Whether summer or winter, Lake Tahoe is one of California’s most visited and naturally beautiful destinations. It was referred to by the original explorers as “the jewel of the Sierra.” Lake Tahoe reaches depths of 1,645 feet, making it the second deepest in America next to Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. Each season has a different face, a new canvas to explore. Disabled Sports USA Far West hosts many adapted recreational activities from summer to winter in Lake Tahoe such as snow skiing, kayaking, jet skiing, sailing, ATV adventures, and more. Reservations are required.

South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe borders California and Nevada and is heavily populated with the largest hotels and casinos in the area, including Harrah’s, Harvey’s, Montbleu, and Lakeside. Sometimes the accessible entrance may be a bit hard to find, but it’s there. There is, of course, gambling of all kinds as well as restaurants, clubs, bars, and concerts. Heavenly Village is a hub for South Lake Tahoe with a few restaurants, coffee houses, and sweet treat shops if you get hungry. Driftwood café is a favorite for breakfast, soups, sandwiches, and salads. A variety of retail stores align the walkways from jewelry to clothes to art galleries to sunglasses. Many stores sell outdoor clothing, like North Face, Harley Davidson, and Billabong, but you can also find a few boutique stores. On the rim of the Heavenly Village is a movie theater featuring Hollywood’s latest blockbusters.

Want to ski in South Lake Tahoe? Heavenly Village, managed by the Heavenly Mountain Resort is also where skiers can take to the slopes. Also located in South Lake Tahoe are the Kirkwood Ski Resort and Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort.

The Picchetti Winery is a short drive from the casinos and opens daily for wine tasting. If looking for a great Mexican restaurant then try the family-owned Mazatlan Grill or directly across from the Heavenly Village is McP’s Irish Pub & Grill which has live music almost every night.

The two longest paved wheelchair accessible trails in South Lake Tahoe are the  South Lake Tahoe Bike Path and Pope-Baldwin Bike Path. The Pop-Baldwin trail is about 3.9 miles long and runs parallel to Highway 89 and a little of 50. The South Lake Tahoe trail starts at the beginning of Highway 50 and splits off to a number of other trails throughout the city of South Lake Tahoe and into Nevada. Close to the Nevada Stateline and the casinos is the Nevada Beach Campgrounds where there is a paved path that leads to a nice picnic area that will be accessible enough for most.

For a little hiking in the woods while in South Lake, head to Taylor Creek where you can explore the Rainbow Trail. From the Taylor Creek Visitor Center, you can access the half-mile trail through the forest and wetlands where aquatic life thrives. The trail is one-way and nearly entirely paved, except for a section that is a boardwalk. The start of the trail has an accessible lookout point to the wetlands and Lake Tahoe followed by a medium-sized hill. Those using a manual wheelchair will most likely need assistance to return to the parking lot.

Behind the Taylor Creek, Visitor Center is the Sky Trail which is completely flat but is unpaved. The uneven surface coupled with small rocks and other debris may be a nuisance for some in manual chairs but should be no problem for most with a power wheelchair. The Sky Trail leads to Hope Beach and Lake Tahoe. The Taylor Creek Visitor Center has accessible restrooms inside as well as several handicapped parking spots, and some are van accessible. If hiking around for the day then be sure to pack a snack. I recommend a Tahoe Trail Bar: organic, locally made, and ever so tasty.

The temperature of Lake Tahoe is nearly always freezing or close to it, so there are not necessarily many people swimming in the lake, but there are many ways to enjoy being on the water. One way to experience Lake Tahoe is by taking a Lake Tahoe Cruise. Both boats, The Tahoe Queen and M.S. Dixie II are similar in price and amenities offered, like a meal. The Zephyr Cove and Ski Run Marina are the starting points and all include a visit to Emerald Bay, named after its jeweled-colored waters. The cruise ships have ramps to the bottom level of the boat that will be steep for some, but crew members are standing nearby to assist if needed. This includes a ramp out to the ship’s deck.  If a meal is not included, snacks and often some food items are offered along with alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages. Both the Tahoe Queen and M.S. Dixie II offer a handicapped accessible restroom (on the lower deck) that is large enough for even most power wheelchairs.

A great spot to enjoy the lake on Hope Beach is at the Beacon Restaurant at Camp Richardson. There is a full bar with indoor and outdoor seating on the patio and an accessible restroom inside. Only one handicapped, van-accessible, parking spot is available in front. The Beacon Restaurant is open year-round and is surrounded by paved biking trails previously noted. Camp Richardson itself has many small cabins for guests but none are accessible. However, the main office and lodge do have a few rooms, one of which is ADA-compliant with a roll-in shower.

Additional Trails

About a 30-minute drive from South Lake Tahoe is The River Fork Ranch Trail System managed by the Carson Valley Trail Association. This is another option for visitors needing accessibility.

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