Thinking of making a pit stop on the road to Lake Tahoe?
There are a number of small towns scattered around the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Virginia Range that are worth checking out. Here are some of our favorites.
Virginia City, Nevada: The Real Wild West
At the holidays, hop aboard the V&T Candy Cane Express, a journey featuring hot cocoa, cider, sweets, and sing-a-long carols.
(Courtesy of @virginiacity)
This historical Old West mining town is 35 minutes southeast of Reno. It’s known for its annual camel and ostrich race, paranormal activity, and the dramatic Silver Terrace Cemetery, making it a popular Halloween destination. Come December, there’s the month-long Christmas on the Comstock celebration with includes sleigh rides, a parade, holiday faire, and the Grinch Made Me Do It Saloon Crawl. You can also tour the famed Chollar Mine(615 F St.), which was first staked in 1859 and allegedly haunted. For overnight digs, stay at 161-year-old former rooming house, the Gold Hill Hotel and Saloon(1540 S. Main St.).
Nevada City, California: A Historic Stay, Farm-to-Table Food + Street Fairs
Inside the revamped National Exchange Hotel.
This bustling gold rush town is just 30 minutes from Truckee on Highway 20, and notable for its excellent restaurants, holiday parades, street fairs (including the popular Victorian Christmas), breweries, and saloons. There’s enough to do in and around town- lovely Grass Valley is just four miles away- to make a long weekend of it. Check into the gloriously renovated mid-19th century National Exchange Hotel(211 Broad St.) and plan on dinner at the property’s French-Californian restaurant, Lola; end the evening with a nightcap in the Victorian-era bar. Taste the best of what Placer County growers have to offer at Heartwood (237 Commercial St.) or, if the historic vibes around town make you crave the classics, head to Friar Tuck’s (111 N. Pine St.) for fondue or prime rib. On the way home, hit The Ham Stand Salumeria (821 Zion St.), featuring local heritage meats.
Feel like making a weekend of it? We have an itinerary for you.
Apple Hill, California: Plentiful Produce + Photo Ops
(Courtesy of @applehill)
There's a reason that the Apple Hill area in the Sierra Foothills (about 50 miles west of Lake Tahoe) gets gridlocked every October: The farms between Pollock Pines and Placerville grow a plethora of winter squash, pears, grapes, and of course, apples, many of which are sold at farm stands and U-picks. There’s also Crystal Basin Recreation Area, ideal for family-friendly hiking, biking and camping. To avoid the inevitable wait times, hop the annual October shuttle offered by El Dorado Transit, which stops at area farms. Don’t forget to grab some hot apple cider donuts at Rainbow Orchards (2569 Larsen Dr.) for the drive home.
Genoa, Nevada: Western Stores + The State's Oldest Bar
David Walley's Hot Springs Resort.
(Courtesy of @sammy.inthe.sierra)
Genoa—pronounced juh-no-ah—is situated at the foot of the eastern Tahoe Range; to get there from Lake Tahoe, take Kingsbury Grade or Highway 395 South. This hamlet in the pastoral Carson Valley offers a multitude of outdoor recreation as well as Western antique stores, Mormon Station State Historic Park, the yearly Genoa Candy Dance & Arts Faire, holiday festivals, and David Walley's Hot Springs Resort(2001 Foothill Rd.). Come for happy hour and hang with the locals at Genoa Bar & Saloon(2282 Main St.), Nevada's oldest continuously operating watering hole.
Markleeville, California: Fishing, Hot Springs + Harleys
Wylder Hope Valley is a winter wonderland this season.
(Courtesy of @wylderhotelhv)
Located 30 minutes south of South Lake Tahoe, sleepy Markleeville is a popular stop for motorcyclists, fishing enthusiasts, hot spring seekers, and hikers; the region also offers Nordic pursuits, snowmobiling, wildflower viewing, and paddling on Lake Winnemucca. This scenic area has a plethora of rental cabins and a handful of shops and restaurants, including Cutthroat Brewing Company(14830 CA-89) and wood-fired eatery Stonefly(14821 CA-89). Camp at Grover Hot Springs State Park, which has views of the surrounding mountain peaks (Note: The state park is currently closed due to damage from the Tamarack Fire. Check for updates at.parks.ca.gov). If roughing it isn’t your thing, check into a cabin or glamp in a yurt or Airstream at Wylder Hope Valley, which also has a café and general store.