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Easy, Active Escapes in Tahoe

Kayaking on Lake Tahoe

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Only a four-hour drive from Marin, beautiful Lake Tahoe offers it all when it comes to getting out there and being active. Four of my favorite activities—kayaking, twilight golf, mountain biking and vista hiking—offer awesome scenery and easy escape from the spring and summer crowds.

Touring Tahoe by kayak

Lake Tahoe is a boater’s paradise. But for kayakers, the 190-square-mile mountain lake approaches nirvana. Portable and easy to use, kayaks allow you to lose the tourist hordes and explore the lake’s miles of quiet and secluded shoreline.

I recently spent a weekend kayaking Lake Tahoe, joining two guided day tours and squeezing in an overnight stay at a boat-in campground. The first tour, run by Kayak Tahoe (kayaktahoe.com), started on the beach at D. L. Bliss State Park on the lake’s southwestern shore. After a brief orientation and safety talk, we slid our kayaks into the lake and paddled south along the shoreline past car-size boulders, forests of fir and sugar pine and a pair of ospreys nesting atop a huge snag. The crystal-clear waters beneath my boat plunged from sandy-bottomed shallows to darker depths, changing hue from ethereal green to sapphire blue.

During a midday lunch stop at a sandy beach on Emerald Bay, we watched two elegant stern-wheelers churn by. Our afternoon route brought us around the bay beyond tiny Fannette Island, past Vikingsholm (a historic Scandinavian-style mansion) and to Eagle Point at the mouth of the bay, where a mama merganser and her obedient brood weaved between shoreline rocks. Our 7.5-mile-long paddle ended at lively Camp Richardson amid sunbathers and swimmers.

Later that afternoon, I packed up rental kayaks with camping supplies and paddled back to Emerald Bay. We camped at Emerald Bay State Park’s boat-in campground, under whistling yellow pines and cedars.

The following day, I headed up to the north shore to join a tour run by Tahoe Paddle and Oar (tahoepaddle.com), based at the North Tahoe Beach Center in Kings Beach. Setting out from the wide beach behind the center, we paddled toward the California-Nevada border at Brockway Point, where we explored a jumbled maze of giant, half-submerged granite boulders along a sandy beach. We continued on to another rocky promontory before returning to Kings Beach—a 2.5-mile paddle in all.

Then it was back to the “real world.” I took with me a pleasant soreness in my paddling muscles and memories of pristine shoreline as mementos of my brief but heavenly escape on the water.


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