Part 2: Is the West Shore the Best Shore? (See Link to Part 1, the East, at end of article)
By Flo Williamson
January 8, 2017 — There are many folks that claim the West Shore of Lake Tahoe and areas north offer the best living on the lake. The hardest part in visiting the West Shore is actually getting there, especially heading north along the lake from South Lake Tahoe.
While the areas just north of South Lake Tahoe have some of the best beaches and great state parks, it is also the route for some of Lake Tahoe’s greatest tourist attractions. In fact, this part of the lake in particular is generally much more oriented towards tourists than it is retirees. Camp Richardson is a government run campground, RV park, marina, restaurant, and more, catering to lake visitors. With 300 camping and RV sites and more cabin accommodations, the resulting traffic along this stretch of the one road around the lake can be horrendous, especially during the summer. Then, as you continue north, the road rises hundreds of feet above the lake with hairpin curves (and no guardrails) that seem like they’re ending in the lake itself – not for the faint hearted!! This leads us to Emerald Bay, one of the most beautiful and photographed bays in the world and the starting point of numerous hikes and trails. The parking lots quickly fill and cars park along the narrow stretch of roadway, with pedestrians dashing back and forth in front of your car. Locals know to definitely avoid this area, especially on summer weekends.
Once you make it past Emerald Bay, you’ll find that this is the place where “Old Tahoe” reigns. The area along the west shore of lake is made up primarily of beautiful state parks, interspersed with small villages. Tahoma and Tahoe Pines offer a post office, general store, and maybe a pizza place or takeout restaurant. There are old time mom and pop cabin type lodgings set among towering pines with an occasional lake marina and a restaurant or two. The town of Homewood also has its own, albeit small, ski resort. While there are lakefront mansions, most towns along this area of the west shore have small cabin type homes. All this peace and tranquility come with a price however; it is rare to find any type of property for sale under $500,000.
As the road around the lake heads north, the small towns and parks give way to more and more lakefront homes and communities. It ends in the northwest side of the lake at Tahoe City. Tahoe City is the “big city” of this area. While services and shopping in town is limited, there are grocery stores, motels, banks, restaurants, and upscale shopping with art galleries and jewelry stores. Homes are expensive, with the Zillow Home Value index at $669,600. There is a fair amount of public waterfront along the west shore of the lake and Tahoe City is no exception. There is a public park and beach and some limited camping. Tahoe City is also the location of the main public transportation hub that runs from the west shore of the lake, all the way back to Incline Village, where we started our tour in Part One.
We’re going to take a detour from the road around the lake and go up from Tahoe City, heading toward the town of Truckee, to the ski resort of Squaw Valley. This site hosted the first televised Winter Olympics in 1960. Olympic Valley and the Squaw Ski resort was developed to host these games. While the iconic Olympic Torch still burns at the entrance to Olympic Valley, the snow resort has come along way since then. One of the most popular ski resorts in the area, Squaw now is a true resort destination in both winter and summer. Upscale restaurants, shops, and condo lodging prevail with some single family homes and shared ownership opportunities available. In addition to winter activities, the resort offers hiking, fairs, and numerous festivals in the summer.
Top of the lake
Back to Tahoe City, traveling along the top of the lake, there are fewer towns, state parks, and open beachfront. Here you’ll find many “private communities” along the lake with their own private beachfront and docks. When arriving in Tahoe Vista, however, you feel like you are back in civilization. There are many more options for shopping and lodging and in next door, Kings Beach, public parks with beach access begin again. Kings Beach has undergone a recent refurbishment, with sidewalks and new traffic plans improving the area. There is more reasonably priced real estate in these two towns, but it’s a popular area and good properties don’t stay on the market for long. The Zillow Home Value Index in Kings Beach is was $469,400 in late 2017 – expensive but not out of line for California.
Heading east to Incline Village, we cross back into Nevada. We travel through the gaming area in Crystal Bay, site of some old timey casinos and the former home of the CalNeva Resort, which entertained Frank Sinatra and his Ratpack cronies. In a few miles, we’re back in Incline Village, where we began our tour in part one of this article.
What retirement life is like here
Services for seniors in the area are limited. Due to the proximity of I-80 and the SF Bay Area, the majority of the homes here are 2nd homes so there are not that many full time residents. The county does seem to provide services for “aging in place”, but the only scheduled activities for seniors are limited and located in Truckee (which I will cover in my next article). The Kings Beach area doesn’t seem to offer much more for retirees. There is a large Hispanic population there and the programs there are geared for them and their families. There are some volunteer opportunities in both towns. Incline Village, which was covered in my first article, has great senior services for residents.
There are Meetups for various interests in the Tahoe City and Kings Beach area. The nearest hospital to Tahoe City is in Truckee and there is a small hospital near Kings Beach in Incline Village.
I hope I’ve given you a snapshot of Lake Tahoe. It offers wonderful recreational and entertainment opportunities for retirees, even though the cost of living and real estate can be pricey. In part three of this series, we’ll look at some lower priced alternatives that will still enable you to take advantage of all Lake Tahoe has to offer!!!
Comments? Please share your thoughts about a Tahoe retirement in the Comments section below.
For further reading:
Flo’s Lake Tahoe Retirement Tour: Part 1
Flo’s North Carolina Visit
Flo’s Observations about South Carolina Retirement
Comments? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.