Lake Tahoe | Yosemite Trip Recap
Updated: Sep 14, 2020
Between COVID (and everything that has come along with it) along with some recent career shifts, I was hell-bent on getting away. Zach and I hadn't taken a vacation together (just the two of us) since our honeymoon eight years ago. It was long overdue.
Over the years, I have been bookmarking images, information, and locations that I have come across from others I follow on social media, places I want to go. Once we decided we would be taking a trip, I started pulling up all of my bookmarked locations. I made a list of all the places I wanted to go. I then started to visit many travel blogger sites to see which vacation spots were at the top of their lists. Lake Tahoe kept coming up. I thought if there are people who have traveled the world and considered Lake Tahoe at the top of their lists, this would be the place.
Once we started planning the trip, we realized how close Yosemite was, making Tahoe an even more attractive choice! Flights were cheaper with COVID going on; so we booked right away.
*Disclaimer: I understand the risks we took in deciding to travel during this time. Zach and I have been on a strict vitamin regimen, order as much as we can online, and we have only been around the same group of family and very close friends. We also chose the place to stay and the location of travel based on the social distancing involved during our trip. We wore masks everywhere, washed our hands, and continued all of our safety regimens.
Where we stayed
We booked our trip close to the end of August to South Lake Tahoe (close to Yosemite by about an hour - in comparison to North Tahoe) for six nights at the Black Bear Lodge. (Note that South Lake Tahoe is known to be busier, whereas North Lake Tahoe is a little more low key.)
We LOVED the Black Bear Lodge! As far as pricing, this was a very reasonable option when considering all that we were getting by choosing this place. We were booked in one of their studio cabins, set in a beautiful corner in the back of the lodge within their very own little piece of backyard forest.
We landed in Reno Sunday night, picked up our rental at Enterprise (they offered a package with unlimited mileage), and headed to the lodge, which was an hour away. The roads were very dark and winding (literally). We arrived at the lodge around 10:30 PM Tahoe time and easily picked up our info packet, and directions - which lead us to a paved walkway through the tree's around the fountain and passed our outdoor bench and seating area to our door. The staff was extremely accommodating.
The cabin, along with the entire lodge, is decorated in the coziest mountain modern decor.
Day One: Monday morning, we woke up to a chilly 62 degrees! It was awesome. Still being on New Orleans time, I woke up at 5:30 AM Tahoe time. Zach and I were up, ready, and at breakfast for 7 AM. Monday, we went to breakfast at Bert's. Zach had a typical breakfast; pancakes, eggs, and bacon. I had the french toast and scrambled eggs. Everything was amazing! Because of COVID, we had outside seating at every restaurant we visited during our trip. We didn't mind this because the weather was phenomenal, 50-60s in the AM, 70-80s in the afternoon with little to no humidity! If you are from the south, you know how big of a deal that is!
After breakfast, we downloaded the All Trails app and looked into where we wanted our first hike to be. We planned to acclimate to the altitude on day one and take it easy. However, I was WAY too excited to be there. We found Eagle Lake trail, relatively easy and short trail to Eagle Lake (a must-see!). Eagle Lake trail is very close to Emerald Bay and Vikingsholm. Parking for Eagle Lake Trail was simple, pull into the parking area and find an empty spot. It did look as though there is usually a fee required, but it was covered with a sign that stated they wouldn't be collecting payments for that park. This trail was moderate, and it was stunning every step of the way! At the end, when we arrived Eagle Lake, Zach, and I went through a side trail that lead us to a secluded spot for just the two of us to enjoy the view and eat a snack together. We were later joined by a few ducks who swam up and ate with us. This lake is beautiful!
A few people were swimming in the lake at the time as well.
After we finished this trail, we headed back to the town area for a late lunch/ early dinner. We found a place called Basecamp Pizza, located in Heavenly Village. Zach and I ordered a large half BBQ chicken, and half basecamp. It was amazing and we had plenty enough to take back to the lodge.
We then decided we would head out to look for some of that blue water I had seen in all the pictures I had saved! We drove back out to the Emerald Bay area, parked at Vikingsholm (Normally $10). We got there so late in the day; no one was at the booth where you would normally pay, so we were able to park for free. The road to Emerald Bay from our lodge was particularly winding! So we wanted to get back before dark.
The trail from the parking lot to the lake was steep, not bad on the way down but somewhat difficult on the way up. It was about a mile long. When we got to the bottom of
Emerald Lake it was late afternoon. Unfortunately, I couldn't see any of the coves, but we were on foot and running out of daylight. Again, as far as we know, most coves are accessed via waterway. We did find that the Vikingsholm property was down there and had the opportunity to walk around and take lots of pictures! Due to COVID, all tours were closed for the duration of our time there. However, we were still able to walk up close to all structures.
Once we finished walking around and taking pictures, we started back up to the car and headed back to town for desert. We went for ice cream sandwiches at The Baked Bear. SO Good! I had brownie on one side and s'mores cookie on the other with toasted marshmallow ice cream in the middle.
Day Two: Tuesday morning, we went to Ernie's for breakfast. This breakfast place was by far our favorite spot! They have great lattes, and everything on their menu was amazing! They gave us the cutest outdoor seating area in the back.
After breakfast, we headed to North Tahoe, still wanting to see this clear blue water! We stopped in Kings Beach and found The Wild Society Kayaking. We paid $10 to park (most places are about that much. You do not have to pay to park when you arrive for kayaking as long as you park in Wild Society's lot). The owner was kind and asked that we email our reservation requests. By a miracle, she was able to fit us in for a 4-hour reservation on Wednesday! She usually is booked weeks in advance, so this was pure luck! Being that this was Tuesday and we were already in North Tahoe, we figured we would stop at Sand Harbor and hang out at the beach.
It was fairly warm that day, but the water was still a good 60 degrees. It was cold! Nevertheless, we had a blast and stayed in the water as long as we could stand it.
Day Three: Wednesday was Kayaking day! I had been looking forward to going off and finding these coves! We had a reservation with The Wild Society Kayaking at Kings Beach from 9 AM - 1 PM. We had to arrive before our reservation time to get briefed and get into our life vests. (The owner sends an email out the night before with all the details!) The launch is very close walking distance from the building. These kayaks are completely clear. It was so unbelievable. This day may have been my favorite day of all. The water is so blue and so deep! There are HUGE boulders that you can see way deep down into the water from your kayak. I highly suggest renting them for at least 4 hours to explore the coves. It took us about 45 min to an hour to get to them. We don't kayak often. Being that we launched at 9 AM, it was quiet, still, and beautiful on the lake. It was tricky learning to get in and out of the kayak when stopping in the coves. If you find the right spot, it is easier. The water can be deceiving. We used the paddle as a guide to see how deep the water was in any given area. The boulders are so huge that some reach from the bottom to the very top of the water.
We found THE most beautiful cove with the perfect water depth and got out, swam, and took pictures for a couple of hours before heading back.
After Kayaking, we went back to South Tahoe for lunch and then headed to the Mt. Tallac Historic Site to walk around until sunset. Mt. Tallac Historic Site had the Pope and Baldwin Estates on Lake Tahoe, where we saw the sun setting. There were a couple of Sequoias on the property as well, which was pretty cool being that we wouldn't have the opportunity to go to the Sequoias on our day to Yosemite.
Day Four: Thursday, we drove to Yosemite. It was a much longer drive than we anticipated only because of how massive the park is. It was breathtaking! If you plan to visit Yosemite - stay a couple of nights there, we plan to do that next time! The drive-in was beautiful!
Right now, because of COVID, Yosemite is requiring a driving pass per vehicle. We paid $35, and it was good for a week. You have to reserve this! You can find more info on their site HERE.
We didn't bring food with us this day (we should have). We found that there was a general store and a cafe-style restaurant further into Yosemite. This added an extra two in a half hours to our drive. If we would have researched this in advance, we would have brought food and spent time closer to the entrance to have more time in the area that day.
After Yosemite, we drove back to South Tahoe. That night we grabbed dinner to-go and brought it back to the cabin to rest and go to bed early.
Day Five: We slept in Friday, and then we went shopping for a while before heading to Fallen Leaf Lake and Lily Lake, where we had lunch and walked around. Some of the roads to these lakes were very narrow, only wide enough for one car, but it was a two-way road, so when another car came around, you would pull to the side at the nearest spot you could find. It wasn't too difficult, but I wouldn't want to do it in the dark.
These lakes were so beautiful and quiet! This was a more secluded area with much fewer people.
Where We Stayed:
Enterprise - chose this option because they offered unlimited mileage.
Favorite Food Places:
Things We Did:
Hike: Eagle Lake | South Tahoe
Vikingsholm at Emerald Bay | South Tahoe
Sand Harbor Beach Day | North Lake Tahoe
Kayaking: Wild Society - Kings Beach | North Tahoe
Pope and Baldwin Estates; Mt Tallac Historic Site | South Tahoe
Shopping ( Heavenly Village) | South Tahoe
Fallen Leaf Lake | South Tahoe
Lily Lake | South Tahoe
Weather: 40's- 60's in the Mornings | 70's - 80's in the Afternoons
Liquid IV - We bought a bunch a Liquid IV packs for the trip. We knew it would be important for us to stay hydrated with the altitude and the amount of activity we would be doing. These was a huge help!
All Trails - App that you can use to look up and plan all of your hiking and biking plans.
Parking costs - all the places we went to, charged for parking with the exception for restaurants. We were able to use our debit and credit cards at all locations.
Brita Water Bottles - We bought these and bought bottled water when we made it to the cabin. The brita water bottles definitely came in handy.
Waterproof Phone Cases - We were able to take a lot more cool photos because we had our phones in these while in the water!
Safeway - really great go-to grocery store in South Lake Tahoe.
Gas is high! - We prepaid for the gas in our rental so we only had to fill up once during our trip and didn't have to turn the rental in with a full tank.
Plan, plan, plan. Before going, plan the hikes and locations you want to go to each day. A few of these places can be an hour or more away from each other. The more you plan, the more chance you will have to make the most of your time there.
Locations We Visited:
Fallen Leaf Lake
Mt. Tallac Historic Site
Sand Harbor Beach
What We Wished We Would Have Known:
Yosemite is HUGE. It may be silly but we didn't do enough research and we weren't aware. Next time we plan on staying a few days in Yosemite (instead of try a day drive over there). Because, we only planned for the day it didn't give us a lot of time in the area.
Reservations! We lucked out and definitely should have known this one. Make sure you make reservations for any activities you want to do while in the area. Summer is their busiest time of year. We got reservations to all the activities we wanted but there just so happened to have been openings at the time.
Plan out hikes and pick out the days you want for each hike. There is a lot of driving involved depending on which trails you want to go on. Next time we will plan out which hikes we want to go on and set up our time and schedule accordingly.
Most beaches require some walking - There may be off road parking or a lot depending on the location. However, most beaches will be a good walking distance from where you are parked.
The main thing is we had never been there. We spent a lot of time finding our way around. Better planning may have saved us some time.