Being the largest alpine lake in North America means one very big thing for Lake Tahoe; that it’s humongous! Not only that, with it perched between snow-capped mountains and surrounded by magnificent pine forests, it’s a total gem to visit. Though, in my experience, it can be tricky to pinpoint the best things to do in Lake Tahoe during your trip. This is exactly why I wanted to share my favourite spots to see in and around Lake Tahoe itself.
I loved visiting Lake Tahoe and first clapped eyes on it via the California side in the heat of summer. It was amazing and loved every second of my time around the lake. Since then, we’ve visited the best spots in California and Nevada countless times, with Lake Tahoe being a firm favourite.
Packed-full to the brim with places to see, Lake Tahoe is one of the best travel spots in the country if you’re fond of the great outdoors.
It has everything from bumbling nature strolls, high-octane water sports, powdery ski slopes and even arduous mountain climbs. Trust me, Lake Tahoe and the surrounding area is just stunning and well worth a gander on a road trip around California or whilst in Nevada.
Take a look, below, at the best things to do in Lake Tahoe when you visit. Have fun exploring!
1.) Emerald Bay State Park
Many trails around Lake Tahoe lead to the Emerald Bay State Park, a designated National Natural Landmark and an Underwater State Park because of its gorgeous natural beauty.
Located on the west shore of Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay State Park is a popular place to visit for its trails and a jump-off point to explore Vikingsholm mansion (which hosts summer tours) which are great to explore.
Plus, from here, you can kayak the pristine shoreline of Emerald Bay itself. Rent a kayak from Kayak Tahoe and head out onto the open waters for the best morning adventure. It’s all so serene.
Also, for some epic views, head towards Emerald Bay State Park Lookout. From here, you’ll get some epic views of Lake Tahoe and it’s the perfect starting point to hike down to the shoreline itself.
For some tunes, head across to the Tallac Historic Site (nearby the park). It’s a cluster of historic estates made more popular by its festivals it hosts.
The two-day Gatsby Festival, held in August, is arguably one of the best. With a string of jazz concerts, themed events, and Roaring Twenties parties.
Alternatively, the Valhalla Estate hosts the iconic Valhalla Art, Music, and Theatre Festival, too. This features a full schedule of cultural performances, shows, and events at different venues within the estate.
Finally, after all that exploring, head over to Eagle Point Campground. Just be sure to camp responsibly as black bears frequent Emerald Bay quite regularly.
2.) Kings Beach
Nestled on the northern shores of Lake Tahoe, a visit to Kings Beach is a must as part of a wider road trip between California and Nevada.
Filled with independent boutiques, and food spots, it’s the kind of place to anchor yourself for a few days trip around the northern shores.
Afterwards, head towards Kings Beach State Recreation Area which is dotted with picnic spots to chill out on the shore. Plus, you can even rent a paddleboard or kayak if want to get out onto the lake itself.
Alternatively, spend some time at the iconic Speedboat Beach or hike for the views to the Historic Stateline Fire Lookout. Yes, it might be steep at times but it’s a relatively short and easy hike for most hikers to complete.
3.) Echo Lake
Around a 25-minute drive from the shores of Lake Tahoe, Echo Lake is well worth a gander for a few hours galavant.
Popular in the warmer summer months, Echo Lake is a perfect spot for heading onto the water, while the surrounding area hosts plenty of hiking trails; especially the Lake Aloha Trail that’s so beautiful.
Lower Echo has a lovely picnic site and is totally chilled. Best of all, you won’t find any massive crowds or hoards of people here. It’s pretty quiet.
Depending on when you visit, you can also partner this up with a ski trip to Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort that’s around 5-miles away. Just be sure to book your lift pass and ski rentals and watch out for the foodie spots on top of the mountain – they can be pricey!
4.) D.L. Bliss State Park
Just shy of Emerald Bay, visiting D.L. Bliss State Park is one of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe if you’re looking for some peace and quiet. You see, it’s an area that isn’t really built up at all and feels like a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the towns.
Fancy staying overnight? The campground is available if you want to stay overnight, with plenty of tent spots, firepits, and shower areas to boot.
Feeling active? There’s a heap of kayaking opportunities on Lester Beach and hiking the Rubicon Trail to see the Historic Rubicon Point Light is a must for the views.
Oh, and don’t forget the cosy Calawee Cove Beach which can be spotted at the bottom of the park.
5.) Tahoe Rim Trail
If you’re up for a challenge, the Tahoe Rim Trail will provide all the fun, excitement, and aching calves that you’re looking for.
At a whopping 165-miles long, this loop trail circles around Lake Tahoe and can be completed in sections or in one mighty go! Personally, for big hikes like this, I just choose sections that I want to visit most. This way, you can take up many smaller day-hikes on several trailheads rather than just being exhausted on one long trail.
Passing through Desolation Valley and Carson Range, the Tahoe Rim Trail will give you sweeping panoramas of mountain peaks, lakes, and meadows along the way. It’s stunning.
Just be sure to pack a good pair of hiking boots, plenty of SPF and always hike responsibly as bears also call Lake Tahoe home.
6.) Mt. Tallac Hike
At 9,735 feet, Mt. Tallac is one of the highest mountain peaks around Lake Tahoe.
Although the route itself is challenging for an average hiker, the entire journey and the view at the top will be so worth it. Taking you through loose rocks and crushed granite, the Mt. Tallac Hike will give you great views of Fallen Leaf Lake and a close-up encounter of Gilmore Lake and Cathedral Lake along the way.
At the top, you’ll see some epic views across Lake Tahoe. Plus a breathtaking panorama of Granite Lake, Fallen Leaf Lake, and Desolation Wilderness, too!
Just remember, as I said before, this is a hike for the most experienced hikers amongst us.
7.) Sand Harbor State Park
Located on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, the fifty-plus acres of Sand Harbor State Park is totally gorgeous to enjoy.
With sandy beaches, fragrant pine forests (I can still remember the smells), and hidden coves; it’s one of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe when in Nevada.
Perfect for either a slow day of sightseeing or a more adventurous time filled with water activities, it’s the kind of place that’s got a little bit of something for everyone.
For the latter, Sand Harbor Rentals is a go-to destination if you want to rent a kayak. Plus, the Sand Point Nature Trail and the Memorial Point Trail offer stunning views of coves and beaches.
Oh, and don’t forget to book tickets for the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival that hosts some epic outdoor performances right within the park.
8.) Eagle Rock Hiking Trail
Situated a few hundred feet above the main area of Lake Tahoe, Eagle Rock is a volcanic outcrop that has some dazzling vistas over the area.
Now, because it is on the west shore of Lake Tahoe and just four miles away from Tahoe City, the Eagle Rock Hiking Trail is an accessible and highly popular hiking trail in Lake Tahoe. This means you can finish the trail in about 20 minutes and immediately be rewarded with a sweeping view of Lake Tahoe and how vast the area actually is.
Though, the only downside is that it can get pretty busy at peak times. To avoid a crowded trail, head over first thing in the morning and avoid weekends.
9.) Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park
Whether you’re looking for an indoor tour or an outdoor adventure, the Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park has it all. Plus, it’s one of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe if you’re travelling down from Tahoe City towards the southern limits of the shoreline.
Be sure to explore the Hellman-Ehrman Mansion that is totally amazing. It was once the vacation residence of the opulent family of financier Isaias W. Hellman. Once here, you can tour inside the mansion and take a nosey around the interior. You’ll get to see the authentic Navajo rugs and the redwood panelling of the dining rooms.
If you’re visiting in the summer, you’ll likely want to head on some of its trails.
During the winter, or cooler months, head to nearby Homewood Mountain Resort that has some of the best ski slopes surrounding Lake Tahoe. The views are phenomenal and they have a heap of runs for all abilities.
10.) Tahoe Treetop Adventure Park (Tahoe City/Granlibakken)
A totally different kind of outdoor activity, the Tahoe Treetop Adventure Park is a must-visit spot to stretch your leps.
Featuring tree-top platforms, ziplines, and bridges (up to 50 feet high), the Tahoe Treetop Adventure Park is so much fun. Though, you do seem to work out muscle groups you never even knew you had! I was aching so badly afterwards!