Switzerland in the Sierra

Tahoe City

The Big Blue: Circle it, cruise it, swim it... Lake Tahoe's there for the taking.     Photo: PhotoDisc

Three More Golden Opportunities

1. Climb 14,494-foot Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the lower 48. 760-876-6200, www.nps.gov/seki/whitney.htm
2. Paddlers and rafters flock to the Kern River, in the southern Sierra, for Class IV whitewater. Float it with Kern River Outfitters. 800-323-4234, www.kernrafting.com
3. Stiff breezes make San Francisco Bay a kitesurfer's dream. Take lessons from Alameda's Kite Wind Surf. 877-521-9463, www.kitewindsurf.com —Megan Michelson

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Follow the Tahoe Water Trail: Grab an Adventure Maps guide to the TW Trail—a waterproof list of the best hotels, bars, restaurants, and paddling shops within walking distance of Lake Tahoe's 72 miles of shoreline—and kayak-tour in style. 530-542-5651, www.laketahoewatertrail.org
Catch a Thermal: Enjoy the lake from the air on a tandem hang-gliding flight with Tahoe Tandems, in Reno. The coastal air of the Sierra converges with the hot wind of the Nevada desert to create powerful thermals that circle up to 16,000 feet. 775-378-1707, www.tahoetandems.com
Run the Legend: The most rewarding 25 miles of the Western States 100 trail run starts from the base of Squaw Valley, climbs straight up the ski runs, past alpine meadows and high-country granite, and tops out at Emigrant Pass. Tackle it anytime during the summer. Drop a car at Robinson Flat to shuttle you back to Squaw Valley. 916-387-8796, www.ws100.com
Jump In: "One of my favorite places is Emerald Bay, on the southwest shore of Lake Tahoe," says professional cyclist Bobby Julich, of Reno. "The water's crystal-clear, and the scent of evergreens permeates the air. On a hot day, I'll ride out there and dive in." 530-541-3030, www.parks.ca.gov
Bike Northstar: Northstar-at-Tahoe, outside Truckee, boasts one of the best lift-served downhill mountain-bike parks in the country, with 100 miles of trail full of teeter-totters and log rides. The True North shop can tune your suspension to the trails or rent you a ten-inch-travel Santa Cruz V10. 530-562-1010, www.northstarattahoe.com
Float the Truckeee: Tubing the Truckee River is a Tahoe tradition, and on July 4, thousands descend on the five-mile stretch between Tahoe City and the Alpine Meadows turnoff for an unparalleled float party. Bring a tube or rent rafts from Truckee River Raft Company. 530-583-0123, www.truckeeriverraft.com

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Six miles into the Desolation Wilderness from the Echo Lake Trailhead, you'll find the Campsite at Lake Aloha, under Pyramid Peak. 530-543-2600, www.fs.fed.us/r5/ltbmu
The Lost Trail Lodge brings hot tubs and overstuffed down comforters to the backcountry. Accessible via a four-mile ski, hike, or bike on the Coldstream Trail north from Truckee. Doubles, $55; 530-320-9268, www.losttraillodge.com

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