The Top 10 Best Tahoe Day Trips

This may be your first visit to Lake Tahoe, or you’ve been coming here for years?  Maybe you want to spend all your time playing around the lake?  Or perhaps you’re smitten with the urge to explore more of the area.  If so, a variety of places around Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada are well worth a day trip!  Many of the locations on this best of list are within an hour or two from Lake Tahoe making for easy access.  Time to go for a ride?

Photos by Nevada Discovery Museum, Apple Hill, Sierra Hot Springs and Visit Reno-Tahoe


1.  Virginia City - Olde West Town - NV

Located in the Virginia Range on the other side of the Truckee Meadows, and about an hour drive from South Lake Tahoe, this real-life cowboy town has retained a lot of original Olde West character.  It still has original buildings and facades with wooden sidewalks and saloons.  There are mine tours, and even real mines still in operation!  The local V&T Railroad still takes passengers into Carson City if you're feeling like going that route.  Virginia City was one of the largest settlements between Denver and San Francisco in the mid- to late-1800s because of the discovery of silver in the Comstock Lode.  The city is now a popular tourist spot where you can shop for antiques and homemade fudge, get your photos taken in Western garb, or learn about the area's resident ghosts.

Hot Tip: Several places (including the cemetery) have been visited by the Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures crew.  Also, you may see Cowboys with side-arms; don't be alarmed, it's legal here!

Directions: From South Lake Tahoe, take Highway 50 into Carson City. Drive north through Carson and turn right on William Street (Highway 50). Turn left on NV Highway 341 through Silver City and Gold Hill into Virginia City.

2.  Discovery Museum - Reno NV

Just down the hill in Reno, NV is the newest museum to the area. The Discovery Museum in downtown Reno is an interactive science and natural history museum that celebrates all things Nevada including mining, geology, art, dinosaurs, human history and the environment. The museum has a three story Cloud Climber for all ages, a working model of the Truckee River, an Under the Stars exhibit where kids and adults can pitch a tent and interact with Nevada wildlife, the Da Vinci Corner with hands-on science exhibits and a soft play area for toddlers and babies.

Hot Tip: The Museum has picnic areas where you can bring your own food.

Directions: From North Lake Tahoe, take Highway 431 into South Reno. Turn left onto Highway 395/580 North and merge onto I-80 West. Exit at N. Virginia Street (Exit 13) and proceed to N. Sierra Street. Turn left on N. Sierra, heading south. Drive approximately 1 mile and turn left on Liberty Street, heading east. Drive three blocks and turn right, heading south, on Sinclair Street. Enter parking lot immediately on the right.

490 S Center St, Reno, NV 89501
(775) 786-1000

3.  Genoa NV

Genoa (pronounced Jen-OH-AH) is the oldest settlement in Nevada and is tucked under the Sierra Nevada foothills about 45 minutes from South Lake Tahoe. This charming, little town is known for its antique shops, Mormon Station Museum, award-winning French restaurant (La Ferme) and David Walley's 1862 Hot Springs. The hot springs resort offers several hot pools to bathe in as well as a restaurant and a spa.

Hot Tip: Genoa holds its popular Candy Dance at the end of September. This arts and crafts faire culminates with a dinner and dance show.

Directions: From South Lake Tahoe, take the Kingsbury (Highway 207) down the mountain to Foothill Road. Turn left on Foothill Road and it will take you into Genoa.

4.  Pyramid Lake - Sutcliffe NV

Out in the middle of the Nevada desert is the other big lake in the area: Pyramid Lake. The 300 foot deep Pyramid Lake area is a sacred space for the local Native American tribes of the area. The lake is great for swimming, boating, kayaking, fishing and exploring. The East side of the lake is dominated by the pyramid-shaped island, named after the Paiute name for cone-shaped basket.

Hot Tip: The drive to and around Pyramid Lake is a national scenic byway.  Crosby Lodge is a good place to get information, and grab a meal.  Make a point to stop in the local museum - it's a quick and informative tour. 

Directions: From Reno/Sparks follow the Pyramid Lake Highway (State Route 445) north approximately 30 miles.

5.  Truckee Whitewater Park - Reno NV

Right in the middle of downtown Reno is a kayak and tubing water park that is fed by the Truckee River coming down from Lake Tahoe. This area of town has become popular, not only for whitewater kayaking and tubing in the summer, but for some great local restaurants, bars, theaters and special events. The Truckee River through downtown Reno has a walking and biking path as well.

Hot Tip: The bike path along the river runs from downtown to Sparks in the East and to Verdi in the West. You can rent bikes at several stores near the river.

Directions: From North Lake Tahoe take Highway 431 to the junction of 580/395. Turn left and get onto Highway 580. Merge onto I-80 West. Exit at N. Virginia Street (Exit 13) and proceed to N. Sierra Street. Take N. Sierra Street to the river. There is a public parking garage on First Street.

6. Artown - Reno NV

During the month of July, the city of Reno becomes Artown. This monthlong celebration of the arts features hundreds of free events like movies in the park (in the middle of the Truckee River), dances and performances, art shows, plays, children's activities and concerts featuring national performers and acts. The events are held mostly downtown, but several events are held in other parts of town.

Hot Tip: Some of the events are held in conjunction with wine walks and beer crawls.

Contact and more information:

7.  Sierra Hot Springs - North Lake Tahoe

In the small town of Sierraville near Truckee and North Lake Tahoe lies a beautiful natural hot springs resort. Sierra Hot Springs is a clothing optional hot springs that has a large warm pool, several smaller natural pools and a hot pool inside a meditation dome. Spa treatments like massages are offered at the resort as well as special event dinners. While many people use the pools nude, you can bring your suit if that makes you more comfortable.

Hot Tip: To use the hot springs, you must pay a membership fee, plus a day visit fee. The membership rate for a month is $5

Directions: From Truckee, Truckee, go North on Hwy 89 approximately 30 minutes to Sierraville. The Globe Hotel is at the intersection of Hwys 89 and 49. To reach the Main Lodge and the Springs, turn right onto Hwy 49, then turn right on Lemon Canyon Road. Turn the next road right again onto Campbell Hot Springs Road. Follow this road to the Main Lodge.

8. Apple Hill - South Lake Tahoe

During the summer and fall, the small community of Apple Hill comes to life with fresh fruits, nuts, wines and, of course, apples and apple cider. Visitors can pick their own chestnuts, apples, berries, wine grapes and peruse the vendors and lunch stands at the various farms and ranches in this beautiful valley. Apple Hill is located just off of Highway 50 near Placerville, about one hour from South Lake Tahoe.

Hot Tip: The small roads around Apple Hill can get very full on the weekends. Visit Apple Hill on the weekdays if you can.

Directions:From South Lake Tahoe, go west on Highway 50 until you hit the Placerville area. Recommended exits are 54, 49 and 48. There are signs on Highway 50 to direct you.

9.  Nevada State Museum - Carson Valley

Located in Carson City, the Nevada State Museum features the history, anthropology, geology and geography of Nevada and the Sierra Nevada. The museum has dozens of exhibits on the states' animals, the history of gaming, America's largest Columbian mammoth, Native Americans and an underground mine.

Hot Tip: The underground mine is dark and a bit scary. It will be fine for older children, but younger kids might be a bit frightened.

Directions: From South Lake Tahoe, take Highway 50 into Carson City. Turn left onto U.S. 395/Carson Street. The museum is in downtown Carson City at 600 N. Carson Street.

10.  Hope Valley - South Lake Tahoe

About half an hour south of Lake Tahoe is the beautiful Hope Valley area. In this mountainous area are several small resorts, the Hope Valley Resort and Sorensen's Resort where you can grab a great meal, several hiking trails near the Carson Pass, snowshoeing and cross country skiing in the winter and, of course, the Kirkwood ski resort.

Hot Tip: Sorensen's Resort is worth a stop to check out their darling cabins and cottages.

Directions: From South Lake Tahoe, take Highway 89 south through Meyers and turn right on Highway 88 toward Kirkwood. Turn left on Highway 88 to get to the Hope Valley Resort.