I will preface this post by saying I have never been one to book a vacation to a national park. I also just purchased by first pair of hiking boots for this trip. Don’t get me wrong, I workout every day (run, cycle, HIIT workouts)…but the idea of a vacation was never hiking in a national park for me. That was until I visited Lake Tahoe and Yosemite. Now I get it…and there is no better person to take advice from than a sceptic! So here is your guide to Lake Tahoe and Yosemite from the gal that didn’t own a pair of hiking boots until a month ago. I linked my boots in case you need a pair after reading this 😊.
I wanted to make sure I covered this, because part of the reason we picked this trip was because of the outdoor activities. We were outside 85% of the day, and when you are in a large park social distancing becomes very easy.
Pre-COVID, I traveled on a plane 1-2 times a week. I stayed more nights at a hotel in 2019 than I did in my own home. My husband and I also planned a vacation quarterly (it was our thing)…but COVID made us rethink life all together. I won’t lie and tell you I didn’t have anxiety about hopping on a flight for the first time since early March. However, I have to say my home-based Delta Airlines is doing an amazing job. I don’t think planes have ever been cleaner. Airports were tricky, but if you have TSA precheck you can avoid lines and clusters. Masks were required the entire time, and Delta has cut out the middle seat (which I hope becomes a thing after COVID). I truly felt safe on my flight to California.
For safety and precaution, we are not going anywhere for the next two weeks (just in case), but I truly felt safe (this is saying a lot, because I definitely have COVID anxiety). Balancing COVID-19, and all that comes with it, isn’t going away any time soon. Every activity has risks associated with it, but from my personal experience I never felt like COVID guidance wasn’t followed during our trip.
Lake Tahoe has been on my bucket list for a while. We flew into Sacramento since it was between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite. If you are only visiting Lake Tahoe, the Reno airport is more convenient.
Lake Tahoe is very large. Locals refer to the North and South Shore. We stayed in Incline Village, which is North Shore. South Shore is definitely more touristy. There are a ton of casinos and night life options, but we opted for Incline Village due to the serenity. After driving through South Shore, we were glad we opted for the Hyatt Regency Resort in Incline Village. It was more our speed, with beautiful rooms overlooking the lake and plenty of trails near by.
We loved our clear kayak tour with Clearly Tahoe. The see-thru kayaks are amazing! The water is crystal blue and so clear. We couldn’t swim since it was October, but this was the closest way to see the lake without diving in. I definitely recommend a tour with them. It was a great way to learn more about the history of the area.
We also did a sunset cruise on the Safari Rose Yacht. We were able to see Emerald Bay and the castle. The yacht was formerly the corporate boat for 3M, so it was nice and provided a great opportunity to see one of the best sunsets over looking the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Keep in mind that most of the tours leave from South Lake (45 minute drive from North Lake)…but we were happy to drive the distance because the entire route is along the lake providing gorgeous views!
You can spend hours also walking the various trails around the lake. Every where you look provides stunning views. Renting bikes and doing the Tahoe East Shore Trail is a must.
Dining during COVID can be tricky. Luckily at Lake Tahoe, there are so many lakefront restaurants with outdoor seating and stunning views.
We enjoyed Christy Hill in Tahoe City. They have amazing wine pairings and the food was delicious. The food is locally sourced, and you definitely need to try the Moroccan Spiced Lamb (their specialty).
Our last night we didn’t have to go very far. Our hotel had one of the best restaurants on the lake. The Lone Eagle Grille was amazing! You can’t leave without ordering their signature dessert, the baked Tahoe (their take on baked Alaska).
If you are looking for something quick for lunch and more low key, try the Cork and More. They have amazing sandwiches and cheeses. Their outside seating area was so quaint and cute. I had their home grown beets and loved them!
Traveling from Lake Tahoe to Yosemite is about four hours. However, you will not be disappointed by the beautiful Sierra Nevada views. It is a breath taking trip. Stop in Carson City, Nevada to break up the travel if needed. Make sure you have plenty of gas, because stations once you get into Yosemite are few and far between.
There are many options for lodging around and in Yosemite. Due to COVID, you have to request a park pass and they are limited. They also cost money. We opted to stay in Yosemite to avoid the hassle of traveling into the park each day. Reservations within the park also comes with a daily pass, guaranteeing your entry.
After researching the national park lodging options, we went with The Ahwahnee Hotel. There is so much history within this hotel, which inspired the movie set hotel for the Shining movie. From every room you can see Half Dome and Glacier Point.
This hotel, built-in 1927, is a National Historic Landmark and one of the most distinctive resort hotels in North America. You will find the Ahwahnee Hotel in the center of the Yosemite Valley, an ideal location to view the Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and Glacier Point.
Some of the most well-loved aspects of The Ahwahnee Hotel are its grand public spaces featuring giant stone fireplaces, massive hand-stenciled beams, rich tapestries, and elegant stained glass. I promise the price tag is worth it on this one.
There is a village store within Yosemite Valley that you can purchase items from. We also picked up snacks on our way into Yosemite. The park is huge, and is not conveniently located by restaurants and markets. Definitely plan to bring snacks and food with you.
The Ahwahnee Dining room is a classic historical dining option. We ate dinner there each night. During COVID, they are only offering to-go food. If you are not staying at the hotel, you can still order food for pick-up.
We are first time national park vacationers if you remember. We opted for an experienced guide to show us the park (just like Queen Elizabeth’s visit in 1982). Our private guide with Echo Adventure was fantastic. We did Glacier Trail, saw the giant sequoias, and covered over 15 miles in one day.
Next time, we probably will not need a guide. However, I highly recommend a guide for convenience and ease for the first time park goer.
Don’t forget to rent bikes at Curry Village to cover ground in Yosemite Valley. Every view you see in Yosemite will take your breath away. Truly, the views are mind blowing. Our trip to Yosemite inspired me to look into the history of the National Park service and really appreciate their work. These new hiking boots were made for walking, and I foresee many national parks in their future.
Post and comment if you make the trip to Lake Tahoe and Yosemite! I want to hear what you think and recommend.