Lake Tahoe is the biggest alpine lake in North America and it attracts visitors throughout the year thanks to its natural elegance as well as a wide range of activities. I have fond memories of visiting Lake Tahoe over the years. Growing up in Idaho and being the avid travelers that my family was, we often found ourselves in Nevada for long weekend trips — and also on the way to and from our California vacation destinations.
Tourists of all kinds including RV travelers, tent campers, hikers, boaters and more are attracted to Lake Tahoe by the snowcapped peaks and the pristine blue water. But for those who are looking for indoor activities, the Lake Tahoe area has a number of museums, historic sites, and some exciting casinos to enjoy. Below, we have listed just some of the top things to do in Lake Tahoe that might be of interest to you and your family for your next trip. Whether you plan to visit Lake Tahoe in the winter, summer, or any other season you’ll find plenty of things to do to keep you busy and make for a memorable vacation!
Things to do in Lake Tahoe in the Summer
Visit a State Park in Lake Tahoe
There are many State Parks in the Lake Tahoe area where you can enjoy nature’s beauty. If you are like us and want to visit multiple state parks during our visit, then it may be worth it to buy one of the California State Park passes. However with so many different regions and state parks, they actually have an exclusive pass for the Tahoe area parks – which is cheaper than buying a whole state pass. As of the date of this post, the Tahoe Regional Vehicle pass is roughly $75.
Emerald Bay State Park
This park is centered on the Emerald Bay of Lake Tahoe and the park ground consists of Eagle Falls as well as Vikingsholm which happens to be a big Scandinavian mansion. The park also contains Fannette Island, the sole island in Lake Tahoe. The underwater portion of this state park includes lots of boat wrecks.
Sand Harbor State Park
The Sand Harbor State Park provides miles of sandy sea beaches along with pine forests and hidden coves. The park also provides opportunities for scuba diving and swimming in the waters of Lake Tahoe. The park also offers fantastic picnic spots and other facilities like a restaurant, gift shop, and a visitor center.
DL Bliss State Park
This public recreational area also provides some mind-boggling picnic spots as well as enjoyable lakeside areas. The Calawee Cove and Lester Beach happen to be amongst the most pleasurable beaches in Tahoe which can allow the swimmers to savor the crystal-clear waters. This park will offer the water sports buffs with flawless conditions for canoeing, paddle-boarding, and kayaking.
Hiking Trails Around Lake Tahoe
Outdoor enthusiasts and nature worshippers will appreciate Lake Tahoe for the picturesque hiking trails. Several of the best hikes are close to South Lake Tahoe, particularly the lake-view and lakeside trails. 2 short hikes happen to be the Cascade Falls Trail which is a simple 2-mile loop hike to Cascade Falls from Bayview Campground and the Fallen Leaf Lake Trail which is a gentle walk to a tranquil lake from the Fallen Leaf Campground. Following this, you can go for a stroll along the shoreline of the lake.
The well-liked Lake Tahoe hiking trail runs along the Emerald Bay rugged shoreline. The reputed Rubicon Trail happens to be a lakeside walking route that follows the edge of the water to Emerald Bay from the D.L. Bliss State Park and passing by the side of the Vikingsholm Castle.
Explore Waterfalls Around Lake Tahoe
Who doesn’t love a good waterfall? I mean really, to me they represent nature at it’s most pure and pristine! For us waterfalls are one of the main reasons we enjoy going on a hike. It gives us a goal to look forward to and gives us purpose – like we’re going on an adventure (it’s a great way to get kiddos interested in the hike too!).
Cascade Creek Falls
Something that you must not miss while you are in Lake Tahoe, Cascade Creek Falls Trail provides a mile-long route full of luxurious wildflowers and ferns all along the way. The Trailhead starts from Highway 89 at Emerald Bay across from Inspiration Point.
Here you will come across the upper and lower falls both of which are equally attractive. Lower Eagle Falls is approximately a mile walk down having drops in a couple of large cascades of 90 and 60 feet. This hike is easy to moderate and will consume around 30 minutes.
Fontanillis Lake Falls
It will take 5 miles to get to this waterfall having a 150-feet cascade that drops to Upper Velma Lake from the Fontanillis Lake. You ought to visit this place during the early summer months and also in spring, and you must not forget your camera, lunch, as well as stamina.
Taylor Creek Visitor Center
The Taylor Creek Visitor Center is situated in the close vicinity of Camp Richardson on Lake Tahoe’s southern shore. One does not need to pay anything for entering here and both adults, as well as kids, will get a close-up view of the regional flora and fauna. There is likewise an underground aquarium zone where you will get a glimpse of the real Taylor Creek. You will also come across a diorama that depicts the life below and above the water. Make certain to look for the crayfish, raccoon, frog, bats, Stellar Jay, butterflies, Bald Eagles, and the slug.
Beautiful Beaches & Bays in Lake Tahoe
You can’t go to Lake Tahoe without enjoying some of the gorgeous beaches and bays around the lake. Whether you can spend a whole afternoon enjoying it, or if you are stopping for a quick photo. Just be sure not to fall in the lake by accident like I did when I was a fussy teenager and was posing on a rock with my sister (my family still won’t let me live that one down!).
This compact-sized and friendly beach is at the heart of the Tahoe City where you will find locals along with visitors swimming during summer. You’ll come across a grassy area along with playgrounds plus fantastic barbecue areas as well. Many free special events are being held in the area all through the year including Snowfest. On Wednesdays, during the summer months, the park shows feature films too. Apart from this, you will also find many eateries, shopping outlets, and hotels only a short distance away from Commons Beach.
You will get a wonderful view of Mt. Tallac from this enjoyable and small beach. It is located just beside Camp Richardson and also away from the hectic city life. It is a lengthy beach that is filled with brightly-colored sand and is dissected by the popular Taylor Creek.
King’s Beach, which happens to be a long stretch of sandy beach, is located in the northern part of Lake Tahoe and is the ultimate place to unwind during summer. Here you will get paddle boats and kayaks for rent and there are likewise playgrounds for the children, shaded picnic spots, as well as eateries too.
Fun on the Water
Lake Tahoe is honestly one of the most picturesque lakes you will find in North America. The scenery is just spectacular, and one of the best ways to enjoy the views is actually from on the lake itself.
Take a Boat Cruise on Lake Tahoe
In case you would like to take pleasure in the beauty of the Emerald Bay and also know about the history while savoring a refreshing drink, then the cruise is meant for you. Enjoy a 2-hour narrated tour of the Emerald Bay which consists of mountains, waterfalls, along with the sole island in the lake known as Fannette Island. You can also buy your favorite food and drinks right here.
Paddle Boarding on Lake Tahoe
Paddle-boarding is something you simply cannot miss while you are in Lake Tahoe. You may either bring your personal paddle board or even rent one. But if you plan to paddle board a few times, then you might as well buy a paddle board to save you cash in the long run.
Paddle-boarding in the Sand Harbor beach area in North Lake Tahoe is a popular spot, and it’s only 30 minutes drive from South Tahoe. The water is clear and astounding and one can easily paddle around the signature Tahoe rocks. Although the water is cold, it should not stop you from playing it as well.
Renting Jet Skis
Jet skis are a great way to have some fun any time you happen to be on the water. Cruising across this clear lake with panoramic views is unforgettable! For jet ski plus other rentals, it we recommend checking out Tahoe Sports. They’ve got lots of water toys to choose from, and are well known in the area.
Golfing at Lake Tahoe
There are quite a few golf courses at Lake Tahoe, and the views happen to be alpine knockouts. Many of the courses meander through the glacially carved valleys and through tall conifers as well. There are as many as 6 championship golf courses in the North Shore area of Lake Tahoe, and these are all meant for the serious golfers out there. There are courses on the South Shore too, such as the Bijou Municipal Golf Course to your heart’s content.
Camping at Lake Tahoe
Since we are RV travelers and I grew up RV’ing with my family, I must say that camping at Lake Tahoe is a must if you can get a spot! There are a few different types of campgrounds around Lake Tahoe. Camp Richardson has both RV and tent sites available, and the campground at Sugar Pine Point State Park provides fast trail access for cyclists. In North Lake Tahoe, camping is a bit difficult to find and your best bet will be to look close to Tahoe City and Lake Forest. Some visitors will also choose to stay in the Truckee area as well.
Things to Do in Lake Tahoe During the Winter
While summer is a beautiful time to visit Lake Tahoe, winter is an absolutely magical wonderland! Those travelers who enjoy outdoor adventure activities especially will love visiting Lake Tahoe during the winter. Here are some of the fun things to do at Lake Tahoe during the winter months.
Skiing is by far one of the most popular things to do in at Lake Tahoe during the cold winter months. The Northstar California Resort, Squaw Valley Resort, Heavenly Mountain Resort, and Kirkwood Mountain Resort are the most famous ski resorts in the area.
Heavenly happens to be a rather large and spread-out ski resort, and therefore, it will be crucial to go through the trial map in advance. The Northstar California Resort consists of a big village with activities such as snow tubing, ice skating, and so on. Although expensive, this resort is well worth a visit for the entire family.
Sledding / Tubing
If you don’t want to spend the time or money all day on the slopes, then tubing and sledding is just for you. Plus, there’s no skill required so it’s something the whole family can do together. Just be sure to bring your adventurous spirit! The ideal place for sledding or tubing in Lake Tahoe is Adventure Mountain. They have sled and tube rentals as well as some fantastic runs that will entice the kids again and again.
Have you ever gone show shoeing? I must admit, growing up I thought this just sport just looked exhausing – but show shoeing is actually and incredibly peaceful and enjoyable experience. Yes, it’s exercise – but it’s really just hiking with special shoes in a way. There’s something about being on a snow shoe trail, softly crunching on the white snow beneath you, gazing up at the tall trees and breathing in the crisp air. Often, the trails are fairly quiet so you can really listen to nature’s beauty all around you.
You can always rent snow shoes, or if you think you could get into it as a sport then you may consider buying a pair of snowshoes for yourself! In the Lake Tahoe area, there are a number of snow shoeing trails that you can enjoy. Some of them are easy and the others rather hard; however, every single one of them is quite beautiful.
If you are looking to do something unique with your entire family, especially during the holiday season, then definitely consider going on a good old fashioned sleigh ride! These horse-drawn carriage tours are a lovely way to snuggle up and spend time together while enjoying the winter Tahoe scenery all around you. It’s a truly memorable activity if you’ve never done it before.
Tahoe is calling you once snowflakes start falling. And if you are an adrenaline junkie who wants to take full advantage of the snow and speed, then a snowmobile tour in Lake Tahoe should be on your list! Get outdoors in the powdery terrain, without doing a physical sport like to skiing, snowboarding, or snow shoeing.
You can rent a snow machine for a single rider or two riders, but there are age restrictions to consider. It’s also important to know that while snow machines are a lot of fun, they are intense and can be dangerous if you aren’t used to them.
Other Things to Do in Lake Tahoe Year-Round
Casinos in Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe itself straddles the Nevada and California state line. There is a range of casinos to pick from on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, ranging from local hangouts with mouth-watering food and local bands, to high-end casino resorts featuring award-winning chefs, as well as calming spas.
Lake Tahoe’s Stateline area is reputed for having the biggest casinos in the area. These consist of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino plus the music-inspired Harvey’s and the top-notch MontBleu resort. All of these are quite close to one another and are in close vicinity to the Heavenly ski resort.
The majority of these casinos feature table games, slot & video games, roulette, sports bars, high roller rooms, as well as tournaments. Amongst the other features you’ll find themed bars and eateries, spas along with outdoor and even some indoor pool areas.
Baldwin Estate / Tallac Museum
The Tallac Historic site located in Lake Tahoe includes the Baldwin, Pope, and Valhalla estates. The Baldwin estate has been transformed into the reputed Tallac Museum that focuses on the regional history consisting of exhibits regarding the native Washoe folks. This museum has conserved the house’s original elements including the 1930s-era kitchen.
The North Lake Tahoe Historical Society had been formed for preserving and researching Lake Tahoe’s history. The Gatekeeper’s Museum was actually constructed and maintained by this society. The museum is positioned at the identical location as the original log cabin which was sheltering the resident gatekeeper.
This museum depicts the history of Lake Tahoe and consists of a lot of Indian artifacts, personal stories of pioneers that resided in the area, and also historical displays. The museum’s Edmund S. Barnett wing holds the Marian Steinbach Indian Basket Collection and includes a fantastic collection of more than 800 baskets plus artifacts, pottery, and dolls.
Marcus Ashley Fine Art Gallery
The Marcus Ashley Fine Art Gallery in Lake Tahoe showcases the works of a lot of American as well as international artists. This gallery has a diverse selection of oil paintings, glass pieces, prints, sculpture, unique modern pieces, and other forms of fine art as well. The gallery covers an area of 4,400 sq. ft. and is located in the Heavenly Village in South Lake Tahoe.
It is known to organize some special events as well as art shows where the artists get the opportunity to depict their works. Apart from this the gallery also provides talks, demonstrations, and so forth quite frequently. The good thing is that some of the artworks in the gallery can be purchased right now.
With So Many Things to Do in Lake Tahoe, It’s Hard to Pack it All In!
It’s impossible to enjoy everything that Lake Tahoe has to offer in just one visit. But dividing it out by season gives travelers a bit more of an idea of what they can do during that time of year. Summer is a lovely time to visit, especially if you enjoy water activities and being outdoors. But winter sports enthusiasts flock to Lake Tahoe in the winter as well. So whether you are traveling with friends, your spouse, or your family, there’s no doubt plenty of things to do in Lake Tahoe to fill your travel itinerary during any season.