence.
  • Boards matters – I often see people new to the sport buying expensive boards that they don’t need.  Guess what?  These expensive boards are often harder to learn with because they are thinner.  Instead, get a thicker, sturdy board and a soft-top if you can.  They have better grip and more durable to transport.
  • Take a lesson – My first SUP experience was with a friend who was an instructor and it made all the difference to know where to stand on the board and how to grip the paddle.  This 1-2 hour lesson is money well spent and will save you hours of falling in the water!

IMG_4571There are great local outfitters in the North Lake Tahoe region where you can rent SUP boards and take lessons as well as sign up for private and group excursions.  A few in particular I recommend are: Adrift Tahoe in Kings Beach, Tahoe Adventure Company in Tahoe City and Action Water Sports of Incline Village.

Have you ever enjoyed a stand up paddle boarding adventure on Lake Tahoe? If so, share in the comments below your favorite adventures to enjoy!

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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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 SFGate.com.  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.

Truckin’ the Truckee River

images2With summer in full swing in Lake Tahoe I was thrilled to hear last night that one of my FAVORITE summer activities had reopened for the summer, and early this season too!  I am so excited – I had to share information with you about my previous experiences here!  Whether you are traveling by a large commercial blue raft, personal inner tube or maneuvering on a kayak, “floating” the Truckee River is a quintessential summer activity to enjoy with family, friends or your significant other.   It’s also an annual tradition in Lake Tahoe that locals and visitors have been enjoying for decades.

The Truckee River is the only outlet of Lake Tahoe, the second largest Alpine Lake in North America, which begins at the fork in Tahoe City at Fanny Bridge.  Start your day by heading to Tahoe City where the East  and North Shores of Lake Tahoe meet.  Be sure to grab supplies along the way including drinks, picnic lunch, sunscreen, coolers, floating devices (if you aren’t interested in renting) and maybe even some super soakers if you are planning to make some new friends along the float.  There are two most popular methods of floating – personal oversized inner tubes which can be purchased for about $25 at various convenience and grocery stores or you can rent large, commerical rafts from the Truckee River Raft Company right at the start of the River in Tahoe City.

Truckee River Raft Company is the original and most popular rafting supplier in the area whose individual and group tours provide options for any and all interested floaters.  Rentals include free parking, shuttle bus, paddles, and life jackets for rafters 2 years and older. They also have the best equipment with all rafts being large, sturdy, commercial white water grade and comfortable to fit 2-20 people.  I definitely recommend them for families, large groups and first-time floaters!

Along the 5-mile, 2-3 hr float you will be entertained with many sights, thanks to both the scenic beauty surrounding you as well as the diversity of fellow floaters alongside you.  The river weaves through tall pine trees, varies between shallow sandy portions and deep, rocky emerald waters, tall grasses, ducks under wooden bridges, introduces sandy beaches great for picnic lunches and glides along the bike path as well as Highway 89 to your right.  During a day on the river you are likely to meet visitors and locals of all ages and purpose.  You will meet multi-generational families on family summer vacations, romantic couples and rowdy entourages setting up “party” camp along beaches and shallow portions of the river.  I have seen it all… from floating small Weber BBQs to queen-size bed air mattresses as floating devices, you will be sure to be entertained by the sites around you.

images3Celebrate the end of your journey, dry-off and reward yourself with food and drinks at River Ranch Lodge and Restaurant at the entrance to Alpine Meadows, where floaters must stop their journey along this section of the Truckee River.  Enjoy your return to dry ground and watch the other adventurers rush down the last and largest section of rapids into the large pool of emerald waters in front of the restaurant’s large viewing and sunning deck (shown to the right).  Then, when you are ready, pile your equipment and damp belongings into busses provided by Truckee River Raft Company to shuttle you back to your vehicle at the beginning of the river.

Have you floated the Truckee River before or plan to do so this summer?  Share your experiences and preferred flotation vessel to use along your journey in the comments below.  Look forward to seeing you on the river this summer!

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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Opening Day to Bike & Hike at Northstar California

547284_349278815154232_1618896414_nWith temperatures around the basin heating up and the sun slipping behind the mountains later each day, it is no secret – summertime has arrived in Lake Tahoe.  What does that mean besides BBQs, beach days and summer weekend traffic? It means that resorts and vendors throughout the basin will begin launching their summer schedule of activity programs.

A big player in the region did just that today.  Northstar California owned by Vail Resorts starting turning their chairlifts again, celebrating the opening day of their downhill mountain bike park and trail lift access for the summer season.

Northstar California is home to Northern California’s largest mountain bike park offering beginner to advanced cross country and downhill mountain biking trails, bike rentals and repair, lift access throughout the resort and its own Bike Academy.  Whether you are an expert or a novice downhill mountain biker like me, this place has something for you.  The ultimate perk, with lift access you can cut out 1/2 the work by riding the chair lifts up the mountain alongside your bike and focus your time and energy on enjoying the thrill of riding down the mountain instead.

My personal favorite and recommendation for beginners is to sign-up for a lesson with Northstar’s Bike Academy Bike 101 program.  It’s the perfect introduction to both mountain biking as well as the resort terrain teaching you all the basic skills needed, familiarity with the equipment 2013-summer-trail-mapand safety instructions.  The Bike 101 program includes half-day bike rental, safety gear and helmet as well as a lift ticket to enjoy the mountain which you can explore all day after your lesson.  I tried the experience last summer, loved it and looking forward to returning this year.  The staff is phenomenal, well versed in mountain biking techniques as well as knowledge of the mountain.

Also, if you have never ridden a chairlift in the summertime, frankly you’re missing out.  Most associate chairlifts with wintertime activities, but here you can enjoy the gorgeous views of the Sierra Nevada mountains and glimpses of nearby Lake Tahoe all summer long on the hiking trails of Northstar California.  With three main chairlift access open including the Gondola, Tahoe Zephyr Express or Vista Express chairlifts, families and friends can explore the mountainside enjoying scenic views of Lake Tahoe, Martis Valley and the Sierra Crest of in the distance.  Easy lift access, clearly marked trails and parameters of the resort, make it easy for out-of-town families to explore hiking trails safely and with more familiarity than in the open, backcountry of the basin.

Afraid you and your kids might get hooked?  No problem, Northstar California offers competitive season passes packages allowing guests to enjoy access to the biking trails and hiking trails all summer long through September.  Learn more about mountain bike and hiking pass pricing as well as season passes.   Also learn more about the resort’s hours of operations as well as answers to all of your questions about the mountain experience.

Do you enjoy downhill mountain biking and if so, where are your favorite places to ride in Lake Tahoe? Please share your feedback 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.

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The BEST of Summertime in Lake Tahoe

waters-tahoe-vacation--1I am currently on vacation in my other favorite place in the world and place I formerly called home, Maui Hawaii, I can’t help but think of summertime.  As I am here playing in the surf, soaking in the rays and visiting with my Maui ohana of friends and wish for vacation not to ever end, I remind myself that everything will be ok.  Because, I am returning to home to Lake Tahoe at the beginning of summertime, my favorite time of year there.

Lake Tahoe in the summertime is an incredibly special time during the summer months. A place I feel so special to be for the season that I refuse to leave at anytime for any reason in fear of missing a day there to play.   It also got me thinking about why Lake Tahoe is the best place to travel to in the summertime and I wanted to share my list of reasons with you here.

Best Reasons to Visit Lake Tahoe in the Summertime:

The Lake – Obviously, this is the main attraction.  The clear, crisp blue waters of Lake Tahoe are the cornerstone of all summer activities including boating, trips to the beautiful beaches and my favorites – SUP and kayak along the coastline to hidden coves.

The Mountains – When you aren’t on the Lake, you’re hitting the mountains.  The Sierra Nevada mountain ranges surrounding the Lake provide the ultimate playground for all of your adventures including golfing, cycling, rafting and especially miles and miles of mountain biking and hiking.

The Beaches – Lake Tahoe’s 72-miles of coastline is scattered with beautiful sandy and rocky beaches.  A few of my favorites you can’t miss are: Sand Harbor State Park, Hidden Beach, Zephyr Cove, Emerald Bay, D.L. Bliss State Park and Sugar Pine Point.

The Temperature – It’s no secret, we have the best temperature in Lake Tahoe in the summertime.  With NO HUMMIDITY, bright blue bird cloudless days, consistent 70’s temperatures and cool evenings, the weather in Lake Tahoe is perfect for any and all summertime activity.

The Sunsets – Lake Tahoe offers some of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen with its alpine glow, clear skies and mountain range silhouette backdrop, perfect for every evening sunset spectating.

The Smells – Anyone who has visited Lake Tahoe in the summertime will state this accolade.  Lake Tahoe has the most amazing smell in the summertime.  It is a mixture of fresh pine trees, crisp cool air and occasionally a lingering BBQ in the distance.

The Evenings – I LOVE the long days in Lake Tahoe during the summertime.  It’s almost like the world knows we need longer days in order to squeeze in all of the jam packed activities we have planned.  It doesn’t get dark in Lake Tahoe during the evenings until 9pm. It is amazing.

The Events – Summer is FULL of fun activities of all sorts throughout Lake Tahoe with so many things to choose from including outdoor weekly concerts, farmer’s markets, Truckee Thursdays, Shakespeare Festival performances, holiday parades, fireworks, races and community events and more!

The Traditions – When people ask me to describe Lake Tahoe in the summertime, I often say it is reminiscent of quintessential American summertime traditions.  Everywhere you turn it is full of families celebrating pastimes and traditions whether its playing cards at the beach, enjoying secret family BBQ recipes and drinking games all while reuniting at the same rental cabin year after year.

The People – Whether its the locals, first time visitors or returning neighbors and family friends, you are guaranteed to be amongst amazing company, and likely to make some new friends, as visitors flock to the mountains and lake, year after year to reunite amongst this beautiful backdrop

I hope you have enjoyed learning a bit more about what is to come in Lake Tahoe over the following months. I hope to see you this summer around the Lake!

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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Tahoe Rim Trail – A “Trail Like No Other”

Tahoe Rim Trail 2011 074When visiting Lake Tahoe you will likely hear locals speaking about the Tahoe Rim Trail but you might be asking what is it? where is it? and what can I do on it?

The Tahoe Rim Trail Association describes it as a “Trail like No Other” which we are so lucky to have in our backyard at Lake Tahoe.   A few cool facts about The Tahoe Rim Trail:  165 miles of single-track multiuser trail, circumvents Lake Tahoe peak by peak, passes through both California and Nevada, six counties, one state park, three National Forests and three Wilderness areas.  If you have ever hiked in Lake Tahoe, you likely set foot on the Tahoe Rim Trail whether you knew it or not.  Even better, the Tahoe Rim Trail isn’t limited to hiking, it offers something for all outdoor enthusiasts including horseback riding on all portions of the trail, backpacking for overnight adventurers as well as mountain biking access on more than 50% of the trail.  One of the best features of the Tahoe Rim Trail is that it connects to so many other trails in Lake Tahoe including the famous Flume Trail on the East Shore and Pacific Crest National Scenic Trails along the West Shore just to name a few.

map-using-trail-master copyI love hiking and it’s so hard to pick my favorite portions of the Tahoe Rim trail!  For shorter, 1/2 day hikes that are closeby, I enjoy hiking along the portions that loop Mt. Rose and the nearby Tahoe Meadows which can also be great snowshoeing trails in the wintertime.  For longer day trips and overnight backpacking, I head towards Echo Lake in South Lake Tahoe to explore the trails that leads deep into Desolation Wilderness. I enjoy the trails that traverse though granite meadows and High Sierra alpine lakes that I visited as a child with my family during backpacking trips.  Here is a map of the complete Tahoe Rim Trail.

Can’t choose? Wanna do it all?  Join the 165 mile club and become the 1423rd member!  That’s right, do as the locals do and set the goal to complete the entire Tahoe Rim Trail.  I am proud to say that I have two local friends who accomplished this amazing feat a few summers ago.  You can tackle this challenge in different ways and strategies.  My friends completed it in one summer by dividing up sections of the trail, conquerining it one weekend at a time and enjoyed seeing so much of Lake Tahoe’s backcountry while doing it.  If you are interested in joining the 165 mile club check out more details and a list of current members on their website.

IMG_1780The Trail Rim Trail is managed by the Tahoe Rim Trail Association, a nonprofit organization formed in 1981.  They began constructing the trail in 1984, later  completed in September of 2001.  The Tahoe Rim Trail Association is continuously maintaining, restoring and reconstructing sections of the trail.  Each season they offer volunteer programs to locals and visitors to work on repairing a section of the trail. If you love Lake Tahoe, especially hiking and biking, volunteering on the Tahoe Rim Trail is a great way to support Lake Tahoe and meet some of the locals who are dedicated to keeping Lake Tahoe the best lake!  The Tahoe Rim Trail Association also offers educational seminars and special events for members, groups and visitors.   To learn more about the Tahoe Rim Trail’s volunteering programs and schedule of events visit their website.

Have you hiked the Tahoe Rim Trail and if so do you have a favorite section? Share it 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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A Local’s Favorite Daycation – Emerald Bay

EagleFalls1As a Lake Tahoe local, whether by car or boat, the trip to Emerald Bay is my favorite sightseeing day trip to make.  Named one of the most photographed panoramas in America, I am not the only one!  But what you may not know is that springtime can be the best time to visit Emerald Bay.

People mistakenly think that there isn’t much to do in Lake Tahoe during the spring “off season” after ski resorts close and before golf courses and lake activities begin, but the off season is actually a favorite time of locals to enjoy Lake Tahoe.  Emerald Bay is a perfect example of this.  Two reasons my favorite time to visit Emerald Bay is in the spring are simple:  bigger waterfalls and smaller crowds!  Sound good to you?  Here I will share with you some of the best things to do and tips for visiting Emerald Bay.

3717160754_d3f6c55207_bBut first some history. Emerald Bay is a state park and national natural landmark located along the south west corner of Lake Tahoe famous for its expansive panorama of Lake Tahoe, granite glacier carved surrounding peaks and rich emerald shimmering waters.  Emerald Bay is accessible via Highway 89 and located 22 miles south of Tahoe City or 12 miles north west of South Lake Tahoe.  It is famous for a few unique features including being home to the Lake’s only island as well as the only flowing waterfall into the Lake.  Emerald Bay is also home of  Vikingsholm and its adjoining “Tea House” on Fannette Island. To learn more about these famous landmarks, visit my earlier post Lake Tahoe’s Original Mansion Masterpieces.

When visiting Emerald Bay, plan on spending the entire day as there is so much to do!
Here is a list of my favorite must see and do when visiting:
IMG_0879– Hike to Upper Eagle Waterfalls
– Hike to Emerald Beach & Lower Eagle Waterfalls
– Hike to Eagle Lake and have a picnic. My favorite!  (photo left)
– Sunbathe on the beach & swim in the emerald waters
– Snap a photo of the famous view from the Visitors Center
– Take a tour of the Vikingsholm Mansion
– Hike along the Rubicon Trail towards D.L. Bliss State Park
– Visit the bay by boat! Enjoy a different perspective of the waterfalls and mountains
– Take a day hike trip to nearby Cascade Lake or Granite Lake. Learn more at Stephen Berei’s Lake Tahoe All Access Blog

mapLocal Tips for your Trip!  Emerald Bay becomes EXTREMELY crowded in the summer months of July and August.  My friends and I have a rule that if we won’t get there by 10:00 am on summer weekend, its better not to go.  Parking is very limited with only three small lots available and it can take an hour of circling to find a spot during peak summer time.  Bring cash!  Parking rates at the visitor local center apply and can vary each year.  Hiking trails can also be very crowded, but are easy and short making them accessible for family members of all ages and ability. Dogs are not allowed along the hiking trails or beach.  Last, layer clothing.  The beach is surrounded by spectacular granite cliffs, gets shady early in the afternoon and the waters are very chilly due to the snowmelt especially during spring months.  Campsites, park facilities and museum tours do not open until Memorial weekend and remain open though Labor Day weekend.  To learn more about park information and hours visit the Emerald Bay State Park website.

Have you ever visited Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe?  If so, share your favorite thing to do there 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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