fbpx
42.7 F
South Lake Tahoe
Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Things to doin Lake Tahoe

This just happens to be our very favorite topic. With four epic seasons, 72 miles of shoreline, well-loved state parks in both California and Nevada, plus miles and miles of backcountry, the Lake Tahoe area is quite the gem.

You deserve some good times.

Rimmed by the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Lake Tahoe isn’t just the largest alpine lake in North America—it’s also one of the deepest and clearest, surrounded by mountain peaks reaching up to 10,000 feet.

In the winter, the ski resorts are the main attraction—with visitors flooding the Lake Tahoe basin in search of powder conditions paired with lake views. Campgrounds, beaches and marinas fill up in the summer, as visitors hike, bike & boat their way around Lake Tahoe.

And the wildest part? No matter how much time you spend here, there will always be more things to do in Lake Tahoe. More hiking trails, more hidden coves, more ski lines and snowmobile routes.

So, let’s get into it and we mean really get into all the cool activities you can fill your days with while visiting Lake Tahoe. Get comfortable, take notes—there’s a lot to cover with this one.

13 Epic Things To Do In Lake Tahoe In Summer

Honestly, we can never decide which season we like best. All of them have their perks. And the warm temps, long days, backcountry hikes and lakeside dips of summer kind of have us wrapped around their finger.

Plus, for families, couples, groups of friends—no matter who you’re traveling with, really—the Lake Tahoe summer activities list is long. Ranging from free, outdoor adventures to exciting tours & rentals, you can kind of never get bored.

And we can prove it.

Get an adrenaline rush at 9,000 feet on Heavenly’s Ridge Rider Mountain Coaster.

Guess what? The beloved Heavenly Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe isn’t just for skiing. When the snow melts, the ski resort opens up for all sorts of summer recreation.

It all begins with a 2-mile ride up the Heavenly Mountain Gondola, where you get insane views of the entire Lake Tahoe. Ride that sucker to the top, where you’ll find hiking trails, zip line courses, grab-and-go food options and of course, the Ridge Rider Mountain Coaster.

Don’t be fooled by the 3+ age limit. This thing rips. And everyone in your group will be giggling as you race across the mountain scape with views of Lake Tahoe in the background.

Accessible from the Heavenly Village in the heart of South Lake Tahoe, this is a super easy, (albeit expensive) family-friendly activity.

Hop on a boat cruise out to Emerald Bay State Park.

Basically every list ever of things to do in Lake Tahoe will direct you to Emerald Bay State Park, and for good reason. Just outside of South Lake Tahoe, this stunning glacial bay is unlike any other spot on the lake.

You can drive around it, hike down to it, even camp at the edge of it in Eagle Point Campground. But the best way to experience Emerald Bay is to take a leisurely boat cruise out and around the bay.

There’s plenty of options to choose from—like the M.S. Dixie II Paddle Wheeler that runs scenic Emerald Bay cruises from Zephyr Cove or the Tahoe Gal lunch cruise out of Tahoe City.

But our all-time favorite option is the sunset sailing cruise with Sail Tahoe Blue. A truly one-of-a-kind experience, complete with included beer and wine, it really is a little bit magic.

Follow the Pope-Baldwin bike path to the beach.

Even with all the epic mountain biking and hiking trails around Lake Tahoe, we just adore the Pope-Baldwin bike path. This flat, paved path winds beneath the pines on its way out of South Lake Tahoe and into the wilderness.

You pass some major local favorites—Pope Beach, Camp Richardson, Kiva Beach, Tallac Historic Site and Fallen Leaf Lake Campground—before arriving at Baldwin Beach.

Pit stop at the Camp Richardson ice cream parlor, take the dog for a swim at Kiva or simply cruise with the kids between sandy beaches.

You can grab bike rentals at the start of the path from Anderson’s Bike Rental or e-bikes from Pine Nut Cycle Cafe.

Trek down to the East Shore’s hidden beaches.

There’s plenty of beach action around Lake Tahoe. 72 miles of shoreline, to be exact.

But the beaches on the east shore of the lake—between Incline Village and Zephyr Cove—are particularly wild and beautiful.

Those unreal looking photos you’ve seen a million times of the turquoise water and boulders? That’s what we’re working with here. And to get there, you either have to enter by boat, kayak, SUP or trail.

Finding them can be a bit tricky, but with a little online research comes big reward. Test your Googling skills by searching for directions to Chimney Beach, Skunk Harbor or Secret Beach. Be prepared to work a little to get there.

Take a hike.

There are so many legendary hikes around Lake Tahoe, that doing at least one while you’re here is basically mandatory. You don’t have to get crazy. There are numerous hiking trails mellow enough for kids or a hangover.

In South Lake Tahoe, you can trek up to Eagle Falls for an awesome Emerald Bay lookout. In North Lake Tahoe, we love the Monkey Rock trail for it’s short distance, lake views and cheeky, ape-shaped rock.

You could get serious and hike a portion of the Tahoe Rim Trail, or plan a multi-day trip through Desolation Wilderness. There’s truly an option for everyone—making a hike a crucial piece of your things to do in Lake Tahoe list.

Cruise “America’s Most Beautiful Bikeway.”

There’s another lovely option when it comes to enjoying Sand Harbor State Park—the East Shore Trail.

Dubbed “America’s Most Beautiful Bikeway” for reasons you absolutely don’t have to question, this lakeside, paved trail runs 3-miles from Incline Village to Sand Harbor State Park. Along the way, you get the best views. And we mean best.

Plus, it’s the perfect way to avoid the always-full parking lot situation at the park itself.

Follow the Rubicon Trail to Vikingsholm Castle.

Two birds with one stone? Actually, hiking the Rubicon Trail is more like a whole flock of birds with one stone. (Which sounds cruel, but was meant to be a positive metaphor.)

One of the most iconic hiking trails in all of Lake Tahoe, the Rubicon Trail is a stunning, mostly flat 16-mile out-and-back trek. The trail starts at D.L. Bliss State Park and runs along the lake to the tip of Emerald Bay.

You can hike any portion of the trail you want, and the piece from the trailhead to Vikingsholm Castle is more like 10 miles. But you get amazing views of Lake Tahoe along the way plus an up-close look at the historic castle.

Shop, eat and drink local at Truckee Thursdays.

Something magical happens on Thursday nights during the summer in Downtown Truckee. A summer street festival for the ages springs to life, with food & drink vendors, live music, local merchants and deeply, deeply good vibes.

Truckee Thursdays, as it’s called, is simply a good time. Downtown Truckee is an epic place to begin with. Filled with charming storefronts, chic cafés and drinking holes, it has a vintage charm made only better by a backdrop of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.

Worth visiting on its own, if you happen to be able to visit on a Thursday night you will not be disappointed.

Book a kayak or SUP rental in Sand Harbor.

Whenever anyone’s really not sure what to do in Lake Tahoe, we suggest starting with a Sand Harbor kayak tour. It’s quite literally impossible to be disappointed with your experience, because it’s just that cool.

Located on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, near Incline Village is Sand Harbor State Park. It’s pretty much everyone’s favorite spot around the lake. Clear water, dramatic rock formations, a wide sandy beach—it has it all.

Plus, a parking lot and restrooms and etc. Which some of Lake Tahoe’s other gorgeous beaches are without.

Almost goes without saying then, that a kayak or SUP tour around this area is one of the best ways to experience Lake Tahoe. You get out on the water, you’ll see some of the most iconic views in the basin and you’re all but guaranteed to get that Instagram shot you’ve been dying for.

Check out Tahoe Paddle Sports for some of the lake’s best (pet-friendly!) kayak tours, or the ever-popular Clearly Tahoe.

Admire Lake Tahoe from above on a helicopter tour.

You think the color of the water is impressive from the shore? Wait until you see it from the sky.

Besides a million brilliant shades of blue, you’ll see the entire Lake Tahoe area on your flight. Iconic sights like Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe’s west shore and the great expanse of Desolation Wilderness only get more magical from a bird’s eye view.

Plus, your flight with Lake Tahoe Helicopters departs from South Lake Tahoe and our favorite bar & restaurant, The Flight Deck, is in the same building. Big win.

Challenge your kids (and yourself!) at an aerial adventure park.

You’ve been camped out beneath the pines—now it’s time to see what’s happening up in the treetops. Head to the Tahoe Treetop Adventure Park for an ages 6+ adventure high above the forest floor.

Just as fun for adults as it is for kids, these challenging rope courses, complete with vertical climbing walls, swinging logs and zip lines, are high up on our list of outdoor activities.

The Tahoe Treetop Adventure Park has three convenient locations. You can take on the challenge in either Tahoe City, Olympic Valley or or Tahoe Vista, making it an easy option from any north Lake Tahoe or west shore destination.

Learn a new water sport with a wake surfing or e-foil lesson.

Water skiing, tubing, jet skiing are sweet, and you can do all of them (and more!) on Lake Tahoe. But these days, there’s even more action to be had.

Wake surfing has taken Lake Tahoe by storm, with boats towing happy little surfers across glassy waters every morning and night. It’s a great place to learn, and you can grab a lesson from one of the many wake surf companies in the area, like Elevation Surf Charters or North Tahoe Wake Surf and Charter.

Or, if you want the glide sans-boat, test out the e-foil craze with Lake & Wake Adventures in South Lake Tahoe.

Take a leisurely float down the Truckee River.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Rafting the Truckee River is one of our all-time favorite things to do in Lake Tahoe. It’s just the perfect blend of all things summer.

You can embark on the 5-mile journey out of Tahoe City with a rafting company—Truckee River Raft or Truckee River Rafting, or do the float yourself.

Either way, pack a cooler, bring the dogs, don’t forget a waterproof speaker and prepare for the ultimate summer day. You can expect to be on the water for 2-3 hours, unless you want to make it longer. (Which we do suggest.)

There’s swimming holes and sandy pull-offs along the way, which usually turn into a fun mess of a flotilla from dozens of happy rafters. Most easily accessible from Lake Tahoe’s west or north shore, we think it’s worth the drive from South Lake Tahoe too.

Plus, a good old fashioned drive around Lake Tahoe is always a good idea on its own.

11 Epic Things To Do In Lake Tahoe In Winter

If you thought a Lake Tahoe summer was filled with an overwhelming amount of outdoor activities, just wait for winter. Basically, it’s the same amount of action, sub boat rides and beaches for snowmobiles and ski resorts.

Yes, winter is a dream time to visit Lake Tahoe, even if you think you’re a warm weather only person. Trust us, Lake Tahoe can change that.

Twist that throttle on a snowmobile ride.

A snowmobile tour is at the top of our list things to do in Lake Tahoe in winter for a reason. Ripping through powder on a snowmobile is on everyone’s bucket list.

And reasonably so—there are few feelings quite like it. Luckily, there’s plenty of opportunity get your adrenaline pumping around Lake Tahoe, with something for every skill level.

Total beginner? Start out with the mellow, groomed tracks at Tahoe Snowmobiles. They have two South Lake Tahoe locations, one conveniently across from the casinos at Stateline, and a scenic circle track across town.

Or, you can opt for something with a little more oomph, like the ever-popular Zephyr Cove Resort snowmobile tour that takes you through the woods in search on ridge views.

Then, for the true legends out there, there’s Tahoe Snowbike Rentals which just kicks the whole experience up a notch or two.

Hit the slopes at one of Lake Tahoe’s 15 ski resorts.

Yeah, we’re serious. In the Lake Tahoe area alone, there are 15 ski resorts! You probably already know about the most legendary ones—Palisades Tahoe (formerly known as Squaw Valley Ski Resort), Heavenly Ski Resort, Kirkwood and Northstar California Resort.

But some of Lake Tahoe’s more humble ski mountains deserve major love too. Like Homewood Mountain Resort in Tahoma or Diamond Peak by Incline Village. Home to truly unreal views of Lake Tahoe, plus top-notch runs for all skill levels, the point is—you’ve got options.

Warm up over a drink and a view.

After you’ve done all the outdoor activities you can handle, it’s time to head indoors and hunker down with a hot toddy. Of course, getting out of the elements doesn’t mean you have to give up on the view.

There’s bars & restaurants all around Lake Tahoe that serve epic lake views with everything on the menu. Opt for mile-high views, like the one at The Sage Room at the top of Harvey’s in South Lake Tahoe, or go for a right-on-the-water option like North Lake Tahoe’s Gar Woods or the west shore’s Sunnyside Restaurant and Lodge.

Take the family ice skating in the Northstar Village.

Even if you’re not a skier, the Northstar California Resort village is a magical place in the wintertime. Full of restaurants, shops and entertainment, there’s twinkling lights and festive music that make it feel a little like the North Pole.

A massive ice skating rink in the center of it all only adds to the charm. The perfect spot to take the family for all-ages fun, you can dip and twirl around on the ice, then grab a hot chocolate afterwards.

If you’re on the north shore, the village at Palisades Tahoe (the former Squaw Valley Ski Resort) is equally fun. In South Lake Tahoe, the Heavenly Ski Resort village is the place to be.

Aprés ski around a fire pit.

Or, more appropriately, aprés ski anywhere. We’re firm believers that a good day on the slopes only gets better the more you savor the moments afterwards. So, yes, a nice aprés ski cocktail around a toasty fire pit is just the call.

Nowhere is this easier than in the Heavenly Village, where the Heavenly Mountain Gondola drops you off in the center of everything.

Race your friends down a snowtubing hill.

You might think that you’re too old to enjoy a good ol’ fashioned day of snowtubing and sledding, but trust us—you’re not. You’ll be giggling your way down the slope, and yes, probably a little sore the next morning.

But it’s worth it! Because all the slippery, good snow demands to be enjoyed. Obviously, if you BYOS (bring your own sled) you can hop onto just about any little downhill bump you find. But if you really want to get the full experience, head to one of the groomed sledding hills around Lake Tahoe.

In South Lake Tahoe, your best bet is with Tahoe Snowmobiles. The same company operates the groomed snowmobile track we talked about (so you can easily do both at the same time!), and operates out of two locations.

Soak in the hot springs in Carson City or Markleeville.

We love your standard, vacation rental hot tub as much as the next person, but there’s just something about a hot spring. And a leisurely, 45-minute drive outside of the basin lands you a few fun hot spring options.

Head to the Historic Carson Hot Springs to melt into their naturally-fed hot spring pools while snow dusts the ground around you. They have both indoor and outdoor options, plus a sauna and on-site brewery.

Or, make the gorgeous drive out towards Markleeville to Grover Hot Springs State Park. After relaxing in their hot spring pools, enjoy the drive back through Hope Valley—one of the most beautiful (and underrated!) spots around Lake Tahoe.

Take a snowshoe trek around Fallen Leaf Lake.

The thing we love about snowshoeing is that it’s basically just walking but with, like, really big shoes on. In other words—it’s easy. There’s pretty much no learning curve, you just strap on your snowshoes, pick a trail and go.

It can be exhausting, sure, but that’s part of the fun. Because it’s so easy to do, it’s always at the top of our list of things to do while visiting Lake Tahoe. You can rent a pair of snowshoes, then head out to any trail, site or patch of forest land to explore.

In South Lake Tahoe, you’ll find easy-to-follow trails surrounding Fallen Leaf Lake. Or, you can hike around Emerald Bay, sneaking solo views of Eagle Falls or Fannette Island.

Chickadee Ridge is always a favorite in North Lake Tahoe. Or, you could always opt for a guided snowshoe tour, like our friends at Tahoe Adventure Company offer.

Glide along the cross country skiing trails at Donner Memorial State Park.

If you’re visiting Lake Tahoe’s north shore, take a day trip to Truckee (well, for more reasons than just this one) for an afternoon of cross country skiing around Donner Lake. Miles of groomed cross country ski trails skirt the lakeshore, with options for every skill level.

All trails begin at the Emigrant Trail Museum, which happens to also be one of our favorite places to visit while you’re here in Lake Tahoe. The museum profiles the fascinating story of the Donner Party, a group of pioneers who turned to infamous measures after becoming trapped in a fatal snowstorm.

Catch limits of lake trout on a fishing charter. 

Aha, bet we got you there. Yep, you could have probably predicted all of the skiing, snowmobiling and sledding suggestions, but fishing? 

It’s true, Tahoe Sportfishing runs their popular fishing charters on Lake Tahoe year-round. Rain, snow or shine, they’ll take you out to catch Mackinaw Trout, Rainbow Trout & Brown Trout.

Not only are the half day trips ideal for curious anglers, but they’re a great way to get out on the lake for some epic views. Plus, their partnership with MacDuff’s Pub means you can eat your catch without having to do the cleaning & cooking yourself. Win-win-win.

Get a view of the Lake Tahoe area from the top.

Getting a glimpse of the snow capped Sierra Nevada Mountains from a bird’s eye view should be on everyone’s things to do in Lake Tahoe list. Dramatic peaks draped in white, the brilliant of the lake beneath them—it’s pretty special.

If you plan on skiing, this is an easy feat. The views will be everywhere! But if you’re not, you still have a few options. Like taking the Aerial Tram at Palisades Tahoe (formerly Squaw Valley) or the Heavenly Ski Resort gondola in the Heavenly village.

Or (and we very much recommend this) you could book a helicopter tour over Lake Tahoe. Options range from 10 minutes—a quick Emerald Bay flyover—to an hour long, where you’ll get to see the entirety of Lake Tahoe unfold beneath you.

Join our mailing list

Want more epic ideas? Join our email list.

Subscribe

We send cool stuff only, we promise.