Old-time Lake Tahoe visitors might remember the Ponderosa Ranch area of Tahoe's North Shore. This is where the Wild West TV show Bonanza was filmed during the 1950s and '60s. But today, it's an outdoor destination with a new eatery - Tunnel Creek Station Cafe - that caters to users of the nearby trail.
For years, children had access to the various sets, restaurants and horseback rides that Ponderosa Ranch provided. But the Cartwright family's home was closed down in 2004 and has been empty ever since. Now, however, the area is a burgeoning mountain biking and hiking area because of its proximity to Tahoe's Flume Trail. Shuttles and bike rentals are available for people hiking or biking the nearly 10 miles to and from Spooner Lake to the North Shore.
Tunnel Creek Station and Cafe — Photo courtesy of Tunnel Creek Cafe
For anyone going or coming to this area of the lake, there is now a place to pick up some coffee and sandwiches. The Tunnel Creek Station Cafe looks like it could belong right in the middle of the Cartwright property. There is a nice porch and some Adirondack chairs to sit out on when the weather is nice, and a cozy interior with a wood stove for the winter.
The cafe serves breakfast until 11 a.m. and offers items like a breakfast burrito, the Spinach Feta Croissant and some hot Umpqua oatmeal for only $3.25. Their coffees include blends from Hood River or the Tunnel Creek Café blend. They also serve chai, tea and hot chocolate.
A sweet pickup after a hard bike ride — Photo courtesy of Tunnel Creek Cafe
Lunches and early dinners include salads, sandwiches and paninis like the Turkey Pesto, the Tunnel Creek Reuben and the Tunnel Creek BLT. They have vegetarian options like a vegan or avocado burger and a hummus wrap with lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes, hummus and tahini or vinaigrette dressing. The cafe also serves real-fruit smoothies and various bottle and draft beers, including brands from Deschutes Brewery.
If you visit on Wednesday afternoons during the summer and fall, just behind the cafe is a farmers market with fresh fruits and vegetables from local California and Nevada farms.