Tahoe’s Great Outdoors

An often seen Facebook post says:

“If you’re 10 years old, you have a laptop, iPod, Facebook and a Blackberry … Dude, when I was 10, I only had one thing to play with … it was called ’outside.’” In my opinion, those who grew up then were better off because of it.

While kids playing outside surely develop their bodies and burn off calories, they also develop their creative minds by learning how to explore the world around them without an agenda. Having escaped from some of the strictures and distractions that kids find in the civilized world, children learn personal responsibility in nature by actually having to use their brains, instead of technology. While our schools, in their frantic effort to produce kids who do well on tests, have replaced recess and physical education with more class time, many believe it is that time off from the books that help children’s (and adults’) minds recharge and work more effectively.

Since some kids (and their parents) are not experts at playing outside, I’ve come up with a few suggestions for places to go and things to do around Lake Tahoe to get the ball rolling.

Take a Hike

Tips on hiking: Hiking, or you can call it walking if it sounds less intimidating, gives children a chance to explore our natural surroundings up close and personal. Be sure to allow your kids enough free reign to wander and explore. That is when the learning happens.

Tahoe Meadows

Tahoe Meadows is not only a humongous kids’ playground, but the Tahoe Rim Trail/Mt. Rose Trailhead is close to Reno. A 10-year-old might enjoy the fairly easy five-mile round-trip jaunt on the TRT to the sparkling waters of Galena Falls. Younger kids can enjoy a romp on the level, mile-long TRT interpretative trail that heads out from the Tahoe Meadows Trailhead, or hop onto one of the short meadow loops along Ophir Creek.

To get there: The Mt. Rose and Tahoe Meadows Trailheads are on Highways 431, 17 miles west of its intersection with Highway 395. (Or is it Interstate 580? I’m so confused.)

Page Meadows

Kids will love tromping through this series of meadows bordered by aspen trees. Several easy access points are available that are just a short walk to the good stuff. See if the kids can spot the Basque sheepherders’ oven and some mildly risqué aspen wood carvings. They also might locate a handmade bench placed along a side meadow in honor of a famous Tahoe skier.

To get there: Take the Tahoe Rim Trail off of Ward Creek Boulevard, about 3 miles southwest of Tahoe City, or go to the end of Silver Tip in the Talmont Estates neighborhood.

Spooner Lake

Just 10 miles from Carson City, the Spooner Lake Loop takes you through the aspens to the shores of marshy Spooner Lake. Older, more adventurous kids can take the trail four-miles to the more enticing shores of Marlette Lake. And if you don’t get around to taking this hike in the summer, that’s OK. The extensive groves of aspens turn it into a fall color extravaganza.

To get there: The Spooner Lake Trail and Marlette Lake Trail begins at the Tahoe Rim Trail North trailhead at Spooner Summit on Highway 50.

Almost anywhere else

It’s not as much the place as giving the kids the time and the freedom to explore their environment. If you want to push your outdoorsy envelope and really give your kids a chance to experience the outdoors, take them on a short backpacking trip to a beautiful mountain lake, and leave the technology at home. It just might be your best parent-child bonding experience ever.

Get out on the River:

A right of passage for any kid at Tahoe is rafting down the Truckee River. This easy adventure is fun not only because it involves lots of splashing, swimming and screaming, but because the busy family atmosphere of the float turns into super soaker heaven. Get your kid one of those long range water throwers and let them have at it with their newfound friends or competitors.

Where to go: Truckee River Rafting by Mountain Air Sports, at the Y in Tahoe City. www.Truckeeriverrafting.com, (530) 583-1111.

Get out on the lake

Building sand castles and throwing each other into the chilly waters of Lake Tahoe are excellent uses of a kid’s time, but how about bringing a kayak or paddleboard and having the kids head out onto Tahoe’s beautiful waters? Here are a few choice spots:

On the West Shore, two great places to play in the sand are Meeks Bay Resort and Bliss State Park. Both have long and beautiful sandy beaches. From Bliss, kayak towards Emerald Bay and look for osprey nests. Be sure to arrive at the park early, as the lakeside parking lot needed to launch your kayak fills up early. At Meeks Bay, paddle out from shore to where the stark green water meets the deep blue. If the kids still have the energy, you can hike the lake hugging Rubicon Trail at Bliss State Park. To hike at Meeks Bay, cross the highway to the Meeks Creek Trail into the Desolation Wilderness. Just a mile of easy walking through wildflower-dotted meadows brings you to the remains of a Girl Scout camp. Stronger kids could make the ten-mile round trip to the beautiful Crag Lake.

To get there: Both beaches are on Highway 89. Meeks Bay is 10 miles south of Tahoe City. Bliss State Park is 17 miles south of Tahoe City.

Another beach option is the Commons Beach in the center of Tahoe City. While not quite the glorious sandy refuge that is Meeks Bay or Bliss, it has a playground just above the lake and on Sunday afternoons the popular concerts on the beach make it a great place to play for both children and adults.

Zip Away

Granlibakken’s Tree Top Adventure Park is a new and popular family activity. It’s a series of courses linking tree top to tree top via zip lines, bridges and lots of other fun challenges crazy people have come up with. There are beginner courses for those more than 4 years old and more advanced courses for teenagers and adults. The courses are demanding but, for an adventurous teenager, could be the highlight of their summer.

To get there: Granlibakken sits at the end of Granlibakken Road, one mile south of Tahoe City on Highway 89.