Human-powered adventure is a hot topic in Northern Nevada. From the cerulean-turquoise hues of North Lake Tahoe to the Sierra Nevada mountaintop trails in Carson Valley, world-class athletes make this varied landscape—half parched desert, half lush hills—their training ground.

“Outdoor recreation is by far the biggest culture here,” says Jessica from North Lake Tahoe over a lakeside lunch. “It’s why people move here. There’s something for every season, from skiing and snowshoeing to snorkeling and sailing.”

I’m on a mission to try two of my favourite outdoor activities in this Wild West setting: kayaking and hiking.

 

Kayaking on North Lake Tahoe

photoAlison Karlene Hodgins

With my first glimpse of Lake Tahoe, I’m hooked. The azure water reflects the sun sumptuously, inviting me to its frigid shores. I join my paddling group and meet our guide, Tucker, who presents two large tubs brimming with bright blue water-resistant pants and tops. The billowing space suits and red PFDs will keep us warm as we’re splashed by 50-degree-Fahreientheit waves.

photoBella Bucchiotti

After a quick lesson and safety briefing, we push off in our sunshine-coloured double-kayaks. We paddle past glistening orange rocks and weave between buoyed motorboats. “Does anyone know how deep this lake is?” Tucker asks our floundering group.

“I heard you can fit the entire Empire State building inside it,” one paddler pipes up.

He chuckles. “That’s true. Lake Tahoe is 22 miles long, 12 miles wide and has 72 miles of shoreline to explore. It’s the largest alpine lake in North America.”

photoAlison Karlene Hodgins

We paddle around the shoreline, passing summer homes and empty beaches. There are no towering resorts, no rowdy teenagers, no oppressive crowds of camera-clicking tourists. “That’ll change when school’s out,” Tucker promises.

Although we only have a couple hours to float along the waves, there are longer options for keen kayakers. The Tahoe Adventure Company offers a 4-hour tour with a picnic lunch included. If you’d rather go on your own, shops in Tahoe Vista rent kayaks and stand up paddle boards on an hourly and daily basis. The entire circumference of the lake can be paddled in about five days, with evenings spent camping on various beaches.

 

Hiking the Genoa Trail System

photoAlison Karlene Hodgins

Dust rises from beneath my boots in a greyish beige cloud. I cough, my lips coated, mouth dry. I can’t seem to get enough water.

We’re hiking from Genoa Canyon along the Discovery Trail to Genoa Falls. Maintained by the Carson Valley Trail System, this trail is packed sand and loose shale, single-track switchbacks that climb moderately. Views of the green valley below and snow-capped mountains in the distance punctuate the 1,425 ft of elevation gain along the 6.3-mile roundtrip trail.

We’re surrounded by beige hills and mint-green sage brush. It’s hard to believe just over the next peak is topaz-tinted Lake Tahoe. Here, we’re removed from beachy summer vibes that flood the vacation hotspot. Instead, we’re in the realm of rattlers and mountain lions. “If you want to do something different, come stay in Carson Valley, go for a hike, and then go to Tahoe,” says Heidi from Visit Carson Valley. As someone who is always looking to escape the crowds, I couldn’t agree more.

photoAlison Karlene Hodgins

The stark contrast of lush, green Tahoe and hot, rugged Carson Valley convinces me they’re both worth a visit. From swimming and kayaking to fishing, camping and hiking, this area blooms with adventure options. Just don’t forget your sunscreen and waterbottle.

 

Looking for more adventure in Northern Nevada?

 

If you like wildlife…

Join John on an informative Wild Horse Photography tour just outside of Minden. He knows all the horses by name and will share stories of the bands with a fatherly affection. If you’re lucky, you might also see baby owls and birds of prey.

photoAlison Karlene Hodgins

 

If you like relaxing…

Visit 1862 David Walley’s Hot Springs or indulge in the spa at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort.

 

If you like culture…

Wander back to the Wild West in Virginia City or learn about the history of the Carson Valley in the Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park.

photoAlison Karlene Hodgins

Where to stay:

Although I recommend spending as little time as possible in Reno, it's an accessible hub you're likely to fly into. If you have to spend the night, opt for the non-smoking, game-free Whitney Peak Hotel. Try your hand at the outdoor rock climbing wall that hangs above the busy city streets.

 

When to go:

The best time to visit is in September, when there are less crowds and the weather (and water) is still warm. Don’t miss the Autumn Food and Wine Festival, which couples outdoor events with local delicacies, such as wine tastings up a gondola and hiking to beautiful picnic spots.

photoAlison Karlene Hodgins

How to get there:

Lake Tahoe is only 40 miles from Reno. From there, it’s an hour drive to Genoa.

 

Disclaimer: This article includes activities from a press trip with Travel Nevada. All opinions are my own.

 

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