Lake Tahoe Vacation Guide
Covering nearly 200 square miles of fresh, crystal-clear water, over 10,000 feet of altitude and 2 million years of history, Lake Tahoe is the jewel in America’s mountain crown. Cradling the lake, the majestic High Sierra Mountains reflect on Lake Tahoe’s quiet surface, appearing to float miles above the boulder floor. No matter what time of year, we’re ready for you to discover the charm and hospitality of South Lake Tahoe, Tahoe City, Incline Village and Truckee.
As if it were unfair for one state to have all the beauty, Lake Tahoe is divided by the California-Nevada state line, which runs through the middle of it. It’s less than 100 miles around, so you can stay anywhere and see everything during your Lake Tahoe vacation, but you may want to choose your lodging based on where you’ll spend more of your time.
A Tahoe vacation – or a weekend getaway – is a favorite activity of many Californians as well as visitors from others. Depending on the season you go in, your Lake Tahoe travel can include anything from a day of skiing to a sunny day ended by watching a Shakespeare play. To plan your Tahoe travel, read the section called Best Time to Visit and choose the season, then start by finding a place to stay for your Tahoe vacation – places fill up fast in this popular vacation spot.
When it comes to being outdoors, which season is your favorite?
Whether you prefer skiing down the glittering High Sierra slopes or across Lake Tahoe’s placid surface, this is where you want to be. In addition to year-round activities like skiing and hiking, the area is ideal for horse-drawn sleigh rides, snowmobiling and snowboarding during the winter, and biking, rock climbing and horseback riding in the warmer months. Fun on Lake Tahoe includes a yacht tour of the extravagant West Shore, and lofty parasail trips as well as jet ski rides and kayak excursions. For a little indoor excitement and a lot of cha-ching, hit the jackpot at Tahoe Biltmore, Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, the Hyatt Regency, Harveys Resort & Casino, or MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa!
In the morning, the lake’s blue turns to silver. Small waves chase each other ashore, lapping quietly. A yellow kayak glides gently by, white paddles flashing in the sun. Suddenly, there’s a sound like a brass band playing broken trumpets, and a baker’s dozen Canada geese splash down. The morning clouds give way to blue skies. It’s time to go out and explore again. Here are some ideas for your Lake Tahoe vacation:
Best Things to Do at Lake Tahoe Any Time
Lake Tahoe’s weather has more extremes than the rest of California, with pleasant summers and snowy winters, but there are a few things to do at Lake Tahoe no matter when you’re there.
- One of the best ways to enjoy the natural beauty is by getting out in the middle of it. Use the boat cruise guide to find out more about your options and where they take off from
- You’ll get a different perspective by driving.
- Squaw Valley was a scenic spot even before it gained fame when it hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics. Visit Squaw Valley in summer and winter
- Gambling is legal on the Nevada side of the lake and it’s one of the most popular things to do at Lake Tahoe. Find a casino that’s best for you
- Heavenly is the name of the ski resort at South Lake Tahoe and also a good descriptor for the view from their gondola ride
Best Things to Do at Lake Tahoe in Summer
Lake Tahoe is actually busier in summer than in winter, even though it may be better know for its ski slopes. Maybe all those visitors have figured out that there are more things to do at Lake Tahoe in the warmer months.
- Summer is the time for water sports. You can rent almost any kind of watercraft from businesses along the lake shore, or take a gentle, self-propelled rafting trip on the Truckee River just below the lake at Tahoe City.
- Hiking and mountain biking are among the most popular things to do at Lake Tahoe in warm weather, especially on the Tahoe Rim Trail, but you don’t have to do all of it’s 165 miles in one trip. You’ll find some easy day hikes on it, too
- The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival features classic plays in a setting so lovely that it almost upstages the performers
Lake Tahoe Beaches
The areas surrounding Lake Tahoe have many great beaches to choose from.
They are open from dawn to dusk.
|Fire PitsBBQ Grills|
|South Shore Beaches|
|Baldwin Beach – Hwy. 89, 4 mi. North of Hwy. 89/50 Junction||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Camp Richardson – Hwy. 89, 2 mi. N. of Hwy. 89/50 Junction||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Connolly Beach – Hwy. 50 at Timber Cove Lodge||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No||No|
|El Dorado Beach – Hwy. 50 & Lakeview||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Emerald Bay Beach – Hwy. 89,
1.5mi. hike down to beach
|Kiva Beach Picnic Area – Hwy. 89, 2.5 mi. North of Hwy. 89/50 Junction||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Leash|
|Pope Beach – Hwy. 89, 2 mi. North of Hwy. 89/50 Junction||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Regan Beach – Off Hwy. 50 at Lakeview & Sacramento||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No||Dog Water Park|
|Ski Run Marina Village – Ski Run Blvd.||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No||No|
|Lakeside Beach – Lakeshore Blvd., Near Stateline||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Nevada Beach– Off Hwy. 50 at Elk Point Rd., Round Hill||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Round Hill Pines Beach||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Zephyr Cove Beach– Hwy. 50 at Zephyr Cove||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|D.L. Bliss State Park– South of Meeks Bay||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Kaspian Rec. Area– South of Sunnyside, Hwy. 89||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||No||Leash|
|Meeks Bay– 10 mi. South of Tahoe City||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Sugar Pine Point State Park– North of Meeks Bay||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Leash|
|William Kent– South of Tahoe City, Hwy. 89||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Canelian West Beach – N. Lake Blvd., next to Gar Woods||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Leash|
|Coon St. Dog Beach & Boat Launch Facility – Hwy. 28, East Kings Beach||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Kings Beach State Rec Area – Hwy. 28, Center of Kings Beach||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Lake Forest Beach – 1 mi. East of Tahoe City||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Moon Dunes Beach – Hwy. 28, Tahoe Vista||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|North Tahoe Beach – Hwy. 267 & N. Lake Blvd. at Kings Beach||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Patton Beach – Hwy. 28, Carnelian Bay||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Leash|
|Sandy Beach – West of Tahoe Vista Recreation Area||Yes||No||Yes||No||No||No|
|Skylandia Beach – Off Aspen St. by Lake Forest||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Tahoe City Commons Beach – Center of Tahoe City||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Tahoe State Recreation Area – Next to Safeway, Tahoe City||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Tahoe Vista Recreation Area – Across from Nat’l Ave. on Hwy. 28||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Cave Rock State Park– Hwy. 50, near Tunnel||Yes||Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Chimney Beach*– Hwy. 28, South of Sand Harbor, Hike in||No||No||No||Yes||No||Yes|
|Hidden Beach*– Hwy. 28, South of Incline Village, Hike in||Yes||No||No||No||No||Yes|
|Sand Harbor, NV State Park – Hwy. 28, South of Incline Village||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Secret Cove*– Hwy. 28, South of Sand Harbor, Hike in||No||No||No||No||No||Yes|
|Skunk Harbor– Hwy. 28, 2.2 mi. from Spooner Lake, Hike in||No||No||No||No||No||Yes|
Best Things to Do at Lake Tahoe in Winter
Lake Tahoe winters mean snow, and hundreds of inches of the white stuff pile up around it every year – or at least the ski resorts hope it does. The bigger ski resorts usually open by Thanksgiving, even if they have to make their own snow to do it. In the snowiest years, the season may last into April.
- Snow skiing is by far the most popular of all things to do at Lake Tahoe in winter. Read about the best ski resorts for your style.
- A number of companies will take you dog sledding, a no-effort way to get around the wintry landscape
- You’ll thinks it’s a scene right out of Curries & Ives when you take a trip with Borges Sleigh Rides
Best Things to do at Lake Tahoe for Families
If you’ve got the whole family along, you’ll find plenty of things to do at Lake Tahoe to keep them entertained.
- Kids love the old-fashioned Western atmosphere at Virginia City, a short side trip away from the lake
- Northstar at Tahoe has a big ice skating rink and afterward, you can buy a s’mores kit and warm up around one of the outdoor fireplaces
- Most of the larger ski resorts offer lessons for the kids, but if they don’t want to ski, they’ll enjoy playing the snow or snowtubing
- Admission is free at the Tahoe Trout Farm and you can get bait and tackle on the spot. Just be sure the kids know that they’re going to have to kill the fish if they plan to take it home for dinner. They don’t have a website, but they’re at 1023 Blue Lake Ave in South Lake Tahoe, open end of May through early September, 530-541-1491
- The self-propelled rafting trips on the Truckee River just at Tahoe City are one of the most fun things to do at Lake Tahoe, especially if the kids are old enough to help paddle
Romantic Things to Do at Lake Tahoe
- Dinner with a view at sunset. You can get it on a boat cruise or at the Squaw Valley High Camp December through March
- Cuddle up on a hot air balloon ride over the lake – mornings only
- Get married: Plan ahead for the big day, skip all the fuss and elope or just do it on the spur of the moment. Local wedding chapels can handle all the legalities in a jiffy.
Lake Tahoe Restaurants & Shopping
Lake Tahoe’s restaurants and shops are as spectacular as the landscape. Elegant waterfront dining and quaint cafés, eclectic California dishes and lively sports bars are all ready to serve you! Whether you’re looking to experience Lake Tahoe’s signature cuisine or some down-home dinners, area chefs have prepared truly delicious menus. Shopping for unique fine art, gifts, collectibles and original fashions will delight as you browse area stores and boutiques. Works by Lake Tahoe’s jewelers, crafters and artisans reflect the area’s unique natural splendor and guarantee your trip will be remembered for a lifetime!