Lake Tahoe Guidebooks: Summer and Winter Adventures

Read our review of two guidebooks to see whether a summer or winter Tahoe family vacation is right for you.

Lake Tahoe is world-renowned for its peaks and slopes, its powder and breathtaking views of the bluer than blue lake below. But Tahoe and its surrounding towns are so much more than ski getaways. These two guide books dive deep into the lake, as well as the greater Tahoe area including Reno, Nev., and show readers this is one picturesque spot that offers something for everyone, year-round.

by Lisa Gollin Evans. The Mountaineers Books, 2001; $16.95

This environmentally-focused guide aims to reveal and introduce the beauty, solitude, wildlife and unspoiled nature of the Lake Tahoe basin to our children by offering up hiking and biking routes and camping and swimming spots for every age. But the guide also emphasizes the importance of preserving the lake’s beauty with low-impact activities, while encouraging children to love and respect nature.

With a friendly introduction on tips and ethics for hiking and biking with kids, readers have a leg up on how to have a successful hike and keep kids motivated. The guide helps you choose the right trip for your family, right down to what snacks to bring, the pace to set and stuff to pack (such as: magnifying glasses, binoculars, bug bottles, sketchbooks and materials for bark or stone rubbings). It touches on gear, health, safety and even bears. It provides good information for beginning hikers on why we should not feed animals; stay on the trail; observe, but not pick the flowers; and carry out what you bring in. In other words, leave the trail as you found it.


If you are an outdoorsy type eager to get hiking boots on your kids, this book will have you convinced that there is no more beautiful place to get your small trailblazers started than on the trails around Tahoe. And it covers a lot of ground, literally. In five meaty chapters, this guide provides information on 58 trails around the lake. It also clearly indicates the trail difficulty levels and lengths so you can decide if your children (or you) are up for the challenge. For those who may get woozy or light-headed at higher elevations, it also includes the starting elevation and elevation gain for each activity. Not sure if you’ll need to get hiking boots for the kids? This guide lets you know about the terrain for each trail as well.

I personally have a place in my heart for waterfalls. The sound of an easy, less-than-a-mile hike with only 80 feet of elevation gain up to Cascade Falls with my two young sons sounds not only practical, but also beautiful.

Another nice touch to this guide is the detail on nature. For instance, hike number 30 to Eagle Lake not only covers the hike itself, but what to look for when you’ve reached your destination. “Before leaving the flat, look closely at the dead, barkless trees. On the exposed wood, observe the wriggly paths bored by bark beetles.” It goes on to explain the epidemic infestation of these beetles which feed and reproduce in the inner bark of pine and fir trees. But don’t dismay. These dead and dying lodgepole pines are a boon to wildlife like owls, hairy woodpeckers, mountain chickadees, toads, snakes and salamanders.


While this guide does an excellent and thorough job of covering hiking, biking, camping, swimming and some other types of outdoor activities that can be enjoyed during the warmer months, it lacked information about one of Tahoe’s biggest claims to fame: snow sports, namely skiing and snowboarding. There was one small mention of ice skating at Squaw Valley’s High Camp, but the rink is inside and open year-round. (We’ve been to High Camp in the summer, and it is a bit windy, but amazing nonetheless.) I just assumed that an outdoor guide to Tahoe would have at least some information on which family ski areas are the best for different age groups, which offer lessons and easy access to the snow. As soon as I opened it, though, I knew it was not about the snow. I think this pitfall could have been easily avoided with a clearer book title. Perhaps “An Outdoor Family Guide to the Trails of Lake Tahoe”?

Worth Buying?

Yes. If you are looking to hike or bike Tahoe with the family, this is the right guide for you. It gives you everything you need to plan a successful outdoor hiking or biking activity with your family. With so many options before me, I’m ready to hit the trails! 

Destinations: Nevada, Reno, California, Lake Tahoe

Themes: Family Travel

Activities: Hiking, Camping, Cycling, Shopping, Skiing, Snowboarding

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Additional Lake Tahoe Information for Families For information on a myriad of activities, summer, fall, winter and spring, visit: Also offered is a babysitter referral service.