Is anyone else daydreaming of warmer times on these cold winter days?! When I go to my happy place, California is where I go.
Last year we traveled to Lake Tahoe, Yosemite and Mammoth. The trip was everything we expected and more! In addition to showing you a bunch of eye candy, I’m going to give you a quick rundown of our trip in case you are planning something similar and want the inside scoop. I’ll spill all the beans- the good, the bad and the….LOVELY!
We flew from Buffalo, NY to Reno, NV with a quick layover in Las Vegas. (The Reno airport is adorable BTW.) We stopped for a quick bite to eat, grabbed our rental car and ventured on from Reno to South Lake Tahoe. It takes about an hour-and-a-half to get from the Reno airport to South Lake Tahoe and the drive is pretty neat! Especially once you get to see the lake for the first time, the views are outrageous!
The South Lake Tahoe Nevada side is hopping with hotels and casinos. We stayed right at the border of NV and CA. We weren’t really interested in the casino life, so the first day there we went on a hike to Eagle Lake. IF YOU ARE IN LAKE TAHOE YOU MUST TAKE THIS HIKE! No, the capitals are not a mistake. See for yourself why…
South Lake Tahoe is also home to Heavenly. In the winter I imagine it has some incredible skiing, but even without the snow there’s a little community of restaurants and shops galore.
After South Lake Tahoe we took the drive through the mountains and valleys and made our way to one of the America’s most beautiful National Parks- Yosemite! We were super excited to go to Yosemite and in our excitement really underestimated how much we would be driving. It was about three hours from South Lake Tahoe to the entrance of Yosemite. The drive was AMAZING and I captured what I think is the best photo that I have EVER taken. 🙂
Since it was still September, we were able to take the route east of the park and enter from the east side. That entrance closes in October due to the weather because the roads are so curvy and steep. I have a couple of REALLY important tips if you are making this drive. 1- GET GAS IN NEVADA! CA is much more expensive than NV when it comes to gas and forget it once you get to the park…it is about four times the regular price. 2- Learn from our mistake and don’t try to do Yosemite in a day! There’s way too much to see. Plus, even when you get to the entrance from the east entrance, its another hour-and-a-half to the Valley floor where El Capitan and Half Dome are. 3- Make sure you are staying relatively close to the park or in the park. As you can tell, there is lots of driving! 4- The temperature increases significantly when you get to the valley floor so wear layers and bring lots of water!
That said, we were completely blown away at Yosemite’s beauty. We’re definitely returning someday!
From Yosemite, we took the drive to Mammoth Lakes, California. Again, if the east entrance to the park is open, it will take 1-1.5 hours to get from Yosemite to Mamoth, CA (from the valley floor add on another 1.5 hours). I recommend doing this in the daylight -its kinda scary in the dark if you aren’t used to the terrain.
Mammoth Lakes is also gorgeous. It has a small ski town center where we chose to stay and enjoy the dining and shopping. There is a ton of hiking in the area and we opted to hike at Twin Lakes. It was such a pleasure being in Mammoth. Again, obviously another great ski town.
Our last stop was to head back up to Lake Tahoe, but instead of the South, we switched it up and stayed on the North Side. The Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino was by far our favorite place we stayed in during the trip…for obvious reasons! I have so many photos that I could post from this, but to save some elements of surprise, here are a few of my personal favorites.
I would highly recommend the Lake Tahoe Skunk Harbor Hike. It is a moderate hike – the way in is all down hill to the shoreline and the way out is all uphill back to the broad. Once you get down to the shore line its like you have your own private beach! We brought lunch, stayed the day and had a blast! We even met a little chipmunk friend.
North Lake Tahoe is also much quieter than the south end. It was perfect for kayaking, swimming and just plain old relaxing.
As you can probably tell from our smiling faces, we LOVED the vacation and will absolutely go back someday.
Do you have questions about our itinerary or the like? Just ask!