Lake Tahoe is a gem in the Sierra Nevada mountain range straddling both states of California and Nevada. This stunning region is an outdoor haven and there are plenty of things to do in Lake Tahoe all year round.
Winter in Lake Tahoe is a white winter wonderland of fun while summer in Lake Tahoe offers activities like kayaking, swimming, hiking and mountain-biking in beautiful countryside.
One of the unique things about Lake Tahoe is it is spread across two US states.
South Lake Tahoe (California) and North Lake Tahoe (Nevada ) are also known as the California Side or the Nevada Side.
- Things to do in Lake Tahoe in Winter
- 1- Go on the most beautiful drive in America
- 2- Ski across the California-Nevada border at Heavenly
- 3- Soak up the fairytale atmosphere of Squaw Valley’s Village
- 4- Go ice skating at Northstar
- 5- Go on a Snowmobile adventure
- 6- Ski like an Olympic champion at Squaw Valley
- 7- Visit the Olympic Museum at High Camp
- 8- Snowshoe in the moonlight
- 9- Try your luck on the casino strip
- 10- Soar in a glider over the high Sierras
- 11- Relax in a day spa
- 12- See the city lights of Reno
- 13- Get active at the Winter Sports Park
- 14- Go dog sledding
- 15- Party at the Snow Globe Music Festival
Things to do in Lake Tahoe in Winter
With 12 ski resorts in Lake Tahoe, there are plenty of options for skiing, snowboarding and other activities like snowmobiling and snowshoeing.
Popular winter resorts in Lake Tahoe are Northstar (great for families), Heavenly Mountain (which has the highest vertical drop in California), Sugarbowl (close to San Francisco) and Squaw Valley.
1- Go on the most beautiful drive in America
As the California-Nevada state line cuts through the middle of Lake Tahoe, the 116-km drive around North America’s largest alpine lake passes through two states.
The lake is massive.
At 35 kilometres long by 19 km wide, it contains enough water to flood California to a depth of 35 cm.
At 1897 m above sea level, “The Most Beautiful Drive in America” is a marketing label that doesn’t oversell the area’s natural beauty.
There are plenty of lookouts from which to admire breathtaking views of snow-capped mountains along with sparkling bays.
Rumour has it the water is so pure that a white dinner plate can be seen as far down as 24 metres.
During the winter months, hire a four-wheel drive sports utility vehicle with all-weather tires equipped to handle wintry conditions.
2- Ski across the California-Nevada border at Heavenly
Board the gondola at the base of Heavenly Mountain for a trip with a view of Lake Tahoe that would make the angels sing.
The most unusual aspect about Heavenly Mountain is that it’s located partly in California and partly in Nevada.
Aside from views of the glistening lake, from The Deck, which is a viewing platform 2780 metres above sea level, you’ll be able to see the Desolation Wilderness with its alpine forest, granite peaks, glacial valleys on the California side and views of Carson Valley on the Nevada side.
Peek through high-powered viewing telescopes available to the public for a closer look at landmarks like Emerald Bay, Mount Tallac and Cascade Falls.
Stay at Deerfield Lodge (tel: +1 530 544 333), a luxurious rustic hideaway located a short distance from the Heavenly gondola base.
3- Soak up the fairytale atmosphere of Squaw Valley’s Village
Enjoy the fairytale atmosphere of a charming ski village framed by picture-perfect snow-covered slopes as you meander around the Squaw Valley village.
The village’s après-ski buzz is alluring in winter, making it one of the best places to visit in California.
Wander along cobblestone walkways to its up-market boutiques, restaurants and cafes.
There are activities for children, a good range of shops, lots of dining choices as well as live music events almost every night of the week.
4- Go ice skating at Northstar
Another village that has a delightful winter wonderland ambience is the village at the base of Northstar at Tahoe.
If you’re an ice skater, you’ll love it but if you’re not, watch the ice-skaters whiz by as you warm your toes by a fire pit while sipping on a hot chocolate is a fun thing to do when visiting Lake Tahoe.
5- Go on a Snowmobile adventure
Join an exciting snowmobile expedition through pristine wilderness filled with snow-covered pine forests.
The two-hour guided convoy stops at viewpoints on Mount Watson that provide unsurpassed spots from which to photograph the lake.
Speed hounds will get the chance to push the pedal to the metal and tear across a frozen lake.
6- Ski like an Olympic champion at Squaw Valley
Ski the awe-inspiring terrain that was tackled by the Olympic competitors during the 1960 Winter Olympics held at Squaw Valley.
For expert skiers, Squaw Valley is one of the top places to ski in the USA.
Keen skiers will appreciate the night skiing facilities and the resort’s chairlift that provides direct access to the winter Olympic slopes while gently undulating hills at the top of the mountain are a perfect learning playground for beginners.
7- Visit the Olympic Museum at High Camp
If you’re not an expert skier, you can still enjoy Squaw Valley by riding the cable car to High Camp., where there are views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains.
High Camp has an ice-skating pavilion, a heated open-air swimming lagoon and an Olympic Museum which has displays with information, photographs and paraphernalia from the 1960 Winter Olympic Games.
One of the best places to stay at is the Resort at Squaw Creek, a picturesque ski-in and ski-out resort located at the base of the slopes.
For non-skiers, the resort’s Nordic Centre runs dog sled tours, snowshoe tours through a magical forest of pine trees, ice skating and cross-country skiing.
8- Snowshoe in the moonlight
For something out of the ordinary, join a full-moon snowshoe tour.
Northstar at Tahoe has one of the most comprehensive cross-country and snowshoe trails.
Northstar’s terrain is perfect for beginning skiers but avoid weekends and public holidays as the slopes can get overcrowded with California day-trippers.
9- Try your luck on the casino strip
Drive across the border to Nevada and try your luck at one of South Lake Tahoe’s 24-hour casinos.
Cash in your chips and enjoy a cabaret show or live music performance by household names like Tony Bennett, Bonnie Raitt and Robin Williams.
The casinos are only a few minutes drive from the South Lake Tahoe ski resorts such as Heavenly Valley, Kirkwood and Sierra at Tahoe.
10- Soar in a glider over the high Sierras
Soar above the mountains in a two-person non-motorised glider for a birds-eye view of Emerald Bay and Carson Ridge.
In winter, flying over the high Sierras offers jawdropping scenery and is an experience for your bucket list.
11- Relax in a day spa
In winter, there’s nothing more comforting than to luxuriate in a warm spa as you submit your body to the ministering of an expert masseur.
For a hot stone massage, try The Spa at the Resort at Squaw Creek.
Trilogy Spa at Squaw Valley village is tucked along a cobblestone walkway and specialises in Hawaiian treatments.
The Stillwater Spa at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort offers a barefoot massage where the therapist walks along your back with the aid of two bars mounted on the ceiling.
12- See the city lights of Reno
For a city fix, head to Reno. Known as the “Biggest Little City”, Reno’s casino strip is a mini Las Vegas with well-known casino brands like Circus Circus, Harrah’s and The Sands.
Its lively Riverwalk arts district has galleries, boutiques, eateries and a bustling nightlife.
13- Get active at the Winter Sports Park
The Tahoe City Winter Sports Park is the place to go for an all-inclusive day of winter fun.
It offers a myriad of activities, including fat biking, ice skating, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
The entry price to the park allows you to try a bit of everything.
14- Go dog sledding
Sit back in a sled pulled by a team of huskies as a musher guides the dogs through forests and meadows.
Dog sledding in the Sierra Nevada mountains is an adventurous way to enjoy winter scenery while being outdoors.
You’ll be amazed at the athleticism of the dogs and their eagerness to run through the snow.
Several companies offer dog sledding, including Running Creek Dog Sled Rides in Kirkwood, Sierra Adventures and many of the ski resorts can arrange your dog sledding tour for you.
15- Party at the Snow Globe Music Festival
One of the things to do in Lake Tahoe you won’t forget is to usher in the new year at the Snow Globe Music Festival.
The three-day festival attracts top musicians who flock here to help create fantastic music in the mountains across multiple stages.
The final celebration is the New Years Eve event, where you can dance the night away at this super cool EDM music festival and watch the fireworks
For more things to do in California see: