South Lake Tahoe, perched on the largest Alpine lake in North America on the California–Nevada border, is one of the region’s most popular hot spots. The city offers stellar water views and serviceable accommodations with easy access to the lake, plus casinos, great skiing, beaches, and bike trails.
South Lake Tahoe is a year-round destination with a particular appeal to outdoor enthusiasts. In summer, an extensive network of walking paths, bike trails, and campsites offer myriad ways to enjoy the lake and its surrounding forests, including Emerald Bay State Park (just a few miles north of town). In winter, skiers and snowboarders flock to the region to experience some of California’s best ski resorts, including Heavenly and Squaw Valley. For something even more serene, strap on a pair of snowshoes and take an off-the-beaten-path winter hike through the fresh powder.
Things to Know Before You Go
- South Lake Tahoe is a must-visit for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure travelers.
- South Lake Tahoe is larger, and packed with more amenities, than Truckee or Tahoe City.
- Don’t forget to pack comfortable shoes—ones suitable for walking on uneven surfaces.
- For unmatched views of the lake, book a Lake Tahoe circle tour.
- If you’re driving through the area in winter, remember that tire chains are sometimes required.
How to Get There
The nearest airport is Reno-Tahoe International, located 58 miles (93 kilometers) north. If you don’t have a car, catch the South Tahoe Express Bus from the airport to the Heavenly Gondola. Or, fly into San Francisco International Airport take the scenic 3.5-hour drive.
When to Get There
The best time to visit South Lake Tahoe? That depends on what you like to do. Non-skiers tend to enjoy the area in early fall and late spring, when the crowds are thinner, the prices are lower, and the weather is consistently beautiful.
Choosing a Shore
Lake Tahoe has a large perimeter, and each shore offers something unique. The south shore, near South Lake Tahoe, shines for its gambling and entertainment, easy access to ski resorts like Heavenly, and abundant, affordable accommodations. North Lake Tahoe, on the other hand, is dotted with vacation rentals and luxury resorts, and the eastern and western banks, which have less commercial activity, are good choices for a rugged wilderness escape.