Posted by: acooksca | 04/03/2009

North Lake Tahoe Overnight

Sometimes I forget how beautiful Lake Tahoe is. Although it is the largest alpine lake (elevation. 6,200 feet) in the lake-tahoe-2aU.S., the single 193 mile road that skirts its shore is densely packed with snow skiers or water skiers most of the year. Yet in October you can relax undisturbed on warm sands with your toes in the chilly water or be the only hiker on a forested trail.

Tahoe straddles the California/Nevada border and South Lake Tahoe has one of the most obvious state lines in the U.S. Place one foot into Nevada and your pocket is drained of all coins by the nearest slot machine, barely a foot away. I prefer the less glitzy Nevada side of North Shore which is quiet and reserved.

For an indulgence we chose the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe to overnight. This resort commands a perfect piece of shoreline in the upscale community of Incline Village, Nevada. I guess we wandered through the casino once while staying there, trying out a new route from our room to our car. Afterward we avoided the jingle and flash of the gaming floor. A clear mountain day and hiking trails fragrant with sun-warmed pines were right outside.

A Secluded Picnic Beach

Three miles south of Sand Harbor on Hwy 158 is a sign for Tahoe National Park and a paved parking area. Follow the wide dirt trail and descend toward the lake. In a quick ¼ mile the trail reaches the shore and swings south to follow the shoreline for 4 miles.

Before making that turn, walk a few feet further to several intimate beaches rimmed with water-smoothed granite boulders. Tahoe is legendary for its water clarity. You can see a dinner plate at 70 feet depth. This is a fine place to set up your towel or blanket, nibble a picnic and read. There is a wide view across Lake Tahoe toward the Western California side. Mid morning is the best time to arrive for photographing this gorgeous shoreline with the sun at your back.

Hike to a Summit View

Highway 431 rises rapidly from Incline Village at 7,000 feet to 9,300 feet at the Mount Rose Pass. This four lane road, which connects the North Shore of Lake Tahoe to Reno and the Nevada Great Basin, is the highest all-year highway summit crossing in the Sierra Nevada. There are restrooms, orientation tablets describing the wide view toward the lake and over the desert, and plenty of paved parking for the many hiking trails that begin here.

On the south side of the summit parking area is Tahoe Meadows Whole Access Trail, a level 1.3 mile stroll in lush meadows with 10 tiny wooden bridges crossing rivulets. Our goal was more strenuous. We chose a 6 mile trail that heads toward the summit of Mount Rose then loops back to the car using an old forest service access road. This is a perfect day hike (once acclimatized to the altitude). It begins in a conifer forest and emerges onto an open plateau with views of high country tarns and a waterfall. On this clear day we could see across glaciated canyons and volcanic domes to the White Mountains in the south, the Nevada desert east of us and into the Lake Tahoe basin.

Small Bites and Well Chosen Wines

The Lone Eagle Grill, a comfortable beach front bar at the Hyatt, is a fine place to watch the sunset and refresh while considering where to go to replace those calories burnt by hiking. We glanced through a collection of local menus and selected Bite, a nearby bar and restaurant that serves American tapas and wines.

Lake Tahoe, as is the nature of resorts, has many eateries and most are pretty mundane. To find one doing interesting food executed well at a reasonable price is a real treat. Bite turned out to be just that. Any of the interesting domestic and international wines on the list can be ordered by the glass, the carafe (about 2 ½ glasses) or the bottle. I asked the host about this policy and he said they want people to order whatever wine seems appropriate with the varied menu. Great!!

The menu was separated into starters, sliders (small portions of meat or burgers on mini buns), small plates (really large enough to be considered mains), sides and sweets. Just to give you an idea here’s what we ordered to share: Tomato and Bell Pepper Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction. Maine Lobster, Bacon and Tomato Sliders. Five Spice Baby Back Ribs. Duck Confit with Tomato Basil Curry. Rib-eye with Cabernet Demi-glace. Paper Thin Onion Rings.

Everything was well thought out and carefully prepared. The cost was about half what we expect to pay in San Francisco. The service was attentive and informally inviting. Anything else I can say to recommend Bite? Oh yes… full bar. A fine place to end a fine day if you are in North Lake Tahoe, Nevada.
Bite, 907 Tahoe Blvd, Incline Village NV. 775-831-1000

For a high altitude loop trail around the lake check out the Tahoe Rim Trail: http://www.tahoerimtrail.org/

Originally published in Farmstead Cheese News by Karen Bolla, edited for A Cook’s California (A Cook’s CA)  by Karen Bolla.

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