The following post comes from Tony Berendsen, Star Guide, poet, author, and owner of Tahoe Star Tours. During the winter, you'll often find him around Northstar California and The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, where he leads stargazing tours.
Stargazing is an adventure exploring the cosmos. During winter, the northern hemisphere offers some of the best views from our planet, from stellar nurseries, to star clusters, to the brightest stars in the night sky, and a whole lot more. But there are few destinations as adventurous, and beautiful, for winter stargazing than Lake Tahoe.
The combination of Lake Tahoe’s big, dark skies, clean mountain air, low light pollution, and expansive wilderness make for perfect stargazing conditions. Combine that with accessible, dramatic vistas and unique luxuries, and you have one of the best places for winter stargazing. So below I share a few of the best places for winter stargazing around Lake Tahoe, as well as info about a couple of my Lake Tahoe winter stargazing tours.
Mount Rose Meadows.
Mount Rose Meadows is located off of Highway 431, near the west side of Mount Rose’s 8,911-foot summit. The accessible recreation area offers a combination of spectacular views of the winter sky and a sweeping view of Lake Tahoe from the ridgeline. While the park is closed at night, there is plenty of parking on the wide shoulder of the highway. If you bring snowshoes to venture into the meadow, the view (and starry skies) gets better away from the occasional headlight of a passing car. Head toward the ridgeline for that sweeping view across Lake Tahoe.
Thomas F. Regan Memorial City Beach
Located in South Lake Tahoe, Thomas F. Regan Memorial City Beach is one of the most accessible places to stargaze on Lake Tahoe. While it’s not a wilderness area, the recreation area is located on the shore of Lake Tahoe, and shielded by trees, making for a convenient place for winter stargazing directly on Lake Tahoe. Park hours are from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., allowing plenty of nighttime viewing in the winter. Additionally, there’s an elevated grass area in the park that extends to the shore, affording an amazing northwestern view across a star-filled horizon.
Tahoe Vista Recreation Area
Located on the north side of Lake Tahoe, Tahoe Vista offers the flipside view of the night sky, looking south across Lake Tahoe. Standing on the beach (or boat ramp), you can witness one of the best views of the starry skies across the majestic waters of North America’s largest alpine lake. While the park closes at 7 p.m., there’s parking on Lake Boulevard for easy access to the beach.
For those winter adventurers, check out Tahoe Adventure Company in Tahoe Vista, which offers stargazing snowshoe tours on select winter evenings with yours truly.
For a truly unique Lake Tahoe stargazing experience, Northstar plays hosts to stargazing snowshoe tours that I host on select dates during the winter. Guests depart from the Northstar Cross Country Center at sundown, after hours, for a 90-minute guided tour of the ski resort’s snow-covered mountains beneath a star-filled sky. Along the way I present short astronomy talks and point out celestial objects. Upon returning, guests warm by a fire pit, sipping wine and hot chocolate, while enjoying telescopic views of the cosmos.
The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe
Perched mid-mountain, among the snowy slopes of Northstar California is The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, a five-star, ski-in/ski-out hotel. From December through March, The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe plays host to our “Stars and S’mores” evenings on the Fireside Terrace. Guests are treated to an astronomy and poetry presentation (with s’mores in hand), followed by the opportunity to observe the cosmos through top-of-the-line Celestron telescopes.
Photos courtesy of Ryan Berendsen