Lake Tahoe is located in both California and Nevada and it is amazing! On our most recent trip as Ambassadors for the Nation’s Vacation (this was stop number five for us) we visited Zephyr Cove which is on the southeast side of the lake in Nevada. We absolutely loved it! Come see our top picks for the best things to see, do and eat at Lake Tahoe.
Follow in our footsteps:
Prior to visiting Zephyr Cove and Lake Tahoe we spent some time on the Oregon Coast in Olympic National Park and Smith Rock State Park as well as Crater Lake National Park and Mount Rainier National Park!
General Info for Zephyr Cove and Lake Tahoe
Did you know that the shoreline of Lake Tahoe is 72 miles long? 42 of those miles are in California and 30 of them are in Nevada. The lake itself goes down to 1,685 feet (the average depth is 989 feet). Our favorite fact, however, is that the surface of the lake sits at 6,229 feet above sea level! It means you get both mountain and lake life all in one place.
Lake Tahoe isn’t a National Park but it is part of the US Forest Service. As such, it has a couple of visitor centers for information, see below.
Visitor and Information Centers
U.S. Forest Service
Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit
Forest Supervisor’s Office
35 College Drive
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
This office is open Monday – Friday from 8:00am to 4:30pm
U.S. Forest Service
North Shore Office / Incline Village
855 Alder Ave.
Incline Village, NV
This office is open Wednesday – Friday from 8:00am to 4:30pm
Taylor Creek Visitor Center
This Visitor Center is located three miles northwest of the City of South Lake Tahoe, California on Highway 89.
The Taylor Creek Visitor Center is open seasonally (daily beginning Memorial Day weekend all the way through the end of October.)
Best Things to Do at Zephyr Cove and Lake Tahoe
Get out on the water!
Getting out on the water is one of the top things to do at Lake Tahoe. After all, you’re visiting a lake! The Marina at Zephyr Cove has all kinds of watercraft for rent.
M.S. Dixie II Emerald Bay Sightseeing Cruise
If paddle boarding or kayaking isn’t quite your thing, no worries, you can still get out on the lake. The M.S. Dixie II offers several different cruises. We opted for the daytime cruise that boards at noon. The trip lasts two hours and takes you from Zephyr Cove to Emerald Bay and back. The boat offers food for purchase as well as beer, wine and cocktails. We enjoyed a delicious meal during our time out on the water: a Caesar salad with grilled chicken, chili, and a grilled chicken sandwich with pepper jack cheese. Our table offered a window view of the beautiful blue-green water which meant we didn’t miss a thing because we were hungry.
Get your ticket at the ticket booth near the dock or purchase them online. Note: The ship is heated and operates during the winter!
Rent paddle boards or kayaks
One of the best experiences we had at Lake Tahoe was taking the SUP’s out for the afternoon. There was a good bit of wind so it was a little tougher than calm, glassy conditions but neither of us fell in! Paddling north for about 15 minutes will take you to a really cool grouping of rocks and a great place for photos. The water is super clear and the best part is … there’s no chance of sharks!
Horseback Riding at Zephyr Cove Stables
There’s more than just water activities at Lake Tahoe. You can actually go horseback riding here! The stables are just a short walk from the campground and lodge. We went one morning on the one – hour trail ride and had a wonderful time. Neither of us had been horseback riding in years but our lack of recent experience wasn’t a problem. Both of us had sweet, gentle horses who never went faster than a slow walk. In addition, we had a guide in the front who made sure that no one got too far behind. The ride was really enjoyable and the view of the lake from the top of the trail was just stunning!
There are numerous hiking trails of all different surfaces and difficulties. Everything from fairly level paved paths to strenuous single track. The Lam Watah Trail is about 2 miles and is fairly flat. It’s one of the easier trails in the area and will take you right down to the lake at Nevada Beach. For more info on hiking at Lake Tahoe, head on over here.
Watch sunrise or sunset (or both) from the beach!
Catching the start or end of a day will always be one of our favorite activities. And there’s no better place to do it than here at Zephyr Cove. Head down to the beach with a blanket and a camera and just relax. Or, better yet, grab a drink from the Sunset Bar and Grille.
Head into Stateline, Nevada
A five minute drive from the lodge and campground will have you in Stateline, Nevada. There are tons of restaurants and shops to choose from as well as casinos and live entertainment. It’s part of what makes Lake Tahoe unique: you can be in nature and experience incredible outdoor adventures and then in minutes be downtown, seeing a show or grabbing a bite to eat.
Best Places To Stay at Zephyr Cove and Lake Tahoe
Airstream camping at Zephyr Cove | 760 U.S. Hwy 50, Zephyr Cove, NV 89448
When we visited, we stayed in the brand new Airstreams which are located at the Zephyr Cove RV Park and Campground. What a treat! It’s a two-night minimum but honestly you’re not going to want to stay for anything less than two nights. In fact, if you’re like us you’ll want to stay even longer! This is glamping at it’s best.
If you’ve ever stayed in an Airstream, then you understand how cool it is to stay in one of these. You basically have access to nature right outside your door as well as the comfort of a Queen bed, kitchen table, gas stove, fully equipped kitchen, microwave and bathroom. It’s literally the best of both worlds. In addition, there are Adirondack chairs, a fire pit and picnic table for you. Our favorite part was the firewood that is provided (2 bundles per night!) We made a fire each night and it was the icing on the cake.
Check in is at 1:00pm and check out is at 11:00am.
In addition to being able to rent an Airstream, you can also bring your own RV (up to 40′ long). There is a dump station, hookups, bathroom & shower facilities and potable water available for each RV’er. You can also rent one of their cabins!
Best Places to Eat at Zephyr Cove
Zephyr Cove Restaurant
The Zephyr Cove Restaurant, also known as The Lodge, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. There’s a fireplace that staff keep lit that offers a cozy ambiance and the windows are large so that you can get views of the lake from every table. (There’s also outdoor patio seating for those of you who love to dine outdoors.)
We enjoyed several meals at the Zephyr Cove Restaurant. The breakfasts are hearty enough to keep you full for lunch. Go for the huevos rancheros – the chorizo is spicy and zesty without being a mouthful of fire. It’s delicious, too. We also really enjoyed the Zephyr Special: pancakes (we ordered blueberry) or French toast, cherrywood bacon, sausage links and eggs any style.
For lunch, opt for the black bean chipotle burger and any of their salads. The turkey BLT was on point as well.
As far as dinner goes, we really enjoyed the roasted vegetable ravioli. The raviolis were cooked perfectly. There were lots of mushrooms on the inside and the sauce was robust but not spicy. We even had enough for lunch the next day! We also really liked the potato crusted white seabass. It was served with asparagus and was topped with a smoked golden tomato horseradish sauce. The sauce was light and filled our mouths with the flavors of summer. The fish was tender on the inside and crisp on the outside. Be sure to save room for dessert. They have incredible milkshakes as well as ice cream and flourless chocolate cake!
Sunset Bar and Grille
Beachside bar anyone? Look no further than the Sunset Bar and Grille. They were closing down for the season when we visited so not everything was available but the beer was cold and the view was awesome. There’s some covered indoor space near the bar but our favorite spot was the outdoor patio which is literally steps from the gorgeous waters of the lake.
Eat at your Airstream!
Though there are some really good reasons for leaving camp, you really don’t have to. Your Airstream has a fully equipped kitchen and it’s actually a great place to make (and enjoy) a meal!
Top Tips for Visiting Zephyr Cove
Know the weather before you visit and be sure to pack accordingly. We visited in late September and were perfectly comfortable in shorts and flip flops during the day. At night we swapped our shorts out for jeans and added a thin puffy jacket. If you’re visiting in the winter, your clothing choices will obviously be very different and include boots, gloves, a beanie and several outer layers.
The sun is bright, especially on the water, so bring sunglasses, a hat and sunscreen.
This is bear country. Know how to protect yourself and the bears. Read more about bear safety here.
Cell phone signal is pretty good around Zephyr Cove but can be spotty at the campground. There’s a wifi signal there but it’s more reliable at the lodge. You can get a very strong signal in Stateline, Nevada.
There’s very little shoulder in the area so if you are planning on riding a bike, definitely wear a helmet.
If you want to cook your own dinner at your Airstream, there is a Safeway and a Raley’s just a short drive from the campground.
The gift shop at Zephyr Cove sells beer, wine and ice!
Zephyr Cove and Lake Tahoe Recap
There are so many things to see and do at Lake Tahoe. It’s got both the mountains, water and trails to keep any adventure enthusiast happy. (Not to mention a super-relaxing vibe for those of you looking for a vacation.) It’s also a four-season destination so you can plan a trip there no matter what time of year it is.
What is your favorite thing about Lake Tahoe? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment below.
Caroline Whatley and Erin McGrady of Authentic Asheville are currently traveling as Ambassadors for the Nation’s Vacation. To learn more about their expedition, head on over HERE.
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