Hello! I’m Gabriella Viola – an outdoor photographer currently living in Lake Tahoe, California. I was born and raised in Westchester County, New York. After attending college in Boston, I lived in New York City for several years before moving to Venice Beach, California in 2013.
Shortly after moving west, I discovered that I had a strong desire to explore nature and live a more adventurous life. I started doing small hikes around Los Angeles and eventually began road-tripping and hiking throughout California and the Southwest. It was also around this time that I picked up and became passionate about outdoor photography.
I recently moved to Lake Tahoe after living in Los Angeles for six years. While living in Los Angeles, I would take road trips to the lake quite often. I felt inspired by its incredible natural beauty, especially from a photography standpoint. Lake Tahoe became my favorite subject matter. In August 2019, I made the decision to live here full time.
As of today, I’ve been living in Lake Tahoe for approximately eight months. So far, my experience has been positive. Coming from LA, I was a little nervous about living in a small and somewhat isolated mountain town. But I quickly found that living in Lake Tahoe is just as convenient as living in a big city, including having an international airport only an hour away.
In addition to being able to explore and photograph Lake Tahoe every day, there’s plenty of NorCal gems that are just a road trip away. One of my favorites being Burney Falls in Shasta County, California. Having Tahoe as my base for road-tripping has been pretty amazing.
My Favourite Place in Lake Tahoe: East Shore
The beaches have some of the most crystal clear turquoise water that I have ever seen. Adding to this beauty are the tall pine trees and snow-capped mountains in the background. I don’t think I could ever get sick of photographing it or just looking at it.
The Best Photography Spots in Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe is one of the best photography destinations in the United States. I’ve written quite a few blog posts where I share my favourite spots to shoot photos along with information on how to get there. So feel free to check them out on my blog: www.gabriellaviola.com.
In my opinion, these are the top 5 photography locations: Emerald Bay, Cave Rock, Sand Harbour, Monkey Rock and Chimney Beach. Even if you’re not an avid photographer, the views and adventures you can have at these destinations are amazing.
10 Best Things To Do in Lake Tahoe
1. Explore Emerald Bay State Park
Emerald Bay, located off Highway 89, is one of the most beautiful spots in Lake Tahoe. This shallow bay on the west shore has a spectacular blue-green colour and offers stunning views of the tiny Fannette Island (the only islet on the lake). I recommend visiting Emerald Bay during sunrise and sunset to see a perfect reflection on the bay.
2. Clear Bottom Kayaking
Lake Tahoe is a kayakers dream destination. One place that is perfect for clear bottom kayaking is around Bonsai Rock located one mile south of Sand Harbour. The rock is a popular destination for kayakers, stand-up paddle boarders and photographers alike. I would recommend using Wild Society for your clear bottom kayak hire. This is such a fun thing to do!
3. Visit Lake Tahoe in Autumn
The Fall colours in Lake Tahoe are absolutely stunning. By mid-October, beautiful displays of fall colour can be seen throughout the lake. As well as the stunning scenery, many properties offer lower prices in Autumn and the lake in general is less crowded. Fall makes for a relaxed and picturesque visit.
4. Check out the Beaches on the East Shore
As I mentioned previously, the east shore is my favourite place in Lake Tahoe. The rugged coastline has a number of fantastic beaches and coves with sparkling turquoise water that looks like something out of the Caribbean. Places such as Whale Beach, Secret Cove, Chimney Beach, Bonsai Rock and Sand Harbour are simply spectacular!
5. Climb to the Top of Cave Rock
Cave Rock is considered sacred by the Washoe Indians and it’s easy to see why. This 3 million-year-old rock is known as the “Lady of the Lake” due to the lady-like features you see when you look south toward the rock. The features of her face are formed by rocks which go all the way to her eyelashes. You can walk up to the top of the rock for amazing views.
6. Bike Ride the New East Shore Trail
Dubbed as “America’s Most Beautiful Bikeway”, the East Shore Trail is a new 2.6 mile trail that was opened in the summer of 2019. It’s a relatively short trail but features some stunning scenery including a beautiful lake. This newly formed trail is ideal for bike riders, hikers, walkers and those walking dogs (as long as the dogs are kept on leashes).
7. Go Skiing in the Mountains
Skiing at one of the amazing mountain resorts is a must-do in winter. There are six resorts to choose from which include: Heavenly Mountain Resort, Squaw Valley Resort, Northstar California Resort, Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe, Kirkwood Mountain Resort and Sierra at Tahoe Resort. No matter your preference, you’ll find a skiing experience just right for you.
8. Live Music at South Lake Tahoe
What better way to relax and blow off a bit of steam after a day of hiking, skiing, kayaking, swimming or riding a bike? South Lake Tahoe is your best bet for awesome nightlife in the region. Whether you like to party all night long at a nightclub, enjoy a few classics from the jukebox at a hipster bar or listen to live music – South Lake Tahoe has something for you.
9. Powered Hang-Gliding over Lake Tahoe
A bucket list experience that you won’t be forgetting in a hurry. Enjoy views over the beautiful lake and the rugged Sierra Mountains from a powered hang glider. The light-sport aircraft features a hang gliding wing which is powered by a Rotax aircraft engine. This is hands down one of the coolest and most exhilarating things to do in Lake Tahoe.
10. Hike the Eagle Falls
The Eagle Falls trail offers some of the most beautiful landscapes and stunning hiking trails in Lake Tahoe. Hike through cascading waterfalls, granite peaks, lush vegetation and an abundance of evergreens. Start from the parking lot and hike about a ¼ mile up a stone staircase. After another ¼ mile of hiking you’ll see the majestic Eagle Falls.
The Vibrant Food & Drink Scene of Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe certainly has a vibrant food and drink scene. Breweries are very popular in the Tahoe community and so is live music. You can find live music (playing mostly rock covers) almost every night of the week at many of the bars and restaurants.
One of my favorite local spots is Tahoe Ale Works in South Lake Tahoe. Mostly because I love their pear and gorgonzola pizza. Right next door is the Lucky Beaver, a 24-hour lively dive bar that is popular with both locals and tourists. I highly recommend it!
Best Places to Stay in Lake Tahoe
When I used to road-trip up to Lake Tahoe from Los Angeles, I would stay at various hotels/ motels in the Stateline area of South Lake Tahoe. Mostly because it’s budget-friendly and within walking distance to bars, restaurants, convenience stores and heavenly village.
For a more nature camp-like experience, I would recommend Camp Richardson off Highway 89. The camp-esque hotel sits right on the lake and is surrounded by tall beautiful pine trees. It’s also within walking distance to bars, restaurants, coffee shops and hiking/biking trails.
What you Need to Know Before you Go
My number one piece of advice would be to visit during the off season and during the middle of the week. Doing so will enable you to experience the beauty of the lake without the crowds. It can get crowded, especially on holidays, weekends and in the summer months.
Also, I would give yourself a minimum of four days to take in all that Lake Tahoe has to offer. There is so much natural beauty to discover and so many things to do all year around. Thanks for reading my guide on the best things to do in Lake Tahoe. I hope you have a great stay!