The Big Chill
It's summertime in Sacramento and the living is easy—except when Mother Nature cranks up our city's thermostat. If you can't stand the heat, it's time to get out of town. From clear-bottom kayaking in Tahoe to a waterfall-filled hike in Marin and an ocean safari in Monterey, we've got 18 ways to keep your cool right now.
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GET THE ALL CLEAR
No need for a snorkel mask or fins or even a swimsuit to fully experience the life aquatic while gliding across the water in transparent kayak-canoe hybrids made of the same sheer polycarbonate used for fighter jet windshields. The vessels from Clearly Tahoe, which seat one or two, feature deep hulls and high side walls that give the sensation of cruising along the water waist-deep, as well as flat, see-through bottoms—all the better to see 70 feet into the crystalline depths for glimpses of pyrite mineral deposits glistening like gold flecks on the lake floor, or schools of fish darting through shipwrecks. You can join a scheduled outing (through Oct. 15) or reserve a private one: Adventure excursions include the 90-minute morning Scenic Shoreline tour, where you skirt along towering cliffs and rock formations, and the kid-popular LED glow and stargazing tours, during which you can take in nature’s nightlife in illuminated boats. Tours start at $89. 530-554-4664. clearlytahoe.com
SEE SNOW IN JULY
Ever spent the summer wishing you had access to a walk-in cooler? Well, after 2019’s supersized snowpack—which has prompted Squaw Valley to extend its ski season to July 7—a day hike through Desolation Wilderness, from Echo Summit to majestic, 8,000-foot-high Lake Aloha, promises sunny snow banks and alpine lake ice cubes through the end of July. What could be more rewarding after a jaunt over trail and talus than soaking your tired dogs in a frigid pool? Start the journey by parking at the rustic Echo Chalet (echochalet.net) on the shores of Echo Lake and self-register at the trailhead (you can also preregister at recreation.gov). Then strike out on the 12-mile out-and-back path—or cut the hike in half by taking the water taxi ($30 round trip) across the lake. From there, gentle grades take you up to mighty views and a smooth descent to island-studded Aloha’s endlessly explorable shoreline. Tote your trekking poles for sure footing on the snow, and do wear those shorts, but bring some layers and sunglasses with UV protection—the sun bouncing off that white stuff will get you every time, if the mosquitos don’t. And although this is one of the most popular trails through one of the Sierra’s most popular regions (check conditions before you go at desowv.org), it’s always a good idea to pack a map that doesn’t need batteries. —Hillary Louise Johnson
STRIKE A PADDLEBOARD POSE
If you’re like us, the morning light breaking across the tranquil, glassy surface of Big Blue makes you want to break into a sun salutation—but for a new twist, how about trying it on the water? Well Being ($35-$55; wellbeingtahoe.com), Mountain Lotus Yoga ($35-$50; mountainlotusyoga.com) and Lake Tahoe Yoga ($47; laketahoeyoga.com) all run stand-up paddleboard yoga classes, so you can see nirvana—and Mt. Tallac—upside down as you perfect your downward dog or say hello to Monument Peak with outstretched arms in a kneeling spinal twist. The dawn ritual—which begins with a short paddleboard lesson—may start out brisk, but the flowing movements and the sun’s rays soon result in warm muscles, making a post-session dip just the thing to start your day calm, collected and oh so cool.
GAZE INTO A STARRY, STARRY NIGHT
Want to swing on a star? At 6,400 feet and far from the city’s light pollution, the Dark Skies Cosmoarium at Truckee’s Northstar resort seemingly places you within reach. Every Thursday and Saturday evening from June 13 to Aug. 31, it puts on a two-hour Tahoe Star Tours show led by astronomer Tony Berendsen, during which you can peer through high-powered Celestron telescopes for sharp views of globular star clusters, Saturn’s rings and the orange glow of Mars, then warm up with hot chocolate and s’mores around a fire pit. Pro tip: Check the calendar for a moonless night when galaxies beyond the Milky Way are viewable. Or get a good look at a nearly full moon on July 20, the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission—Berendsen will give a talk about the historic moon landing that night and throughout the summer. $45 per adult. 150 Northstar Dr. Truckee. 800-466-6784. tahoestartours.com —Tori Masucci Cummins
SEE SHAKESPEARE AT SUNSET
Long before Sam and Diane and Olivia and Fitz, Kate and Petruchio were crossing rapier wits in Shakespeare’s furiously funny domestic comedy, The Taming of the Shrew. Watch the fiery couple chase the chill out of the evening air from July 5 through Aug. 25, as the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival takes over Sand Harbor for its 47th year. Get thisclose to the action with on-stage seating, or choose lazy comfort by purchasing premium tickets, which come with Adirondack chairs and wait service (the cafe table section also offers meal delivery). Or go casual and hang back in the gallery areas, where you can dig your toes into the sand while taking in the sunset and a crisp breeze blowing in from Big Blue; bring your own dinner or grab eats and drinks like mahi-mahi tacos and icy margaritas at the on-site Shakespeare’s Kitchen (hint: online preordering is available). Not with the Bard? The performing arts series will also stage concerts—the Reno Philharmonic will play a few nights, for example—and Million Dollar Quartet, a jukebox musical based on a legendary Memphis jam session involving Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. $30-$140 per ticket. Sand Harbor State Park. 2005 Hwy. 28. Incline Village. 800-747-4697. laketahoeshakespeare.com —T.M.C.
FLOAT AWAY THE DAY
The shape of water looks even more intriguing this summer, as the Sierra’s rapidly melting snowpack after an unusually white winter leads to unpredictable flows in the Truckee River. Instead of just grabbing an inner tube and DIYing it, your safest bet, especially if you’re a first-timer, is to tackle the 4-mile float downstream with the help of Tahoe City-based outfitters Truckee River Rafting and Truckee River Raft Co., whose seasons are expected to start sometime in July or August. Both companies will provide life jackets, paddles and sturdy rafts for your group (Fido is welcome too), and prep you for your lazy, refreshing trip through pine forests, under wooden bridges and past sandy beaches perfect for picnic stops. On the weekends, you’ll see everyone from bachelorettes to Boy Scouts bobbing along—you can join the party or, if that’s not your scene, opt for a quieter weekday drift. Either way, the skill level for this expedition is roughly zero, with only a short section of minor rapids near the end that spit you out below the River Ranch Lodge, where you can refuel on the patio with barbecue and local beer. Truckee River Rafting: $48 per adult. truckeeriverrafting.com. Truckee River Raft Co.: $45 per adult. truckeeriverraft.com —T.M.C.