The Reno-Tahoe region has a dual personality. It is a travel destination for visitors from around the globe, and it is also a getaway for regional residents looking for a world-class weekend in their own backyard.
These two traveler types often want different things. International visitors don’t mind battling the crowds to see the iconic landmarks like Emerald Bay, the Thunderbird Lodge and the Flume Trail. But repeat travelers and regional visitors who have already seen Tahoe’s most visited locations often look for the hidden gems a few steps off the beaten path.
Here are three less traveled Reno-Tahoe destinations that offer a quieter and more secluded experience.
Tahoe’s West Shore is packed with summer activities. Classic wooden boats launch from Obexer’s Marina, visitors motor south to D.L. Bliss and Sugar Pine Point state parks. Diners flock to lakeside tables at Sunnyside Resort and the West Shore Café.
Among all the hustle and bustle, there are still a couple West Shore spots that the crowds don’t reach. Blackwood Canyon, a beautiful aspen-choked valley fed by Blackwood Creek, is a great day trip for hiking, biking or picnicking.
Blackwood Canyon road splits off from Highway 89 south of Sunnyside and north of Homewood. The entrance to the canyon is guarded by prominent Eagle Rock, a hulking formation that towers over Lake Tahoe. Blackwood Canyon Road continues up the canyon to a bridge over Blackwood Creek, where motorists or cyclist will find picnic area. From there the road climbs up Barker Pass to the 7,500-foot end of the pavement. Cyclists will find the asphalt a challenging yet quiet climb to panoramic views of Lake Tahoe. Motorists will find a high-altitude trailhead to get out of the car and hike portions of the Tahoe Rim Trail.
The opposite side of Tahoe, the lake’s East Shore, is the yin to the West Shore’s yang. Here, white sand beaches and aquamarine water draw paddleboarders, boaters and beach loungers to a section of Tahoe that is largely unpopulated. Sand Harbor draws the bulk of the East Shore traffic, but the shoreline is strewn with more secluded beaches — you just have to work a little harder to get to them. The Chimney Beach trailhead is one such location, almost 3 miles south of Sand Harbor. The trail points directly downhill to the beach, which is named after a large, solitary stone chimney that stands near the lake. The shoreline is white sand bookended by granite boulders and the water is Caribbean green and aquamarine blue. The area is perfect for swimming, picnicking or sunbathing. Just be prepared for the uphill hike back to the car.
If Marlette Lake were situated anywhere else it would be regarded as a showstopper. But its location in a crease of mountain above Lake Tahoe ensures it always gets second billing to one of the world’s most majestic bodies of water. That does not mean that Marlette is not worth a visit. The five-mile hike from Spooner Lake is a meandering and enjoyable walk (with a couple steep uphill sections thrown in for exercise). Marlette Lake is surprisingly large and has the quiet and secluded feel of a lake accessible only by foot. But the lake is popular with mountain bikers, anglers (catch-and-release only), hikers and swimmers. For one of the most beautiful views in Tahoe, make the extra effort to hike Marlette Peak above Marlette Lake for a stunning double-lake panorama of Marlette Lake and Lake Tahoe spread out below.