Discover sun, sand and summer fun at Zephyr Cove

People start to get ready to board the “M.S. Dixie II.” | Kayla Anderson

At 9 a.m. on a sunny, holiday weekend morning, the residents and visitors of Zephyr Cove Resort & Marina are just waking up. Lakeside, staff is pulling out paddleboards, kayaks and pedal boats. Personal watercraft sit perched in front of a sandy beach as a few families set their umbrellas up. Two buildings over from the volleyball net and directly across from a long pier, a line starts to form of people buying tickets to take a cruise on “M.S. Dixie II” or “Tahoe Paradise.”

However, even on a busy holiday weekend, drive in as far as you can and a few walk-in tent sites are available. Tents are pitched in between boulders, wet towels warming in the sun.

Across the street on the mountainside, a smattering of RVs and fifth-wheel trailers can be seen from Highway 50. However, even on a busy holiday weekend, drive in as far as you can and a few walk-in tent sites are available. Tents are pitched in between boulders, wet towels warming in the sun. The air smells of sugar pines and remnants from the previous night’s campfires.

At the end of the campground, a couple of unmarked hiking trails lead visitors toward the mountainside and trails that likely intersect with Zephyr Cove Stables. Around since 1987, the stables have 45 to 55 happy horses with names like Ruby, Snowball and Big Red that meander through the creeks, manzanita bushes and pines up to the ridge to give their riders a magnificent bird’s-eye views of Lake Tahoe. Guests also can see wildlife such as chipmunks, mountain chickadees and blue jays scurrying around. (My group once encountered a bear on a trail ride).

Paddleboards, kayaks and pedal boats wait for people to take them out at the Zephyr Cove Marina. | Kayla Anderson

If you can’t fit in a horseback ride, though, there are plenty of trails in and around Zephyr Cove to hike like the 2.7-mile Castle Rock Trail, the 5.2-mile Kingsbury Pines Trail or sections along the Tahoe Rim Trail. Trails also lead to and from Nevada Beach Campground, which links to Round Mound Trail and Round Hill Pines Beach Resort with a marina.

Most people end up on the lakeside of Highway 50 to spend the day, basking in the sun where long stretches of beige sand meet the water. Besides swimming in the chilly lake, people can take out pedal boats or rent a personal watercraft, power or pontoon boat to take to Skunk Harbor. When one ventures out of the coves, the natural gigantic rock formations that dot the southeast shoreline provide some depth into the lake while also giving boaters the ability to drop anchor and bust out the goggles to do some underwater exploration.

Zephyr Cove Resort also offers parasailing, an exhilarating experience that lifts riders above the water with sweeping views of Lake Tahoe, including Emerald Bay, Mount Tallac, the Tahoe Keys and North Shore.

While a perfect day at Zephyr Cove is generally spent at the beach, visitors can start their day out as early as they want and stay as late as they’d like. Nor-Cal Charters Lake Tahoe offers guided fishing trips from the Zephyr Cove Marina. People regularly catch deep-water mackinaw, rainbow or cutthroat trout.

At the end of the day, consider keeping it going on the “M.S. Dixie II” for a sunset cruise or nurse your sunburn with a signature Zephyr Mai Tai from the Sunset Bar & Grill. Or if you’ve spent the day exploring the quieter Nevada Beach Campground, stop at Toast Tahoe for lunch, dinner and/or a glass of vino from its expansive wine list. | zephyrcove.com