Nevada, Where We've Been

Lake Tahoe & Carson City, Nevada

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Lake Tahoe & Carson City

Three days. It took us three days of driving from Colorado to reach western Nevada and near the sandy shores of Lake Tahoe. We were originally going to stay at Washoe Lake State Park, but after trying to park our 40 foot RV into a space meant for a bivy tent and a smart car, we gratefully headed out of there and came to a much better suited spot on BLM land near Gardnerville, Nevada. 

On the first day of the trip, we had the misfortune of breaking one of our glass shower doors. It must have been an opportunely timed bump we went over that caused the door to be hit just right. Glass littered the bathroom floor so that we could not walk in without the chance of stepping on it. 

Fortunately the rest of the trip was without incident. We made it to Gardnerville, filled our tank with water, and set up the RV in a beautiful, quiet, and peaceful spot. More about that later… 

At about 40 minutes from Lake Tahoe, it was a great spot to make our basecamp for the week.

Beyond the mountains, seen from our campsite, lie the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Lake Tahoe.

“On the first day of the trip, we had the misfortune of breaking one of our glass shower doors. It must have been a bump we went over that caused the door to be hit just right. “

South Lake Tahoe

Crossing up into the mountains from Gardnerville, the pine trees and small mountain towns surrounded us. The smell of fresh pine was in the air. It was beyond beautiful! 

Our first stop was at Emerald Bay State Park to see Fannette Island. Rising 150 feet above the bay it is a granite fortress which bears the title of the only island to exist at Lake Tahoe.  On the mount of Fannette Island, there is a small stone structure that was used as a teahouse at one time. Mrs. Knight had stone brought to the island for its construction and a few times each summer, she would bring her guests there for a visit.

The drive is a tenuous one, up steep mountain terrain with 10 mph turns and sparse guardrails. There is a fee to park at the top, but the view and fresh mountain air was worth it. We met the Old Veteran pine tree going up, a tree that was left standing when all the others around it were cut down in the 1800’s. This sole survivor was left because it was not fit for logging due to its dual trunk. It’s been dated to be 350-400 years old.

We drove to Stateline on the way back down from Emerald Bay. The area was hopping with tourists who had come to see the shops and cafes before taking a scenic ride up mountain on the gondolas.

We stopped in at the visitor’s center to learn a bit about how Lake Tahoe was formed. The lake and the mountains around Lake Tahoe are part of the Sierra Nevada mountain range which was formed by earthquakes many years ago. The lake itself began as a river flowing through the mountains, which over time deepened as the surrounding mountains rose. Volcanic eruptions caused a blockage in the river and the valley filled with water, creating Lake Tahoe. It is fed by watershed from the mountains surrounding it, leading to its stunning crystal blue color.

Fannette Island at Emerald Bay
The Old Veteran believed to be 350-400 years old
Town of Stateline
Gondolas at Stateline
Lake Tahoe formation at the Visitor’s Center
Nevada Beach
Seagulls at Nevada Beach
Nevada Beach

Nevada Beach

There are both private and public beaches in the area. The first one we went to was a private beach and for the three of us would have cost $55. We decided against that and instead went to Nevada Beach about 2 miles down the road.

If there’s ever a beach to visit on the southern end of Lake Tahoe, Nevada Beach seemed perfect. It’s only a short walk from the parking area to reach the sandy seashore. It wasn’t too crowded either, just a few parties and beach-goers scattered around.

A few, small waves on the shore was perfect for sand castle building and relaxing. The kids used their raft as a frisbee, built sand castles, buried each other in the sand, and enjoyed playing in the cool water. 

The California-Nevada state line runs through the middle of the lake. You know that point where the California border turns from due south to southeast, that’s in the middle of Lake Tahoe, just a few hundred feet from where we were enjoying the waves and where kayakers were rowing in the calm waters. 

North Lake Tahoe

A few days later, we decided to check out the northern side of Lake Tahoe. There is a stark contrast between northern and southern Lake Tahoe. While the south side is more of a beachy tourist spot, northern Lake Tahoe had a lot more mountainous terrain, few spots for parking, and more rocks than beaches.

This time my husband was able to go with us as we went for a sunset trip. We took off after he was finished with work and headed up with a packed picnic dinner.

We first went up to Chickadee Ridge, a prime spot for overlooking Lake Tahoe. It was a steep, rough climb to the top, but the view was worth it. 

They call it Chickadee Ridge because the birds there will fly into your outstretched hands if you have birdseed to give them. The kids filled their hands with birdseed and managed to hold still for several minutes, but unfortunately, that day the Chickadees were not biting that day. We still enjoyed their sweet song though and left them some seed to come and get when they were ready.

We hiked back down from Chickadee Ridge to find a beach to eat our dinner. Sand Harbor was closed earlier when we had driven by, but on the way back it had opened so we drove in to try it out. Unfortunately they had a no dogs sign and so we had to keep moving on.

We ended up at Cave Rock Beach, about a 20 minute drive south of Sand Harbor.

North Lake Tahoe
Trying to feed the Chickadees
Overlooking Lake Tahoe at Chickadee Ridge
Chickadee Ridge
Cave Rock


Sunset at Cave Rock Beach


Swimming at Cave Rock Beach


Cave Rock Beach

Cave Rock is mostly a boating area, but it does have a small beach if you go down to the end of the parking lot. Dogs were not allowed on this beach either, but they had picnic tables where we could finally stretch out and eat our dinner. 

The kids ate quickly and were off to play in the water and make more sandcastles, while my husband and I relaxed on the rocks and took in the beautiful sunset together.

The great thing about this beach is that because the wind was blowing relatively strong to the northeast, it was making some great waves wash up on the shore. The kids were able to wade out about 100 feet into the water and enjoy playing in the waves.

Carson City – The Capitol of Nevada

When not enjoying the beautiful beaches of Lake Tahoe, we went into Carson City, the Nevada state capitol and toured both the capitol building and the Nevada Railroad Museum.

On the second floor of the capitol building, there is a museum called the Battle Born Museum. Battle Born is also on the Nevada state flag. None of us knew what it meant, so we asked at the front desk. Basically, it means that Nevada was born during the civil war and the silver found in the state went to help fund the Union army’s war efforts. 

The kids got to try out morse code, learn about free roaming mustangs, the state bird, fish, trees, and a bunch of other great Nevada historic facts.

At the railroad museum, they had a number of old steam engine trains. The kids found out the importance of time to a railroad, how to construct train track, how a steam engine works, and about the workers who built the track.

The transcontinental railroad was built in two sections. The first beginning in California and heading east and the other starting in Nebraska and heading west. The two met each other halfway in Promontory, Utah where a golden spike was laid to indicate the final spike between the two halves and the completion of the transcontinental line connecting east and west.


Nevada State Capitol – practicing morse code
Nevada State Railroad Museum

Boondocking on BLM Land in Gardnerville

We boondocked on BLM land in Gardnerville, Nevada the week we visited Lake Tahoe. We practically had the whole place to ourselves. Beautiful sunrises and sunsets with views of the mountains and very quiet. I don’t believe I even heard a bird or cricket chirp. There is a dirt road nearby that is used occasionally by locals, maybe 10 cars a day that pass through the area, some dog walkers, and one OHV. The road into the area is very bumpy, but it is short. There are plenty of sites to choose from, but they are not all in great condition, so choose wisely if you decide to go.

We did have a cop come and check on us. Apparently he was called to come out by one of the passer-by’s for a check, but he confirmed this was BLM land and we could stay up to 14 days if we wanted.

For big rig access, enter from Douglas County Fairgrounds and take the first right. There is a slight angled drop to get down into the area. It is passable by big rigs, but go slow. The other roads in and out are probably better with smaller rigs and camper vans as they are either too steep or too bumpy. The road to the south, Mustang Lane, is not advised for big rigs either as there is a huge dip just before entering the area.

I would definitely stay here again. It was a great first boondocking experience for us!


Boondocking on BLM land at the Douglas County Fairgrounds
Sunrise over our boondocking site