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Things to do in Lake Tahoe

Things to do in  Lake Tahoe

Welcome to Lake Tahoe

Set high in the Sierra Nevada range, spanning the California/Nevada border, Lake Tahoe is one of the largest freshwater lakes in the US and one of the deepest in the world. Surrounded by pine forest and steep, alpine peaks, Tahoe is famous for its dazzlingly clear, blue-green water and epic winter snows. With easy access from the Bay Area and Sacramento, Lake Tahoe National Recreation Area attracts roughly three million visitors year-round. Lake Tahoe's many activities are divided by weather and season. In winter, powder-hounds flock to its numerous ski resorts and snowboarding trails. Summer season is great for watersports of all sorts—swimming, fishing, boating, kayaking—as well as hiking, camping, and mountain biking. With just one narrow, winding road along the 72-mile (116-kilometer) shoreline, a chauffeured ""circle-the-lake"" tour is the best way to take in the scenery. South Shore, home of Heavenly Mountain Resort, Emerald Bay State Park, and Eagle Falls, makes a popular base. Start in Zephyr Cove and capture those famous views from the deck of an old-fashioned paddleboat or even from the cockpit of a helicopter—the choice is yours. Many day trips begin in South Shore, from wine tasting in El Dorado to a Wild West adventure, complete with steam train ride. It also offers nightlife, casinos (on the Nevada side), and easy access from Reno airport. North Shore's Tahoe City and Squaw Valley are generally quieter and more upscale. A few good restaurants are found here, with many more options in nearby Truckee.

Top 15 attractions in Lake Tahoe

#1
Emerald Bay State Park

Emerald Bay State Park

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Emerald Bay is the jewel of Lake Tahoe’s natural sights—and not just because of its name. Its waters are a bright turquoise color, owing both to the clarity of the lake and the shallowness of the bay. Emerald Bay is also home to the lake’s only islet, Fannette Island. This scenic patch of land surrounded by water is what gives the bay its jewel-like shape and name. Visitors flock to the area in summer for boating, swimming, and hiking opportunities.More
#2
Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe

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The largest alpine lake in North America, and the second-deepest lake in the United States, Lake Tahoe is Northern California’s winter playground. known for its several ski resorts, and a summer getaway. The lake straddles the California-Nevada border, with roughly two-thirds of its mass in California.More
#3
Sand Harbor

Sand Harbor

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With its pristine waters, long stretches of sandy beach, rocky coves with giant boulders, and stunning panoramic views, Sand Harbor is one of the most popular beaches at Lake Tahoe. It’s the ideal place for the whole family to enjoy a day of fun in the sun surrounded by some of Lake Tahoe’s most spectacular scenery.More
#4
Heavenly Gondola

Heavenly Gondola

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Whether you're into adventure travel or are looking for a spot of relaxation, Heavenly Gondola—at the Heavenly Ski Resort—is a must-visit Lake Tahoe attraction. Ride the cable car to the top of the mountain, then gaze out over panoramic shore-to-shore views of turquoise Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains from up high or take to the hiking trails.More
#5
Vikingsholm Castle

Vikingsholm Castle

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Vikingsholm Castle is a historic mansion and architectural highlight of Lake Tahoe. Located in beautiful Emerald Bay State Park, the majestic home overlooks the lake’s scenic Emerald Bay and Fannette Island. Blending seamlessly with its surrounding natural environment, Vikingsholm is considered to be one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the western hemisphere.More
#6
Virginia City

Virginia City

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Step back in time to the Wild West at the historical mining town of Virginia City, once called the “richest place on Earth.” Enjoy 100-mile (160-kilometer) views across the high desert, ride the V&T railroad, shop, have a bite to eat or drink in an old saloon, and tour museums, mines, and mansions in one of the country’s largest National Historic Landmarks.More
#7
Virginia and Truckee Railroad

Virginia and Truckee Railroad

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Experience the frontier days of the Wild West and take in the beautiful scenery of the Nevada high desert on a ride on the Virginia & Truckee Railroad. One of the most famous of all American short-line railroads, the Virginia & Truckee Railroad operates three routes using century-old steam engines and heritage diesel locomotives.More
#8
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe

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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.More
#9
Squaw Valley

Squaw Valley

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One of the top ski resorts on the West Coast, Squaw Valley was the host of the 1960 Winter Olympics. With 3,600 acres (1,457 hectares) of terrain, over 170 trails, and a village boasting over 50 restaurants and 40 shops, as well as a multitude of activities and festivals in the summer, there’s plenty to keep visitors occupied year-round.More
#10
Eagle Falls

Eagle Falls

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One of the most popular hikes in the Lake Tahoe area, the Eagle Falls Trail is an easy to moderate hike featuring cascading waterfalls, lush forest scenery, and breathtaking views of Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, and the Sierra high country. Experience the best that Tahoe has to offer in this short but rewarding hike.More
#11
M.S. Dixie II

M.S. Dixie II

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To truly experience Lake Tahoe, take a trip aboard theM.S. Dixie II, a paddle-wheel boat that plies the lake’s stunning, cobalt-blue waters. From its vantage point on the lake, take in views of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Emerald Bay, charming Fannette Island, and Vikingsholm Castle.More
#12
Fallen Leaf Lake

Fallen Leaf Lake

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Glacier-carved Fallen Leaf Lake is a hidden oasis not far from Lake Tahoe. Tucked into the pines and offering scenic mountain views, this off-the-beaten-path destination features a network of hiking trails, pristine waters for swimming and fishing, and a campground that's typically less crowded than nearby South Lake Tahoe sites.More
#13
Tahoe City

Tahoe City

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Tahoe City is situated on the shores of Lake Tahoe and serves as a fantastic base for wider exploration of the popular all-weather region, including both North and South Lake. Here, visitors enjoy warm-weather activities such as stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, and jet skiing. In winter, skiing at nearby resorts is a favorite, followed by warming drinks and dinner in Tahoe City.More
#14
El Dorado Wine Region

El Dorado Wine Region

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California’s El Dorado wine-producing region is situated at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. With a low-alpine climate—warm days and cool nights are ideal for growing grapes for wine—the area is home to about 50 wineries, producing dozens of celebrated wine varietals.More
#15
Tahoe National Forest

Tahoe National Forest

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Located in the northern Sierra Nevada mountains, Tahoe National Forest encompasses more than 800,000 acres (324,000 hectares) of dense forest, rivers, snowcapped mountains, canyons, and lakes, providing you ample opportunity for outdoor recreation in Northern California.More

Trip ideas

Lake Tahoe Ski Resort Guide

Lake Tahoe Ski Resort Guide

Top Hiking Trails in Tahoe

Top Hiking Trails in Tahoe

Top activities in Lake Tahoe

Wild West Day Trip from Lake Tahoe with Train Ride
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Tahoe Helicopter Tour: Lakes and Waterfalls
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Zephyr Cove Helicopter Tour

Zephyr Cove Helicopter Tour

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US$180.00
Emerald Bay Sunset Boat tour in the Grateful Red
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Emerald Bay Sunset Boat tour in the Grateful Red

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Full-Day Lake Tahoe Circle Tour including Squaw Valley
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Private Boat Charter Emerald Bay
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Private Boat Charter Emerald Bay

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Operators have paid Viator more to have their experiences featured here

Recent reviews from experiences in Lake Tahoe

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An experience of a life time!!
Hannah_F, Jul 2022
Emerald Bay Helicopter Tour of Lake Tahoe
Being able to see Lake Tahoe from above was amazing!!
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Great tour
ammancillas51, May 2022
Full-Day Lake Tahoe Circle Tour including Squaw Valley
We got to see a lot of beautiful Lake Tahoe.
star-5
A relaxing way to see the Lake
Cori_H, Sep 2022
2 Hour Sailing Cruise on Lake Tahoe
If you want to see the lake a relaxing way this is for you.
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One word: Perfect.
Andrew_A, Jun 2022
2 Hour Sailing Cruise on Lake Tahoe
Sean (captain) and Jack (deckhand) were courteous, charming, funny, and very knowledgeable about sailing generally and about Lake Tahoe and the surrounding area and attractions.
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Best part of our two day visit to Lake Tahoe! We’ll definitely be back.
Pamela_D, May 2022
Zephyr Cove Helicopter Tour
Made us laugh tipped us sideways so we could get a better view of the little coves and waterfalls.
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Ideal way to see Lake Tahoe
Afzal_P, Oct 2021
Lake Tahoe Small-Group Photography Scenic Half-Day Tour
Absolutely perfect way to see Lake Tahoe.
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Hands down excellent
Mabel_B, Jun 2021
Half-Day Coastal Self-Guided Electric Bike Tour | The Iconic East Shore Trail
The only way to see the shoreline on Lake Tahoe.
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Beautiful biking
Tracey_L, Jun 2021
Half-Day Coastal Self-Guided Electric Bike Tour | The Iconic East Shore Trail
Fun, fun time with easy to use bikes along a gorgeous trail on the east shore of beautiful Lake Tahoe, nice way to see the lake up close, highly recommend!
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14yr Anniversary
Emilia_F, Apr 2021
Emerald Bay Helicopter Tour of Lake Tahoe
I have been recommending this tour to anyone to would like to visit Lake Tahoe!
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A MUST!
Linda_T, Oct 2020
Private Boat Charter on Lake Tahoe with Captain Half Day
Such a fabulous way to see Lake Tahoe and all of its beauty and history!
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Excellent Photography tour
Debra_S, Jul 2020
Lake Tahoe Small-Group Photography Scenic Half-Day Tour
This tour was excellent and not only gave us an opportunity to see the best of the best in South Lake Tahoe but we also learned a lot about how to take a great photo.
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The tour driver was very...
Hendry, Jul 2015
Full-Day Lake Tahoe Circle Tour including Squaw Valley
The tour was a comfortable and convenient way to visit different sightseeing spots around Lake Tahoe.
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This was a great way to visit...
STEPHEN B, Sep 2015
Wild West Day Trip from Lake Tahoe with Train Ride
This was a great way to visit Virginia City while in Lake Tahoe!
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Great evening cruise.
Bridget_W, Aug 2021
2 Hour Sailing Cruise on Lake Tahoe
Great way to see Lake Tahoe.
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Best Day Ever!
Lisa_M, Jul 2021
Small-Group Day Trip to Yosemite from Lake Tahoe
Then we headed down to Yosemite Valley where we saw all the big attractions and they were amazing.
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Excellent day trip to experience Yosemite
Adam_G, Jul 2019
Small-Group Day Trip to Yosemite from Lake Tahoe
Highly recommend this trip if you are in Lake Tahoe and want to see and explore Yosemite - in the comfort of a guided tour bus.
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We had a very nice day. The driver...
Carol H, Jul 2014
Wild West Day Trip from Lake Tahoe with Train Ride
We got to see terrain in Nevada that we wouldn't have seen otherwise.
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The best way to see Tahoe
Michele_N, Aug 2021
2 Hour Sailing Cruise on Lake Tahoe
If you want to see Lake Tahoe, you have to do this trip!
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Wonderful!
Amanda_T, Aug 2021
2 Hour Sailing Cruise on Lake Tahoe
Highly recommend to see a bit more of Lake Tahoe!
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This tour was awesome! I've been to...
HV, Nov 2015
Lake Tahoe Small-Group Photography Scenic Half-Day Tour
I've been to Lake Tahoe several times but with this tour was able to see different areas and viewpoints.
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All about Lake Tahoe

When to visit

Lake Tahoe is a popular outdoorsy destination, with beaches and slopes enticing visitors in summer and winter. Whether you’re packing a swimsuit or ski gear, these are the best times to visit. Summer hosts a bevy of festivals, including the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, the Brews, Jazz, and Funk Fest, and the Lake Tahoe Music Festival—all in July and August. To avoid crowds, plan months in advance, snag beach spots and ski lifts early, and skip holiday weekends.

Getting around

Straddling the Nevada-California border some 6,245 feet (1,900 meters) above sea level, Lake Tahoe is well-connected transportation wise. Public buses move travelers (and their bikes) between North and South Lake Tahoe. Seasonal resort shuttles, rideshares, and bike lanes round out transport options. Travelers with cars may have to deal with bumper-to-bumper traffic, but a car is a good way to see destinations such as the Emerald Cove lookout and take in the entire Lake Tahoe Loop scenic drive.

Traveler tips

California Sno-Parks, operated by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, offer affordable access to snow play areas (think sledding and snow angels) and cross-country skiing and snowmobile trails. Permits are easily obtained online for a small fee—much less than the hundreds of dollars spent on downhill skiing. Blackwood Canyon, Taylor Creek, and Echo Lake sites are on the lake’s west side; 15 other sites are farther out as far as Sierra City and Pinecrest.

Currency
US Dollar ($)
Time Zone
PDT (UTC -8)
Country Code
+1
Language(s)
English

A local’s pocket guide to Lake Tahoe

Kristin Dorsett

Kristin and her husband made the move to the Lake Tahoe area after visiting for their honeymoon and they head to the lake whenever they get a chance—summer or winter.

The first thing you should do in Lake Tahoe is...

take a cruise on the MS Dixie II paddleboat. The 2-hour tour gives you an overview of the area and feel for the scale of the lake.

A perfect Saturday in Lake Tahoe...

involves bikes and ice cream. Rent a bike from Anderson's Bicycle Rental, cruise along the bike path, and finish with an ice cream from the Camp Richardson Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor.

One touristy thing that lives up to the hype is...

Virginia City. Travel back in time to the Wild West, ride the steam train, and get a bloody mary from the Bucket of Blood Saloon.

To discover the "real" Lake Tahoe...

head to the north and west side of the lake. The towns there have a more local feel. I always like to stop at the Spoon in Tahoe City.

For the best view of the city...

go to Inspiration Point. You’ll get a clear shot of Emerald Bay and Vikingsholm Castle, but get there early as parking can be a bit difficult later in the day.

One thing people get wrong...

is thinking Lake Tahoe is just a winter skiing destination. I actually think summer is the best season to visit—the weather is perfect and there’s lots to do, from hiking to water sports.

Frequently Asked Questions
The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
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