A four hour drive from San Francisco brings you to one of the most breathtakingly beautiful lakes in the world. The border between California and Nevada bisects the Lake, which is over six thousand feet above sea level. The water is so cold that cowboys drowned in past centuries are said to be perfectly preserved on the bottom of the lake.
Lake Tahoe offers the choicest selection of skiing in the US in winter, and a centre of a host of outdoor pursuits in summer. OutUK's Stevie Gardiner has been exploring this unique holiday destination.
Just hours from the desert plain that Sacramento sits in, Lake Tahoe is set amidst tall granite peaks and thickly wooded forests. Think a massive Norwegian fjord and you've got a perfect picture of what Lake Tahoe is like. In the summer the towns and campsites around the lake are full of jetskiers, sailors and anglers, while in the winter months it's skiers and snowboarders.
Courtesy LTVA.
There's an extra attraction too. The fact that it's on the California/Nevada border means that cross one street and you go from pine forest surrounded chalets and low-rise motels, to a mini-Las Vegas with casinos such as Harrah's and Caesar's Palace in the town of Stateline.

While it makes the place pretty schizophrenic, it does mean that whatever time of year you go, you can get fit during the day, and get plenty of Las Vegas style nightlife and gambling the rest of the time. The casinos also pay a fortune to keep the roads open, so however much it snows, you'll always be able to get to the slots and tables.

Look west and it's California, look east and it's Nevada.


No-one goes to Lake Tahoe for the gay nightlife. The fact is that almost everyone gravitates to the casinos which offer 24 hour food, drink and gambling, at least once during their stay. If you want an evening in a gay bar you'll be best to drive the 40 miles to Reno to sample a few of theirs - well 4 actually.

5 Star Saloon has the old school gay bar feel with good prices, pool tables, food and a good atmosphere. Staff are great too. Although it's a gay bar it's also a great bar with all types of clientele. It has many slot machines and is open 24 hours a day.

Carl's - The Saloon is also worth a mention - it's Reno's oldest Gayborhood Bar that welcomes everyone. It has a great patio and 2 dance floors as well as terrific food and a fun vibe. They stage occasional leather nights, karaoke evenings and drag nights.


South Lake Tahoe is a popular weekend destination for people from San Francisco and Sacramento, but you can often get good deals midweek. The casino hotels offer standard Las Vegas style accommodation with the usual all-you-can eat buffets, and there are the usual American chains too. But if you want to experience the best of Tahoe you should try a bed-and-breakfast, which bear no comparison with their English equivalent.
We stayed at the Black Bear Inn which was originally set up by co-owners and partners Jerry Birdwell and Kevin Chandler. This beautiful property now has new owners and is no longer exclusively gay, but they do make a point of welcoming all guests. It's a lovingly recreated development of three alpine style wooden cabins and a main lodge with five guest bedrooms.
The Lodge located just moments from the shores of beautiful Lake Tahoe and the slopes of Heavenly Mountain and more importantly for many it's well within walking distance to some of the best restaurants in town.
Black Bear is furnished with impeccable taste and a mixture of original antiques and designer furnishings. Set amongst pine trees and gardens there's a hot tub to replenish weary limbs after a day's snowboarding or hiking, and it's minutes away from the lift to the Heavenly Mountain ski run and just a five minute drive from the casinos in Stateline. Like the name suggests, the views from "Heavenly" are just stunning.
The rear of The Main Lodge overlooking the garden.


Virgin and British Airways fly non-stop to San Francisco and it's a simple four-hour drive to South Lake Tahoe, but beware the Friday night traffic getting out of the Bay Area. You can also fly to Reno-Tahoe airport and there's a coach transfer to South Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe airport is closer but offers more limited services.


Black Bear Inn (1202 Ski Run Blvd. South Lake Tahoe CA96150; T: +1 530 544-4451; Website)
Lake Tahoe Visitors Bureau (4114 Lake Tahoe Blvd., South Lake Tahoe; T: +1 530 542-4637; Website)
South Lake Tahoe Ski Information (Website)

5 Star Saloon (132 West St, Reno; T: +1 775 499-5655; Website)
Carl's - The Saloon (3310 S Virginia St, Reno; T: +1 775 829-0099; facebook)

Revised November 2022


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