17 Best Things to Do at Lake Tahoe: Top-Rated Attractions 2022
As the largest alpine lake in North America, Lake Tahoe draws visitors year-round with its natural beauty and various activities. The pristine blue water and snow-capped peaks attract hikers, campers, and boaters.
Many come to ski in winter at some of the better-known ski resorts, such as Heavenly Ski Resort, Squaw Valley, and Homewood Mountain Resort. There are also several museums in the area that tell the story of Lake Tahoe and the railroad that once ran through nearby cities. Here are the best things to do in Lake Tahoe, CA.
1. Desolation Desert
Desolation Wilderness is a federally protected wilderness area in the Lake Tahoe Basin and the Eldorado National Forest. The area contains nearly 64,000 alpine and sub-alpine forests and mountain peaks, valleys, and lakes formed by glaciers.
Travel in the wilderness is limited to foot and horseback, as all forms of mechanical transportation are prohibited, except for wheelchairs. Visitors are expected to leave no trace and remove all trash from the park.
The natural area features miles of trails, including beginner and advanced trails. Camping is available in most wilderness areas; however, wildlife permits are required to enter the protected area.
Address: North El Dorado, CA 95623
2. Donner Memorial State Park
Donner Memorial State Park preserves and commemorates the site of Camp Donner, which is where the weather trapped members of the Donner Party in the winter of 1846 – 1847.
The famous and unfortunate holiday was trapped without any shelter or adequate food and supplies, and Unfortunately, the group had to engage in cannibalism to survive.
The park’s visitor center interprets the site and contains exhibits related to the history and culture of the area, including the Donner Festival, Native Americans, and the first transcontinental railroad. Park employees provide interpretive hikes, hikes, performances, and campfires.
The park also contains the Pioneer Monument and the Emigrant Trail Museum, dedicated to travelers on the Emigrant Trail. Recreational opportunities include several miles of hiking trails and a stretch of lakefront.
Address: 12593 Donner Pass Road, Truckee, CA 96161
3. Emerald Bay State Park, Lake Tahoe
Emerald Bay State Park is a state park centered on Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay, one of the most popular areas on the lake. The park grounds include Eagle Falls and Vikingsholm, a large Scandinavian mansion. The park also contains Fannette Island, the only island in Lake Tahoe.
The state park has two campgrounds, including Boat-In Campground, only accessible by boat or walking, and Eagle Point Campground. A scenic trail curves around the bay, providing access to the lakeside. The underwater part of the state park includes many shipwrecks.
Address: 138 Emerald Bay Road, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
4. Fallen Leaf Lake
Fallen Leaf Lake is a remote mountain lake in El Dorado County. The lake created by the glaciers is one mile south of Lake Tahoe, and Fallen Leaf Lake Campground is located near the lakeshore.
There is minimal commercial development on the lake, and therefore services are limited to the small Fallen Leaf Marina and Store at the southern end of the lake.
The lack of development means Fallen Leaf Lake has preserved its natural beauty and excellent water quality. The marina has 60 docks for boats and provides access to the water. Wakeboarding and waterskiing are popular activities, and the lake is also a good destination for recreational fishing, sailing, kayaking, and rowing.
5. Heavenly Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe
Heavenly Ski Resort is located on South Lake Tahoe’s California / Nevada border. The ski resort has 97 slopes and 30 lifts spread over four base sites divided between the two states.
Ski season is typically mid-November to mid-April. The slopes feature a combined annual average of 360 inches of natural snow and artificial snow from one of the largest snowmaking systems in the country.
The mountainside offers stunning views of Lake Tahoe and well-groomed slopes and fields. When it comes to nightlife, unbuttoned at Tamarack Lodge and DJ Cat, a custom DJ station built on the back of a snowcat, both offer a chance to have fun while at Heavenly.
Address: 4080 Lake Tahoe Blvd., South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
6. Porter’s Museum
The North Lake Tahoe Historical Society was created to preserve and research the history of Lake Tahoe. The society built and maintains the Gatekeeper Museum, William B. Layton Park, the Marion Steinbach Indian Basket Museum, and the Watson Cabin Museum.
The Gatekeeper’s Museum is located in the exact location as the original log cabin that housed the resident gatekeeper. The museum tells the story of Lake Tahoe’s history and includes many Indian artifacts, historical exhibits, and personal stories of the pioneers who settled the area.
The Marian Steinbach Collection of Indian Baskets is held in the Edmund S. Barnett wing of the museum and consists of an impressive collection of over 800 baskets and dolls, artifacts, and pottery.
Address: 130 West Lake Blvd., Tahoe City, CA 96145
7. Homewood Mountain Resort, Lake Tahoe
Homewood Mountain Resort is a ski area near the west shore of Lake Tahoe. The resort has beautiful 1,260 acres of terrain and seven ski lifts and trails ranging from beginner to expert.
The resort is generally open from December to April and is often sunny, while most of the trails are on the east face of the mountain, meaning they are somewhat sheltered from the wind.
The resort has excellent views of Lake Tahoe and great dust. Homewood is also open in the summer, with mountain biking and hiking trails, and while the lifts are not operational in the summer, the hostel and cafe are.
Address: 5145 W. Lake Blvd., Homewood, CA 96141
8. KidZone Museum
KidZone Museum is a children’s museum located in Truckee, California. The museum strives to provide children with interactive and open play space through intentional and playful exhibits and programming.
The museum has a baby zone, a natural-themed play area specifically designed for babies between 0 and 18 to explore through rolling, climbing, crawling, and walking.
KidZone has an outdoor play area that includes a stream and a sand play area during the warm months and often hosts special nature programs.
Other exhibits include the science lab-inspired Exploration Station, an indoor play structure perfect for winter indoor play, the medieval-themed Once Upon A Time exhibit, and a hands-on art studio.
Address: 11711 Donner Pass Road, Truckee, CA 96161
There is perhaps a no better way to see the lake and its surroundings than from the air, and Heli-Vertex offers scenic helicopter tours of Lake Tahoe. Tours can accommodate groups of three to six people and feature stylish leather seats, noise-canceling headphones, and more to ensure a comfortable ride. The company has two locations in California, one in Nevada and one in Italy.
The pilots are knowledgeable and experienced tour guides who ensure memorable trips. In addition to scenic drives, Heli-Vertex also offers exclusive cross-country skiing adventures, where tour guides transport skiers to carefully selected locations by helicopter.
Address: 1901 Airport Road, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
10. Lake Tahoe – Nevada State Park
Lake Tahoe State Park in Nevada is a park and recreational space with several different areas for visitors to explore. The most popular size is Sand Harbor, which has several sandy beaches, a boat ramp, and picnic facilities. The beaches offer several swimming areas with sloping beaches and clear water and are also popular diving places.
Spooner Lake is another popular picnic destination and offers hiking, fishing, mountain biking, and Nordic skiing. Spooner Lake also has a trailhead that accesses the countryside between Carson City and Lake Tahoe.
This rural area has been preserved as a primitive area and offers miles of multi-use vehicle-free trails popular with hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders.
Address: 2005 Hwy 28, Incline Village, NV 89451
11. The Coachman Hotel
Located just a short walk from Lakeside Beach, on the shores of Lake Tahoe, and a 10-minute walk from winter sports at Heavenly Mountain Resort, The Coachman is a modern hotel with friendly, spacious rooms spread over a couple of 1960s buildings.
All rooms have private bathrooms, minibars, free Wi-Fi, and flat-screen TVs. The renovated rooms also have a sitting area, and one even has a heart-shaped hot tub.
The suites have an additional bedroom and a separate living room. Guests enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast, refreshments, free access to a private beach, a chic rustic modern bar, a hot tub, an outdoor pool, and a fire pit.
Address: 4100 Pine Blvd, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
12. Lake Tahoe Boat Tours
Lake Tahoe Boat Rides is a boat excursion company in South Lake Tahoe. The company offers unique boat tours that can be customized to your wishes.
Lake Tahoe private sightseeing tours include tour guides explaining the history and stories of the lake. Guests can also take the opportunity to practice water sports, swim, or relax with friends and family.
Additionally, the company offers private yacht charters that can accommodate up to 20 guests and are highly customizable. Lake Tahoe Boat Rides also functions as a provider of rowing sports. They have paddle surfboards and kayaks available for multi-day or hourly rentals and even deliver to homes in the Tahoe Keys.
Address: 2435 Venice Drive E, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
13. Marcus Ashley Fine Art Gallery, Lake Tahoe
Although Tahoe is known for its stunning scenery and outdoor activities, the area lacks cultural activities. One of them, the Marcus Ashley Gallery of Fine Arts, displays the works of many American and international artists.
The gallery has a remarkably diverse selection of works of art, including oil paintings, prints, glass pieces, sculptures, and one-of-a-kind contemporary pieces.
Conveniently located in the heavenly town of South Lake Tahoe, the 4,400-square-foot arcade is the perfect complement to a day exploring the business district.
The gallery often hosts special events and art shows, where artists display their work and frequently host demonstrations, talks, etc. Many of the art pieces in the gallery are available for purchase, and Marcus Ashley can even help with financing.
Address: 4000 Lake Tahoe Blvd. # 23, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
14. Kayak Tahoe
Kayak Tahoe is a seasonal rowing sports team that operates out of Lake Tahoe. The provider offers paddle surf and kayak board rentals and features one of the largest selections of both on the lake. In addition to providing rentals, Kayak Tahoe offers lessons and guided tours of the lake, and they also have equipment available for purchase.
The business has five lakeside locations in Timber Cove, Vikingsholm in Emerald Bay, Baldwin Beach, Pope Beach, and Nevada Beach. Each site is staffed with experienced rowing lovers who can assist guests with everything they need.
Address: 3411 Lake Tahoe Blvd., South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
15. Northstar California, Lake Tahoe
Northstar California is a Truckee ski resort hotel located near the lake’s northwestern shore and offers beautiful panoramic views of the mountains. The 3,170 acres of the resort include a 2,280-foot vertical drop accessible by the 19 elevators. Northstar has a snowmaking system and many inches of natural snow each year, and there is also a cross-country center.
Conclusion: there is a town with shops and restaurants and options to stay overnight. The resort has activities throughout the year, and warm-weather activities include an 18-hole golf course and a mountain bike park that visitors can access by elevator.
Address: 5001 Northstar Drive, Truckee, CA 96161
16. Squaw Valley
Squaw Valley Ski Resort is located in the Olympic Valley and is one of the largest ski areas in the country. The resort was the host site of the 1960 Winter Olympics. The park has 3,600 skiable acres accessible by 30 chair lifts.
The resort also has a scenic cable car that takes visitors 2,000 feet to High Camp, offering many activities, including a swimming pool, restaurants, shops, high altitude disc golf, and roller skating.
Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows offer joint access to their guests, which means visitors have even more terrain to explore. Squaw Valley hosts many events throughout the summer, including live musical performances, yoga events, and food and drink events.
Address: 960 Squaw Valley Road, Olympic Valley, CA 96146
17. Tahoe Adventure Company
Tahoe Adventure Company is a company of owners and tour guides that conducts adventure tours through the mountains, trails, and waters of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding area. The activities on offer are nearly endless and can be customized to suit individual or group wishes. Guests can bike the many bike trails that wind through the Tahoe countryside.
In addition, the Sierra Nevadas offers opportunities for all types of hikers or climbers. Tahoe Adventure Company has something to offer, whether visitors want to take a leisurely, slow-paced nature walk or attempt an adrenaline rush. Of course, they also offer adventures on the lake’s waters, including kayak and paddleboard lessons, rentals, and tours.
Address: 7010 N. Lake Blvd., Tahoe Vista, CA 96148
Frequently Asked Questions: Best Things to Do at Lake Tahoe
What can you do in Lake Tahoe for the day?
If you are visiting in summer, be sure to check out the beach against the blue Tahoe water. Even if it’s not ski season, you can still take in the scenery from the top of the mountain – ride the gondola at Heavenly up to sightsee, hike, mountain bike, or even do a zip-line tour.
How many days do you need in Lake Tahoe?
Two full days for each. Otherwise you will have to skip too much. Plus you need a fifth day to drive between them since the drive takes four to six hours, depending upon the time of year, which affects the available routes.
Is one day enough for Lake Tahoe?
So if you have just one day, I would stay the night at South Lake Tahoe so you are not back tracking and have more time for exploring one side of the lake and hiking. The drive to Tioga Pass takes about 2 1/2 hours. The drive is beautiful.
Can you swim in Lake Tahoe?
The answer is yes, especially if cool/cold water is your thing! And there are other places to enjoy Lake Tahoe swimming such as Donner Lake, Fallen Leaf Lake, Spooner Lake and the Truckee River.
Is Lake Tahoe worth visiting?
While the stunning blue lake alone is worth a trip, the surrounding area, also known as Lake Tahoe, boasts miles of hiking trails, dozens of picture-perfect vistas and some of the. Resting on the California-Nevada border, Lake Tahoe has long been a favorite vacation spot, welcoming upward of 2.7 million people a year.