Driving Tour Lake Tahoe: Incline Village to South Lake Tahoe
If you are interested in this driving tour as an audio tour, the companion audio tour is available on VoiceMap and listed under Lake Tahoe. To use VoiceMap, you will need to download the VoiceMap app from the Apple Store or Google Play. The app is free, this audio driving tour, which is one of three that takes you entirely around Lake Tahoe, is $11.99. Happy Adventures and enjoy the tour!
Along the way you will have the opportunity to do some hiking, visit tiny hidden beaches, do some shopping, or take in a meal. This driving tour can be completed in about 1 hour without any stops. On the other hand, this is your adventure; it is up to you as to when and where you stop along the way.
Before we begin our tour let me tell you a little about Incline Village. This charming woodsy community located along the north shore of Lake Tahoe was originally home to the Washoe Native people who encamped along its shores during the summer months to hunt and fish.
By the 1930’s summer homes were being built within the village along the beach and what is now Lakeshore Boulevard. In the late 1950s Crystal Bay Development Company created a master planned community for the area. This company is largely responsible for the unique village that stands here today.
Alright it is time to get driving. Exit the parking area of the Sotheby's Realty by heading down the hill toward the lake and turn left onto Lakeshore Boulevard.
Just past Burnt Cedar watch for Jobs Peak Road. After passing through this intersection look for second the house on your left with the red front door. The address is 806 Lakeshore. This is owned by David Duffied, the founder of PeopleSoft and co-founder of Workday Inc. Both companies are located in the Bay Area city of Pleasanton.
Lake Tahoe is a second, or third home for many of Silicon Valley’s famous. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg owns two properties lakeside near Tahoe City. Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison owns multiple properties on the lake as well as the historic Cal Neva Lodge which he plans on turning into a casino and luxury hotel.
Mike Love, American singer songwriter and co-founder the Beach Boys as well as R&B musician Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds both own homes on the north end of Incline Village near the Mount Rose scenic overlook.
Once you pass under the sky-walkway, to your right will be the Hyatt hotel Lone Eagle Grille. Open for lunch and dinner, it is a spectacular dining experience on the beach and a great place to enjoy your favorite beverage at sunset. At the corner after the sky-walkway turn left onto Country Club Drive.
After passing the Hyatt Regency you will enter the campus of Sierra Nevada College. Opening in 1969, this private accredited four-year liberal arts school offers 30 undergraduate majors and a masters in education.
Also on the Sierra Nevada College is the U.C Davis Science Center. This organization leads the research efforts of TERC the Tahoe Environmental Research Center, which provides the research and science necessary to guide the future management and preservation of Lake Tahoe as well as educate the public on the ecological issues facing the lake.
At the stop signal ahead, turn right onto Tahoe Boulevard. This will become Highway 28.
This television series, which starred Loren Greene and Michael Landon, was set on the Ponderosa, a fictional location on the shore of Lake Tahoe near a forest of Ponderosa pine.
In 2004 the park was purchased by David Duffield. What he plans to do with the land is a mystery. We saw Duffield’s home earlier on Lakeshore Blvd. Ahead on your left is the only visible reminder, the Bonanza parking lot. Reminds me of the lyrics of that old Joni Mitchell song, Big Yellow Taxi:
The Tunnel Creek Station Cafe operates a shuttle for the one-way bike ride of the 14-mile Flume Trail. Usually rideable around Memorial Day, it begins at Spooner Lake and ends at the Tunnel Creek Cafe.
The park also runs east into the Carson Range, where visitors have many opportunities for backcountry hiking.
This portion of the highway is call the Lake Tahoe National Scenic Byway. It is one of only 150 given this honor in America. This scenic byway runs from Crystal Bay, California to Stateline, where we end our driving tour. It offers motorists some of the most spectacular views of this alpine lake, all set against the backdrop of snow-capped mountains.
This is Memorial Point Overlook.
Pictures of this cove are shown above and below.
When walking or cycling here along Emerald Cove, the trail branches off onto a foot bridge, where one is rewarded with a view of the shimmering emerald waters of the lake below.
At our next stop, Sand Harbor Beach in less than ½ mile, you will have the opportunity to take a lovely hike along the shore to view those emerald waters. There is a parking fee for Sand Harbor State Park. If signage indicates the parking lot is full or you prefer not to stop, continue past the park entrance.
On your right watch for the turn off to Sand Harbor. Turn right and stop at the ranger station. Here pay the parking fee, request a map and then proceed to park in one of the parking areas. Keep your parking receipt as it is valid for other Nevada State parks you visit on the same day.
Go ahead and take the driveway off to the right. This brings you to the gate for Thunderbird Lodge.
Currently the lodge is managed by the Thunderbird Lodge Preservation Society which offers pre-arranged docent-guided tours of the magnificent grounds.
This parking area is also the trailhead for five tiny secluded beaches located along the next 2 miles of highway, which are frequented by locals and others who know how to get to each of these isolated locations. Some are clothing optional, others allow “textiles”, or what are also known as swimsuits.
Skunk Harbor is a small secluded inlet with a small sandy beach and the historic George Newhall House built in 1923.
Like George Whittell who later owned the property, George Newhall also derived his wealth from his father’s fortune, which was earned as an auctioneer during the Gold Rush. Newhall purchased Skunk Harbor for his wife Caroline as a wedding gift and built her a summer cottage.
This railroad hauled timber to sawmills near Glenbrook.
The underground tunnels where the ore was extracted were prone to frequent and deadly cave-ins. Mining engineer Philip Deidesheimer solved this problem with the invention of a square-set timber framing system of interlocking rectangles that supported the mines walls.
The timber for the framing systems came from the trees of the Sierra Nevada around Lake Tahoe. At the time land-stripping or clear cutting was the standard practice, and the mature sugar, and Jeffrey pine trees were exactly what was needed to shore up the silver mines.
Spooner Summit Clear Cut - On Line Nevada Encyclopedia
The first recorded party to use the California Trail to get to California was the Bartleson-Bidwell Party in 1841. It was an arduous journey from Missouri, and though they survived by killing and eating most of their oxen the entire party made it to California.
The first group to cross over the Sierra’s via the California Trail by wagon train were the Stephens-Townsend-Murphy Party in 1844. Though they had to disassemble their wagons to cross the Sierra Nevada’s, and re-assembled them once they crossed, the entire party plus two born along the way survived the ordeal and made it to Sutter’s Fort near Sacramento. As the first American emigrants to haul wagons over the Sierra Nevada’s their crossing officially opened the California Trail.
This portion of the highway was also part of the Pony Express Trail. I will tell you about the Pony Express later on this tour.
The next thing I want to mention before we get to Logan Shoals is something that might be a bit hard to imagine. But just under 150 years ago, the forests you see in front of you today were not here.
On your right, watch for the turnout for Logan Shoals Vista Point. There is no charge to park and the hike is about 1/4 mile out and back. There is also a public restroom at this site.
that points out the mountain you can see across the lake.
Cave Rock. You can see Cave Rock way in the
distance. We will be driving through it shortly.
if you proceed to the next overlook.
hundred feet to a
Then look south and there you
The first tunnel in 1931 then a second in 1957.
Continue through the tunnel then make a left just past the Cave Rock Estate sign. You will be crossing the highway to turn left onto Cave Park Drive.
Follow Cave Park Drive as it curves right and then left. In about 1/4 mile the road comes to 3 parking spaces at the Cave Rock Trailhead.
Some may remember a third paddle wheeler that operated here on the lake, the Tahoe Queen. This stern-wheeler was based in South Lake Tahoe and ran trips around the lake for 33 years. In 2016 it caught fire while undergoing renovations and was destroyed.
Lake Tahoe paddle wheeler boat tours are an opportunity to see Lake Tahoe from a whole different perspective.
If you are interested in lunch or dinner, we recommend this locals favorite, the Zephyr Cove Restaurant.
As the west became more and more populated with pioneers, and gold miners, there was an increased need to deliver mail overland from Salt Lake City to Sacramento.
Much of these 750 miles were isolated and unsafe. For most that crossed this road, they did so only once, and they can attest to the waterless deserts, the rugged mountains and the deadly blizzards that were encountered along the way.
Despite this the United States government negotiated a contract for mail delivery in 1851. The first to tackle the job were Colonel Absalom Woodward and his partner Major George Chorpenning, Jr. Using mule trains to transport the mail, their line referred to as the “Jackass Line, ” was successful for several months until one of their mail trains was attacked by Native Americans near the Humboldt River, all the mail deliverers were killed and the mail scattered.
Shortly thereafter another mule train set out. This one was caught in a blizzard in the Sierra Nevada’s and all of the mules froze to death. For the next several years, other methods of transporting mail during the winter were attempted. Cross-country skiers, dog teams, and even horse-drawn sleighs were used.
Probably the most unusual method of mail delivery over this route occurred in 1855 when camel’s were used to transport the mail. Unfortunately these camels immediately developed a bad reputation. They were known for spooking horses and cattle, attacking and spitting on townspeople, and eating laundry off clotheslines.
After this method failed, the camel’s were sold to the circus or left in the desert to survive on their own. Which they did, as quite a number of stories were reported in the saloons of the Comstock Lode by silver prospectors who insisted they saw a strange animal with a large hump in the desert. Or maybe it was the liquor talking.
This portion of highway was part of the Carson City to Sacramento section. The heavy winter snowfall here, made it the most treacherous portion of the Pony Express route.
This mail service between Missouri and Sacramento delivered mail in 10 days. The initial cost per ½ ounce letter, $5.
Ads were placed for riders: Wanted “Young, skinny, wiry fellows anxious for adventure, not over 18. Must be expert riders and willing to risk death daily. Wages $25 per day. Orphans preferred.”
Relay stations were established every twenty-five miles, and riders were expected to cover seventy-five miles per run. The Pony Express lasted eighteen months from April 1860 to November 1861 when the transcontinental telegraph made the service obsolete.
On your right you will see the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino which is the beginning of one of our three driving tours around Lake Tahoe.
After you pass the Hard Rock, look to your left. Outside Harrah’s Lake Tahoe stands a bronze reminder that the Pony Express ran right through town. This statue was created by world-famous sculptor Avard Fairbanks at Bill Harrah’s request and placed here in 1963.
Until next time, Happy Adventures!
Cal Neva Lodge - Wikipedia
Pictures of Ponderosa Ranch - Facebook
Pictures of Thunderbird Lodge - Thunderbird website
Mining the Comstock - Wikipedia
Spooner Summit Clear Cut - On Line Nevada Encyclopedia
California Trail - Social Studies for Kids