Savor Winter in Reno-Tahoe Territory
From the highest base in Tahoe to more than a dozen ski resorts within an hour of Reno, it’s no secret Lake Tahoe offers the best ways to get vertical amid some of the most spectacular alpine settings in the world. But beyond the slopes and world of winter sports that await at America’s Largest Alpine Lake, discover a world of peak-season wildlife watching, cozy fire pits and Silver State signature cocktails, glowing holiday lights, holiday trains, and month-long festivities sure to please the whole family. Add in a world of history that built Nevada (and the West) and plenty of hot water to slide into. Ready to discover winter unlike ever before? Whether you’re traveling with your partner, best friends, or have the whole family in tow, read on for more ways to savor winter in Reno-Tahoe Territory.
Win Winter Off the Slopes
Downhill skiing not your scene? The good news is there are plenty of ways to satisfy your inner powder hound in all corners of Lake Tahoe that speak to every ability level and interest. In North Lake Tahoe, take advantage of winter splendor with minimal crowds at Spooner Lake and Marlette Backcountry, where you can jump on the roughly 2-mile flat, easy loop that encircles Spooner Lake itself. Ambitious snowshoers can hit the high country to Marlette Lake, which connects up with the Lake Tahoe Flume Trail and offers sweeping snow-kissed vistas of Lake Tahoe at 9,000 feet elevation. Down in Carson Valley, snowshoe beneath some of the most scenic mountain ranges in the Eastern Sierra at the River Fork Ranch trails system, located minutes from historic Genoa, or travel a little further down the road to Topaz Lake for even more all-to-yourself alpine lake snowshoeing and winter hiking.
If you’ve got the whole crew in tow, celebrate the season with private horse-drawn carriage rides with Borges Sleigh Rides at Sand Harbor State Park or get the whole family on Heavenly Village’s ice rink, open seasonally from October through April each year. In North Lake Tahoe, no wintertime visit to the Reno-Tahoe area is complete without a visit to the Mount Rose Meadows and Chickadee Ridge. The unofficial wintertime HQ of North Lake Tahoe, plan to see hundreds of visitors and locals alike taking advantage of the ultimate sledding hill, access to backcountry skiing and splitboarding, and Chickadee Ridge, where visitors can snowshoe an intermediate slope to a breathtaking vista overlooking North Lake Tahoe, all while wild chickadees land on any outstretched hand. Keep that camera handy and take all the pictures you please, but remember that feeding wildlife of any kind is illegal—wild creatures don’t need human food to survive, and the chickadees will perch on your hand with or without birdseed.
Ready to crank up the adrenaline? Jump on all kinds of fat tire biking and cross-country skiing in South Lake Tahoe. To see a trails map, and get the lowdown on beginner, intermediate, and experienced trails, plus which routes are dog friendly, click here. Rip the throttle on guided snowmobiling tours with a handful of guide outfits in the Lake Tahoe region, including Zephyr Cove, Tahoe Snowmobiles, and Lake Tahoe Adventures, or take Big Blue to new heights with a gliding experience through one of the world’s premiere gliding conditions out of the Minden-Tahoe International Airport in Carson Valley.
Apres Ambiance: Warm Your Spirits With Fireside Cocktails & Historic Saloons
If there’s one thing the Reno-Tahoe region knows how to do, and do well, it’s fireside cocktails. Find unbeatable posh bar scenes in Reno/Sparks, as well as North and South Lake Tahoe, and if there isn’t a big ol’ roaring fire outside, everywhere else in between has something on the menu sure to warm you up in no time. One of Nevada’s most iconic fireside scenes found at the Lone Eagle Grille in North Lake Tahoe, which offers elegant Adirondack chairs, on-theme holiday cocktails, unbeatable vistas of Lake Tahoe, and even a s’mores kit available for purchase, all next to an enormous blazing outdoor fire pit.
In Reno, grab a cocktail at the Shore Room within the Renaissance Reno Downtown Hotel and Spa property, which promises one of Reno’s best happy hours and only-here ambiance with a fire pit encircled outdoor patio overlooking the Truckee River. Or, dial in some Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas vibes at the iconic Fireside Lounge at the Peppermill Reno, which as the name suggests, offers up flowing cocktails set against velvet coated booths fireside. Bar hop from one sleek Midtown Reno bar to the next, each offering up cozy cocktails across dozens of bars that make up Reno’s hippest mural-covered arts, shopping, and entertainment district. Grab finely made craft cocktails at Reno faves like Death & Taxes, Reno Public House, Rum Sugar Lime, The Emerson, or Pinon Bottle, to name a few, all within a walkable two-mile district.
Warm your spirits with hearty history a little further down the road at some of Nevada’s most charmingly historic bar scenes. The Gold Hill Hotel in Virginia City, Nevada, isn’t just the site of Nevada’s oldest hotel, but also offers one of Nevada’s most intimate bar scenes with a locals-packed wooden bar counter, roaring fire in the corner, and access to the always-delicious Crown Point Restaurant only a few steps away. In Gardnerville, see what Nevada’s unofficial state cocktail is all about with the Basque-made Picon Punch (hot tip – one is not enough and three is too many), and make sure to stop by and see the picture-perfect Genoa Bar, where too many photo shoots, commercials, Western movies, celebrities, and United States Presidents have visited to count.
Soak This Way: Nevada’s Best Hot Springs
In a state with more hot springs than anywhere else, hot water runs deep around here. And in the Reno-Tahoe region, that means deep into the history books too, where the state’s oldest, and most famous hot springs resorts are located. Even though historic hot springs resorts were once found all over Nevada, only three remain in the Silver State today, and are all located in the Reno-Tahoe Territory, each brimming with restorative mineral waters and a steamy scene sure to stick with you now, and far beyond your wintertime visit.
Soak at the oldest hot spring resort in Nevada at David Walley’s Resort in historic Genoa. Hot water enthusiasts have been soaking here since before Nevada officially became a state, with the property dating all the way back to 1862. Located within minutes of Genoa’s main historic district and along the legendary Pony Express Route, everyone from high society socialites, to weary pioneers, to Mark Twain himself, to modern day mountain adventurers have soaked here through the centuries. It’s easy to see why with five easy-access hot spring pools, each varying in size and temperature, including a large hot spring-filled swimming pool, and smaller more traditional hot tub-sized baths within view of Jobs Peak and the Eastern Sierra. Grab a day pass or settle in for the night at condo-style lodging and the 1862 Restaurant & Saloon.
Redefine health and wellness at Steamboat Hot Springs Healing Center & Spa in Reno, situated in the foothills of Virginia City. Once the site of one of the largest natural geysers in the country, the geothermal groans here reminded Mark Twain of steamboat ships chugging the banks of the Mississippi River, which is how the property earned its name. The property has been used by Native Americans for thousands of years but became officially open for business in 1861 as a hospital designed to treat patients with its mineral-rich, endlessly-flowing hot water. The hot water here is so pure you could drink it right out of the ground, and is loaded with all kinds of purities curing guests in both mind and spirit for more than 150 years. The property has always been a wellness center, and the only hot springs Mineral Bath Massage Packages in the area, with private geothermal tub rooms, aromatherapy, ayurvedic medicine, sonar treatments, and much more.
Soak with the locals at Carson Hot Springs, which shares the same property with two other beloved Carson City businesses: Sassafras Eclectic Food Joint and the Shoe Tree Brewing Company. Originally first used by the Washoe people, this historic property attracted everyone from Silver Barons, to westward pioneers, to prizefighters who lived and trained here in the late 1800s. Today, the property retains its historic integrity while offering modern accommodations, including two large outdoor pool and patio with the locally beloved “hammer” waterspout, indoor private pools, towels and locker rooms, and small-town hospitality Nevada’s Capital City is known for.
Looking for a more traditional spa experience? All the casino properties Reno and Lake Tahoe offer award-winning luxury treatments at the Spa Atlantis at the Atlantis Casino Resort, The Refuge Spa at Renaissance Reno Downtown, Spa Toscana at the Peppermill Reno, The Spa at the Silver Legacy, and the Spa at Grand Sierra Resort, Stillwater Spa & Salon at Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, and Spa at Edgewood Tahoe Resort.
Watch for Wildlife Amid Peak-Season Magic
Is there anything more magical than an encounter with something wild? Carson Valley is home to an array of wildlife all year long, but some of the most majestic photo opportunities present themselves in the heart of winter, where you can embark on photography and wildlife tours guided by the pros. See plenty of protected wild horse bands in Virginia City, in and around Washoe Lake State Park, or jump on a tour with Carson Valley Legend JT Humphries to see a collection of wild horses that live in the Pine Nuts Mountain Range, with the snow-cloaked Eastern Sierra as its backdrop. JT, along with many other wildlife photography tour operators in Carson Valley, can guide you through all the best places to see wildlife in Lake Tahoe, which oftentimes include historic properties and barns that predate Nevada statehood. See everything from bobcats, to black bears, raptors, mountain lions, wild horses, and more, in and around Minden, Gardnerville, and Genoa.
Also part of Carson Valley, cast a line into the beautiful Topaz Lake, which kicks off the fishing season in Nevada each year beginning January 1. Topaz Lake fishing is hot when most other alpine lakes in the Easter Sierra Nevada are frozen for the season. This enormous high desert surprise is nearly 2,500 acres with a depth of 92 feet, which means fishing from a boat is ideal, though shore fishing works, too. Easily one of the region’s best small and largemouth bass fishing destinations, the Nevada Department of Wildlife seasonally stocks the lake with many different types of trout, including bowcutt trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, and even tiger trout. Both Nevada and California fishing licenses are honored at the state-straddling Topaz Lake, which can be purchased at the Topaz Lake Lodge—which is a great place to stop ahead of your fishing adventure, and after, to raise a glass to a bountiful day on the water.
Fore more ways to enjoy winter in Reno-Tahoe Territory, visit our winter activities page.