Scenic Resources

To improve and maintain the scenic quality of the Region along roadways, Lake Tahoe's shoreline, and at recreational sites and at other scenic viewpoints.

The visual landscape of the Tahoe Region is one of its most impressive and memorable qualities. It possesses a striking combination of rugged mountain peaks, a vast lake surface, and densely forested slopes. These landscape elements work in concert to produce a visual impression that makes the Lake Tahoe Region one of the truly unique places in the world. Despite significant development and alteration of the landscape for over a century, the Tahoe Region attracts visitors to its powerful and stunning inherent landscape character, which successfully maintains visual dominance over most of the a. It is views of natural landscapes and features from the Region’s scenic corridors, recreation areas, and bike trails that the framers of the Bi-State Compact intended to preserve when they declared, “Maintenance of the social and economic health of the region depends on maintaining the significant scenic … values provided by the Lake Tahoe Basin.

TRPA Resolution 82-11 provided for the development and implementation of environmental thresholds. In 1982, the threshold study team completed the scenic resource inventory and evaluation to define and establish threshold standards for preservation of scenic quality. At that time, numerical standards were established for roadway and shoreline travel route ratings, and roadway and shoreline scenic quality ratings. TRPA also adopted a policy statement for overall community design elements. In 1993, TRPA adopted numeric standards for designated public recreation areas and bike trails.

Although the Tahoe Region’s landscape is extensive and varied, viewers predominately see the landscape from major roadways or from the lake itself. Privately held lands are located around the perimeter of the lake, in most cases along major roadways, and it is on these lands that major development has occurred. Consequently, these are also the areas where the scenic quality is most threatened. Scenic deterioration results from types of development that dominate or are incompatible with the natural landscape, are in locations visible from major roadways, block important views and remove vegetation and natural features, and alter the topography. The focus of the 1982 scenic study was on identifying visual resource components and establishing thresholds for major visual resources that can be seen from major roadways and from the lake.

The 1982 scenic study established threshold standards for the protection of scenic quality and developed a methodology for measuring change in scenic quality over time with the goals of:

  1. Maintain and enhance the dominant natural-appearing landscape for the vast majority of views and lands in the Region.
  2. Maintain and/or improve the aesthetic characteristics of the man-made environment to be compatible with the natural environment.
  3. Restore, wherever possible, damaged natural landscapes.

This chapter provides an evaluation of scenic conditions and trends in the Lake Tahoe Region. The evaluation assesses changes in scenic conditions relative to TRPA threshold standards. TRPA has adopted environmental threshold standards for scenic resources. These include numerical standards for roadway and shoreline travel units, numerical standards for other areas, and a policy statement for the built environment (TRPA, 2012a). The evaluation includes:

  1. Evaluation of roadway and shoreline travel units, which are segments of roadways and shoreline with similar visual character;
  2. Evaluation of specific individual features (scenic resources) of Tahoe’s natural landscape that can be seen from major roadways and from Lake Tahoe;
  3. Views from and within certain public recreation areas and bike trails; and
  4. Visual quality of the built environment.

This evaluation addresses the status of all numerical standards and the policy statement, as have past threshold evaluations.

Reporting Categories and Indicators

View Evaluation Legend