The Top 12 Things to Do in Lake Tahoe
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Along the California-Nevada border lies a true gem: North America’s largest alpine lake. Lake Tahoe is known for its clear, blue waters and array of recreational activities. From skiing to hiking to paddleboarding, keep on reading for the best things to do in Lake Tahoe.
Emerald Bay State Park
On the shores of Lake Tahoe lies Emerald Bay State Park. This pristine park is one of the most beautiful places you’ll ever explore. It was carved out of the surrounding area by glaciers and now provides visitors with hiking, diving, boating, and more. You’ll be stunned by the vibrant lake water and surrounding mountains as you explore this beautiful National Natural Landmark.
Within Emerald Bay State Park you’ll find a castle on the lake named Vikingsholm. This castle, built in 1929, is considered one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the United States. It’s open in the summer for tours but you can enjoy its beauty and scenery from the outside all year. There are fantastic Swedish, Viking, and Norse details throughout the property, and it was used as a summer home by its owner for 15 years until her death in 1945.
Emerald Bay State Park is also home to an underwater maritime trail that history buffs can explore by scuba diving. The collection is the nation’s largest and most diverse group of sunken vessels known to exist in their original location. In some cases, the ships are over 100 years old!
Donner Memorial State Park
Located in the Sierra Nevada mountains, this alpine park offers hiking, camping, boating, fishing, and more. It’s got things to do in Lake Tahoe in winter too! You can snowshoe, cross-country ski, and frolic in the fresh snow as you have a fun weekend away.
The Donner Memorial State Park also features a visitor center with exhibits on emigrants traveling West to California in the mid-1800s, the ill-fated Donner Party, the Land of the Washoe, and construction of the railroad by Chinese workers. With over 8 miles of trails, 154 campsites, and more than two miles of waterfront on Donner Lake and Donner Creek, it’s a great spot to explore.
If you’re in the area, stop by Truckee for lunch or dinner. This beautiful town is worth the stop!
Hike Mount Tallac
Rising above the southwest shore of the lake, Mount Tallac, at 9,738 feet, is the tallest mountain on the lake’s immediate shoreline. Hike to the top for an incredible view of the lake and surrounding area! There are three different trail options:
Floating Island Lake – one-way mileage is 1.7 miles. This trail is easy to moderate.
Cathedral Lake – one-way mileage is 2.5 miles. This trail is easy to moderate.
Mount Tallac – one-way mileage is 5 miles. This trail is difficult.
King Beach State Recreation Area
With 979 feet of waterfront, sandy beaches, and shade provided by the Jeffrey pines, the King Beach State Recreation Area provides a fun and relaxing space to hang out with your friends or family. Located on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, the park has barbecues, picnic tables, a playground, a half-court for basketball, and restrooms. The boat ramp here gives people the opportunity to fish from their own boats, or to take to the water for some watersports. Bring a picnic and enjoy the area as you relax on the shores; it’s one of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe in summer!
Paddle Board or Kayak on Lake Tahoe
One of the best ways to explore Lake Tahoe is by kayaking or paddleboarding! The cold winters and cool water temperatures keep the lake’s clarity extremely high, so you’ll have a clear view down in the lake. If you’re in the south end of the lake, check out SUP Tahoe or Kayak Tahoe. If you’re in the north, check out Tahoe Paddle & Oar.
D. L. Bliss State Park
Swim or scuba dive in the crystal clear water of Lake Tahoe near D. L. Bliss State Park. With picnicking, beaches, and trails (like the Rubicon Trail below), this is a popular spot to launch your human-powered boat, and to enjoy the surrounding beauty. From Rubicon Point here in the park, you can even see more than 100 feet into the depths of Lake Tahoe!
In summer you want to make sure you get there early in the day or later in the afternoon because parking can fill up by mid-morning. In winter, the park is closed to vehicles, but you can still park at the Visitor Center near HWY 89 and walk to the trails or beach.
Located in D. L. Bliss State Park, the Rubicon Trail is a popular 16.4 mile out and back hike with views that will astound you! You’ll have numerous viewpoints to marvel at the land and lake around you, so this isn’t a hike to be missed! Even if you only do part of the trail, you’ll be glad you did. Roads can be closed in the winter, so be sure to check out trail reports and conditions.
For more gentle hikes in South Lake Tahoe, try the Cascade Falls Trail, an easy two-mile loop hike from Bayview Campground to Cascade Falls with vistas of Lake Tahoe along the way, or the Fallen Leaf Lake Trail, a gentle stroll along the lake’s shoreline from the Fallen Leaf Campground.
Watch the Sunset from Cave Rock
Cave Rock was created over 3 million years ago and is located on the southeastern shore of Lake Tahoe. It’s sacred to the Washoe Indians and called “The Lady of the Lake” because from the water you can see the profile of a woman’s face in the rock structure. This a short hike that is perfect for watching the sunset out over the lake.
With fifteen ski resorts and beautiful scenery, Lake Tahoe is a great place to ski! Whether it's downhill or cross country, you’ll be able to ski under sunny skies and above the blue lake waters as you enjoy world-class resorts. (Squaw Valley Resort is one of the best around and was the host site for the 1960 Winter Olympics.)
Inspiration Point Vista
Make sure your camera is charged for your drive up Inspiration Point Vista. The views here will astound you and you’ll be glad you drove up here! See Emerald Bay, Fannette Island, Vikingsholm Castle and more from this point, but be sure to arrive early in the morning or in the later afternoon to avoid the crowds! This can be one of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe with kids.
Sand Harbor State Park
Located on the Northeast shore of Lake Tahoe within Nevada, Sand Harbor State Park offers tons of great activities like boating, swimming, fishing, and even horse-drawn sleigh rides in the winter. The surrounding lake and mountains you can see from this park will draw you in and encourage you to keep on exploring the area by land or by boat!
Get your sea legs ready and explore Lake Tahoe with a boat cruise! With sunshine, fresh air, and most importantly, stunning views of the area, your cruise will delight you. Cruise options range from an authentic Mississippi Paddlewheeler, to luxury yachts, to private excursions. Getting to sail on the lake with dinner, drinks, and a gorgeous view will make your day.
Hike to Eagle Falls & Eagle Lake
When it comes to scenery, the Eagle Falls trail offers up cascading waterfalls, large granite peaks, and lots of evergreens. After about a ¼ mile, you’ll head up a path of lovely stone stairs cut right into the rock wall itself. After about another ¼ mile, you’ll come upon the falls themselves. You can turn around here, or continue on to Eagle Lake.
Whether it’s summer or winter in Lake Tahoe, there are so many amazing places to explore and see! We’re looking forward to our next visit to the beautiful blue waters, but in the meantime, if you go, be sure to tag us on social media so we can live vicariously through you. And if you want a custom itinerary made just for you, be sure to check out our Lake Tahoe trip!