For people who aren't able to hike and bike at high altitude, driving is a great way to see the area. Simply driving around the lake will give you a good feel of Tahoe, and I'll write more about that in a future post. But there are many other great drives that add to the experience.
One of my favorites is the Mt. Rose Highway from Reno, up and over the highest year-round pass in the Sierra, and down to the lake at Incline Village.
Note that while the pics below only show the Reno-to-Incline drive, you can make this drive as part of a loop that you can access from any point. One is a counter-clockwise loop: Tahoe-to-Carson City via 50 over Spooner Summit, north to Reno, back to Tahoe on 431 Mt. Rose Highway, then south to back to Spooner. Another is a clockwise loop from Tahoe north to Truckee on 267 Brockway Summit, east down 80 through the Truckee River canyon to Reno, then south to 431 Mt. Rose Highway, and back up to Tahoe. A variation would be taking 89 from Tahoe to Truckee instead of 267.
Here are some shots that show the sequence.
Below, we are heading up the desert slope above Reno. Mt. Rose is the cloud-shadowed mountain just above the solid painted white highway line. Don't confuse it with the mountain on the left, which is the location of the Mt. Rose Ski Area. You'll drive by the ski runs after you climb about 4000 feet. It is a nice ski mountain, but the summit is nearly one thousand feet below the 10,776-foot summit of Mt. Rose, the third highest in Tahoe after the South Shore's Freel Peak and Jobs Sister.
As we climb, we drive from desert sage into a Jeffrey Pine forest. The road switchbacks over and over. Below, center, is a bit of road we drove up several minutes before. In the distance beyond is Little Washoe Lake at the north end of the Washoe Valley.
If you take a left turn at Winter's Creek Road, you will come out on the side of the ski area mountain and get a great view of Washoe Valley to the south. Washoe lake disappears in drought years. In the far distance is Carson City. This is where hang-gliding thrill riders jump off the mountain and ride the wind to the valley floor.
Turning to the north, you will see great views of Reno on the desert 4000 feet below.
Turn around, return to the Mt. Rose Highway, and head back up the mountain.
Eventually, we come to the top of the pass.
This is the trail head to hike Mt. Rose. It's not technically difficult, but the hike is without shade and has nearly 2000 feet of elevation gain. Be sure to bring plenty of food and WATER!
After you crest the pass and come into the Tahoe Basin, you can see the giant lake in the distance, beckoning.
To your left are the Mt. Rose Meadows, jumping off point for several trails and popular snowshoe and cross-country ski territory.
In another few miles, you will come to an amazing overlook, "down" at 7800 feet. The ski runs of Diamond Peak ski area are to your left.
To the south and west is a vista unlike any other. This is the view looking down the East Shore.
This is the view looking to the southwest. The singular mountain left of center is Mt. Tallac. To the right of Tallac is Emerald Bay.
Looking straight west you see Tahoe's North Shore. In the distance on the left is Alpine Meadows ski area. In the distance on the right is Squaw Valley. In the foreground is the golf course at Incline Village.
When you finally get down to Tahoe's shore, you can look to the South Shore mountains, 25 miles away. Heavenly ski area is comprised of the mountains to the left. Jobs Sister and Freel Peak, Tahoe's two highest mountains, are in the center.