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.
The slopes have breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe’s stunning alpine lake framed by snow-capped peaks.
To top it off, 300 days of sunshine and an average annual snowfall of 10.67 metres just about guarantee a fantastic time on the snow.
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.
- 40 Things To Do In Lake Tahoe
- Things To Do In Lake Tahoe In Winter
- 1- Ski across the California-Nevada border at Heavenly
- 2- Enjoy the fairytale atmosphere of Squaw Valley’s Village
- 3- Go ice skating at Northstar
- 4- Go on a Snowmobile adventure
- 5- Ski like an Olympic champion at Squaw Valley
- 6- Visit the Olympic Museum at High Camp
- 7- Snowshoe in the moonlight
- 8- Go on the most beautiful drive in America
- 9- Relax in a day spa
- 10- Soar in a glider over the high Sierras
- 11- Get active at the Winter Sports Park
- 12- Go dog sledding
- 13- Party at the Snow Globe Music Festival
- 14- Go backcountry skiing at Kirkwood
- 15- Soak in a hot pool
- Things to do in Lake Tahoe in Spring
- 16- Play Snow Golf
- 17- Learn About The Environment On Earth Day
- 18- Join the Fun At WinterWonderGrass
- 19- Go Hiking
- 20- Play Golf
- 21- See the city lights of Reno
- 22- Take a Helicopter Tour
- 23- Spring Skiing
- 24- Go Fishing
- 25- Climb the Tahoe Via Ferrata
- 26- Go Scuba Diving in Emerald Bay
- 27- Go Downhill Mountain Biking at NorthStar
- 28- Enjoy Water Sports on the Lake
- 29- Get Creative At A Spring Workshop
- 30- Have a Picnic on the Beach
- Things To Do In Lake Tahoe In Fall
- 31- Meet The Farmers At Sample Sierra Festival
- 32- Enjoy the Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine Festival
- 33- Watch the Kokanee Salmon Spawning
- 34- See the Fall Foliage
- 35- Go Hiking
- 36- Go Mountain Biking
- 37- Cruise the Lake in a Paddle Wheeler
- 38- Drink Beer And Eat Bratwurst
- 39- Enjoy Time Out With Your Pet
- 40- Drive Around The Lake
- Things To Do In Lake Tahoe In Winter
40 Things To Do In Lake Tahoe
Things To Do In Lake Tahoe In Winter
USA’s Golden State has world-class ski resorts offering record-breaking snowfall, exciting après-ski activities and a variety of lodging options to fit all budgets.
There’s no doubt California is home to some of the country’s best ski slopes and Lake Tahoe’s winter wonderland has the largest concentration of ski resorts anywhere in the USA.
With 12 ski resorts in Lake Tahoe, there are plenty of options for skiing, snowboarding and other activities like snowmobiling and snowshoeing.
The varied terrain of the spectacular Sierra Nevada mountain range offers fun on the slopes for all levels, from gentle slopes for beginners to thrilling backcountry skiing and terrain parks with steep slopes, chutes and mogul fields.
Popular winter resorts in Lake Tahoe are Northstar (great for families), Heavenly Mountain (which has the highest vertical drop in California), Sugarbowl (the closest resort to San Francisco) and Squaw Valley.
Not only is Lake Tahoe a fantastic adventure destination, but its fairytale atmosphere also makes it one of the most romantic places to visit in the USA in winter.
1- 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.
On the California side, the sapphire-blue waters of Lake Tahoe surrounded by snow-capped peaks are a page from a picture-book.
The Nevada side is great for skiing through forests of giant snow-covered pines while the sunburned desert lies in the valley below.
The contrast of wintry alpine and harsh desert vistas is a sight to remember.
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, a luxurious rustic hideaway located a short distance from the Heavenly gondola base, or one of these South Lake Tahoe hotels.
2- Enjoy the fairytale atmosphere of Squaw Valley’s Village
World-famous for its role as the host of the VIII Olympic Winter Games held in 1960, Squaw Valley offers steep scenic skiing and lots of winter activities for non-skiers.
Olympic Games fans can swap skis for ice skates and glide around the Olympic Ice Pavilion, or pay tribute to the Winter Olympic champions at High Camp’s Olympic Museum.
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.
- Book one of these charming Squaw Valley Hotels.
- Enjoy a full-day Lake Tahoe and Squaw Valley bus tour.
3- Go ice skating at Northstar
Another village that has a delightful winter wonderland ambience is the village at the base of Northstar at Tahoe.
The picturesque village is centred on a year-round skating rink with luxury condominiums, stylish boutiques, art galleries, cafes and restaurants around it.
When the sun goes down, Northstar-at-Tahoe is one of the best places to trade in the skis or snowboard boots for dancing shoes.
If you’re an ice skater, you’ll love it and even 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.
It’s the perfect spot to roast mouth-watering s’mores (creamy melted marshmallows sandwiched between chocolate squares and graham crackers).
Northstar has terrain parks and snow sports such as alpine and telemark skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and tubing.
The après skiing scene at Northstar’s village is vibrant with live bands, special events, festivals and loads of parties.
4- 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.
A snowmobile tour is heaps of fun, with plenty of photo stops along the way and the chance to be awed by views of Lake Tahoe, where pale snow-topped mountains are a tantalising teaser for what is to come.
The forest is breathtakingly beautiful but you could easily get lost so you need to go with a guide.
Most tours have a guide at the front of the group and one at the back, to make sure no one is left behind.
Watson’s Lake is a frozen lake that is a great spot for snowmobile races and if you have the urge to satisfy a need for speed, this is the spot to do it.
5- 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.
During these games, Jean Vuarnet became the first Olympian to compete on metal skis, a pair of Allais ’60s, winning gold for France in the Men’s Downhill.
This is where the USA won its first gold medal in ice hockey.
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.
6- 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.
7- 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.
8- 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.
If you prefer not to drive, this guided tour of Lake Tahoe driving tour visits all the scenic spots on America’s most beautiful drive.
9- 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.
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.
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11- 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.
12- 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.
13- 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.
14- Go backcountry skiing at Kirkwood
Black diamond skiers take note.
At 2377 metres, Kirkwood Mountain Resort has the highest base in California and an annual snowfall of around 15 metres.
The snow here is light and dry, making it a top spot for deep-powder skiing.
There are plenty of challenging chutes, cliff drops, and high-pitch bowls and glades offering some of the best advanced and expert terrain in the country.
The backcountry education program offers courses on snow safety, avalanche terrain awareness, and transmitter and transceiver use.
Those who want to experience the thrill of camping out overnight can join a new snow-camping class to learn gear and site selection, packing strategies and cold-weather cooking.
Kirwood’s cat skiing operation offers skiers the opportunity to seek out fresh powder on the Powder Cat Tour to Martin Point and Red Cliffs.
15- Soak in a hot pool
It’s about minus 6°C and yesterday’s fresh dump of snow might have powdery mounds around the pool and jacuzzis.
Wrap yourself up like a mummy in an oversized white bathrobe, looking a frightful sight with a woollen beanie and fur-lined hiking boots.
The tendrils of hot steam rising like a Scottish mist above the warm jacuzzi is just enough incentive to throw off your bathrobe and slip into the whirlpool.
The water embraces you in a warm cocoon and you’ll soon stop shivering with cold.
It seems bizarre to be sitting in a hot pool while gazing at metres of snow but when in Rome, or rather when in Lake Tahoe, it’s best to follow the lead of the locals.
There’s nothing more rewarding than plunging into a heated jacuzzi after an active day out in the snow.
The only problem is that you’ll be so warm and snug in the water you won’t want to get out.
For more California adventures read:
- San Francisco Itinerary
- San Francisco Bike Tours
- San Francisco Go Cars
- Exploring Hearst Castle
- Yosemite National Park
- Boxing in Las Vegas
- Best Places To Visit in California
- Lake Tahoe Snowshoe Adventure
Things to do in Lake Tahoe in Spring
Spring in Lake Tahoe is a lovely time to visit as the weather is warmer and there are plenty of sunny days.
It’s also the only time of year when you can ski or snowboard in the morning and go water skiing or swimming in the afternoon.
16- Play Snow Golf
Get dressed up in costume and enter the Alpine Meadows Annual Snow Golf Tournament, which is a tradition that has been going for 35 years.
The nine-hole course begins at the top of the Summit Express Chair and is a fun event for family groups to take part in.
The Alpine Meadows Snow Golf Tournament is held in April at 2600 Alpine Meadows Rd, Olympic Valley, Lake Tahoe.
17- Learn About The Environment On Earth Day
Lake Tahoe is the perfect destination to visit during Earth Day, which is a festival that is focused on the environment.
Lake Tahoe is one of the most stunning natural places in the United States and attending a talk about climate change or learning about water conservation takes on new meaning in Lake Tahoe.
Besides the more serious issues, the festival also has a programme live music, dance performances and there are plenty of activities for kids too.
South Lake Tahoe’s Earth Day is on 27 April 2020.
18- Join the Fun At WinterWonderGrass
WinterWonderGrass is a Lake Tahoe festival that brings ski town communities together around the theme of bluegrass music and brewed beer.
Roots, bluegrass and jamgrass bands bring Squaw Valley to life over three days of fun across a number of indoor and outdoor stages.
There are cocktail bars, food trucks, coffee bars and plenty of beer tastings too.
The festival is suitable for families as there are plenty of activities for kids, such as face painting and workshops.
WinterWonderGrass Festival runs from 27 to 29 March 2020 in Squaw Valley.
19- Go Hiking
Lake Tahoe is a fantastic destination for hikers, with plenty of hiking trails ranging from easy nature walks to multi-day treks.
Iconic walking trails include the Tahoe Rim Trail, the hike to the top of Mount Tallac, which has amazing views of Emerald Bay, Cascade Lake and the Desolation Wilderness, and the Mount Rose trail.
If you’re visiting Lake Tahoe with kids, the Tahoe Meadows Interpretive Trail is an easy level walking loop at the summit of Mount Rose.
The hike offers the chance to experience nature as you wander past granite boulders and forests with mountain streams.
Check out this Lake Tahoe half-day photographic tour for an opportunity to see wildlife.
20- Play Golf
In Lake Tahoe, there are almost as many golf courses as there are ski resorts.
With six championship courses designed by legends like Jack Nicklaus and Robert Trent Jones, as well as four executive golf courses in Lake Tahoe, golfers have plenty of choices.
Courses curve around the lake, stretch across glacial valleys and through conifer forests.
The Links at Squaw Valley is one of the most beautiful golf courses, with stunning views of the peaks, and s a challenging par 3 6th hole with an over-the-water approach.
Even beginning golfers are well-catered for in Lake Tahoe, especially at Lake Tahoe Golf Course or Bijou Municipal Golf Course.
21- 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.
Cash in your chips and enjoy a cabaret show or live music performance by household names like Tony Bennett, Bonnie Raitt and Robin Williams.
Ren’s lively Riverwalk arts district also has excellent galleries, boutiques, eateries and a bustling nightlife.
You might also like this 4-day Tahoe Views and Reno Brews Tour.
22- Take a Helicopter Tour
A helicopter tour over Lake Tahoe is a great way to enjoy the region’s stunning scenery.
With views of soaring peaks, pristine forests and the glistening lake, a helicopter tour is an activity for your bucket list.
23- Spring Skiing
Spring is one of the best times to go skiing in Lake Tahoe as the weather is warmer, the snow is softer and the crowds are smaller.
It’s also cheaper to ski in spring and many of Lake Tahoe’s ski resorts have special deals to attract the spring crowd to the slopes.
Is there enough snow in spring? That depends on the season and while most resorts close by April, sometimes some winter resorts might stay open for skiing as late as June.
24- Go Fishing
The rivers and lakes of Lake Tahoe is home to several kinds of fish including Kokanee Salmon and several types of trout – Lake (Mackinaw), Brown and Rainbow Trout.
Some of the places you can go fishing include Lake Tahoe, Donner Lake, Fallen Leaf Lake, Caples Lake, Taylor Creek (a main tributary to Lake Tahoe) as well as the Truckee, East and West Carson Rivers.
Booking a day tour with a local fishing charter will increase your odds of catching something as Lake Tahoe is enormous.
25- Climb the Tahoe Via Ferrata
The Tahoe Via Ferrata climbing route at Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows is one of 10 in the USA.
Via Ferrata is an Italian word that means “Iron Road”, which were mountain paths across the European Alps.
Lake Tahoe’s via Ferrata is a climbing experience led by mountain guides, where participants are attached to the rock for safety using steel anchors and cables.
It’s a fun activity suitable for adventurous adults and kids over 10 and is easier than rock climbing.
The Tahoe Via Ferrate starts and ends at the Village at Squaw Valley.
26- Go Scuba Diving in Emerald Bay
The Emerald Bay Maritime Heritage Trail is an attraction for scuba divers who can access underwater interpretative displays at four diving sites in Emerald Bay.
Sunken watercraft in Emerald Bay include 20th-century recreational boats, launches, fishing boats and barges used on the lake when the Emerald Bay Resort was a popular spot during the 1920s and 30s.
Another way to explore Emerald Bay is to go on a cruise like this one.
27- Go Downhill Mountain Biking at NorthStar
In late spring, Northstar California’s Bike Park offers cross-country, downhill and e-biking in one of the largest mountain biking parks on the west coast of the USA.
You can rent bikes, join a lesson or sign up for a team event to get the adrenalin rush of whooshing down the mountain.
28- Enjoy Water Sports on the Lake
Stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking and boating are some of the water activities to enjoy on the lakes of Lake Tahoe.
There are several scenic spots to go paddleboarding around Lake Tahoe, including Emerald Bay, Cave Rock and Rubicon Point.
For an adrenalin rush, try jet skiing and water skiing
29- Get Creative At A Spring Workshop
Unleash your creativity at a spring workshop in Lake Tahoe.
From basket weaving with pine needles to silk and oil painting, the scenery around the Lake Tahoe region is an inspiration to artists.
Joining a creative workshop is a great way to de-stress, relax and unleash hidden talents.
Tahoe Arts is at 380 North Lake Blvd, Tahoe City.
30- Have a Picnic on the Beach
The USA’s second deepest lake has 70 miles of shoreline and although most of it consists of rugged granite boulders, there are many beaches in Lake Tahoe suitable for swimming, sunbaking and picnics.
Top beaches are Sand Harbor, a popular beach with picnic tables, Kiva Beach if you’re travelling with dogs, Pope Beach and Kings Beach.
Lake Tahoe is 780 kilometres from Los Angeles, around eight hours driving time.
Things To Do In Lake Tahoe In Fall
Not only is the weather perfect, one of the best times of year to keep away from the crowds in Lake Tahoe is during the fall season.
September can still be warm during the day while the winter chill starts creeping in towards the end of October and to get the best of both world’s, this is the month to go for a fall and winter vacation, as it’s possible to see snow from October onwards.
The water in the lake can be a little chilly most of the year but don’t be surprised to see people swimming and participating in watersports in October.
31- Meet The Farmers At Sample Sierra Festival
South Lake Tahoe’s farm to fork festival is another fabulous foodie event that showcases the region’s fare, with culinary demonstrations, live music and lots of wining and dining.
This year from 10 to 20 September, the virtual festival dishes up a cornucopia of events including restaurant week, a maker’s market, tasting week and the Sierra Chef Challenge. Find out more about Sample the Sierra here.
32- Enjoy the Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine Festival
Sunset cocktails, wine tastings, cooking demonstrations and food seminars; the Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine Festival is a fabulous event where you can meet the winemakers and top chefs of north Lake Tahoe.
33- Watch the Kokanee Salmon Spawning
One of the highlights of fall (usually in early October) is the Kokanee salmon spawning when salmon migrate to Taylor Creek to spawn.
Walk the Rainbow Trail from the Taylor Creek Visitor center and check out the underwater viewing Stream Profile Chamber along the way.
The Fall Fish Fest is a two-day festival to celebrate this natural event and a perfect time to visit Lake Tahoe if you’re planning a trip with the kids.
Activities at the festival include educational programs, talks, a kids fun run and lots of other children’s activities.
34- See the Fall Foliage
You’ll see Aspen and Cottonwood autumn leaves as you drive along the highways, especially the highway to Truckee and around southern Lake Tahoe but the best way to experience the magic of fall is to get out on the trails.
Popular fall hiking spots to see fall foliage in Lake Tahoe are:
- North Lake Tahoe – Page Meadows near Tahoe City, Mount Rose Highway Summit.
- South Lake Tahoe – Hope Valley, Markleeville, Ebbetts Pass, Taylor Creek, Luther Pass, Apple Hill and Fallen Leaf Lake.
- Zephyr Cove on the Stateline
35- Go Hiking
Fall is a fabulous time of year to go hiking because the weather in Lake Tahoe during the day is mild, with clear sunny skies.
If doesn’t matter where you go hiking in Lake Tahoe, you simply can’t go wrong as the views are stunning everywhere. Hike one of the many trails, such as to the top of Mount Rose or Mount Lola.
36- Go Mountain Biking
Lake Tahoe is a fantastic destination for cyclists of all skill levels as the region has a variety of trails, from easy slopes for beginners to some of the most challenging mountain biking trails in the country.
Riding along past stunning fall foliage is spectacular and one of the top reasons to visit Lake Tahoe in the fall.
37- Cruise the Lake in a Paddle Wheeler
38- Drink Beer And Eat Bratwurst
October is the time to enjoy Oktoberfest in Lake Tahoe or drink wine. Book your Lake Tahoe wine tour here.
39- Enjoy Time Out With Your Pet
Lake Tahoe is a pet-friendly destination, with a range of accommodation options, dog-friendly beaches and dog-friendly cafes and restaurants.
If you enjoy exploring with your dog, here’s a good guide.
40- Drive Around The Lake
Autumn is a wonderful time to go for a drive around the lake to admire the views and discover hidden beaches.
Check out my Lake Tahoe web story here.