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22 Best Things To Do In Lake Tahoe, CA For an Adventurous Experience (2024)

What’s up folks! It’s Adam.

I’ve visited Lake Tahoe in winter and summer and I’ll tell you for free I’m never visiting in winter ever again. I’m not a winter kind of guy. I like enjoying my winter in the comfort of my house. I’m not really sure what convinced me to go to Lake Tahoe in winter. I regretted my choice every second of the trip.

That’s why I had to make another trip there during the summer to see if I’d enjoy it. I had the best experience.

By the way, if you love winter activities, you will enjoy Lake Tahoe in winter. Don’t mind my silly rant.

Anyway, I’ll always remember swimming, hiking, paddleboarding, kayaking, breathtaking views, and observing wildlife in Lake Tahoe.

One of my most exciting experiences here was coming face-to-face with the American black bear! Everyone in our group was scared at first, however, we had amazing guides who helped us navigate the bears without making them aggressive. My biggest regret will always be not taking any photos of the bear. I guess I was too scared and mesmerized to remember my phone at that moment.

If you plan to visit Lake Tahoe soon, here is a guide to things to do.

Lake Tahoe is a year-round destination for nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventure seekers; this place is complete with an elegant beauty that inspires awe in everyone.

The lake straddles the Nevada and California border, spanning 22 miles from north to south and 12 miles across. It would require at least three hours to drive across the entire lake.

Not only that, with it nestled between snow-capped mountains and surrounded by magnificent pine forests and the lake’s distinctive topaz color, it is a total gem to visit.

Packed complete to the brim with places to visit, Lake Tahoe is one of the prime travel spots withinside the United States if you are keen on the wonderful outdoors.

Whether you feel like swimming, skiing, shopping, golfing, fancy dining, or nightlife, Lake Tahoe has it all!

Explore the best ski resorts in Lake Tahoe.

Learn about the best locations to visit and plan your adventures with our list of things to do in Lake Tahoe.

22 Things To Do In Lake Tahoe

1. Emerald Bay State Park

Cassiohabib | Shutterstock

Rating: 4.8  

Location: 138 Emerald Bay Rd.

The entry fees: Free.

  • Breathtaking view.
  • Variety of outdoor activities.

The Emerald Bay State Park is a designated National Natural Landmark and also an Underwater State Park, it’s well known for its gorgeous natural beauty.

Many trails around the Lake Tahoe area lead to Emerald Bay at the end.

The Emerald Bay State Park is surrounded by forested hillsides of glacier-carved granite and dotted with a tiny islet at its center.

Because the bay is slightly shallower than the rest of Lake Tahoe, the waters take on a striking blue-green color.

Carved millions of years ago by passing glaciers, Emerald Bay State Park is one of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe and a must-see for anyone looking to experience Lake Tahoe’s beauty.

Sheltered by towering trees, this inlet along the southwest shore of Lake Tahoe is known for its colorful granite cliffs and stunning panoramas. 

You can enjoy a variety of activities during your visit to the park, such as donning some scuba gear and exploring the Underwater Park.

This stretch below the surface of Emerald Bay is the final resting place for boats used during the construction of Vikingsholm.  

Plus, you can additionally kayak the pristine coastline of Emerald Bay itself.

Rent a kayak from Kayak Tahoe and head out onto the open waters for a pleasant morning adventure. 

For some epic perspectives, head toward Emerald Bay State Park Lookout.

From there, you will get a few epic views of Lake Tahoe, and it’s the ideal place to begin to hike down to the shoreline itself.

2. Vikingsholm Castle

Raffi Alexanian | Shutterstock

Rating: 4.7  

Location: Emerald Bay.

The entry fees: $15 for adults, $12 for students (7-17), active-duty military, and seniors, and free for children under 7.

  • Scandinavian architecture.
  • Interesting history.

If you’re into history, a stop at Vikingsholm Castle is a must.

This hidden castle overlooks the gleaming waters of the  Emerald Bay offers one of the most stunning sights in Lake Tahoe with the spectacular beauty of its surroundings and the ingenuity of its architecture.

Built in the 1920s, this summer home is one of the best examples of fine Scandinavian architecture in the States.

Plus, many of the materials used to construct Vikingsholm came from the Lake Tahoe area, making this mansion an authentic part of the landscape. 

Vikingsholm Castle has 38 rooms located on the shore of Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe. The mansion was initially built as a summer home.

You can tour the Vikingsholm Castle during the summer. The guided tours take approximately 30 minutes.

Visitors have to climb a steep trail from the parking lot to reach the castle. The mansion features a visitors center, gift shop, hiking trails, and a public swimming beach nearby.

3. Palisades Tahoe

EQRoy | Shutterstock

Rating: 4.6  

Location: 1960 Squaw Valley Rd, Olympic Valley.

The entry fees: Prices vary seasonally.

  • Winter Wonderland
  • World-class ski resort.

Encompassing Olympic Valley and Alpine Meadows, Palisades Tahoe is considered one of the world’s finest ski resorts and best things to do in Lake Tahoe with 6,000 acres of terrain and advanced lift systems. 

The Palisades Tahoe resort was chosen to host the 1960 Winter Olympics.

Palisades Tahoe gets more than 400 inches of annual snowfall, which means it operates the most extended ski and snowboard season in Lake Tahoe. 

You can take your family snow-tubing at the SnoVentures Activity Zone in the Olympic Valley or learn more about Olympic history at the Olympic Museum. The Village at Palisades Tahoe offers abundant dining options and nightlife venues.

Check out more of the best US ski resorts for the ultimate experience.

4. Olympic Museum

EQRoy | Shutterstock

Rating: 4.4  

Location: 1960 Squaw Valley Road, Olympic Valley.

The entry fees: Admission is free with your Aerial Tram ride.

  • 1960 Winter Olympics.
  • Interesting history.

With lots of history and memorabilia, the Olympics Museum is one of the fun things to do in Lake Tahoe in summer.

The Olympic Museum provides a chance for visitors to step back in time and relive the 1960 Winter Olympics, which took place right there.

Visiting the Olympic Museum allows you to take a trip back in time and learn about the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley. 

Take a seat for a historical film, admire the unique collection of uniforms, news articles, old hockey skates, video presentations of the magical moments during the 1960 Winter Olympics, and all of the fascinating memorabilia on display.

5. Kings Beach

Zane Vergara | Shutterstock

Rating: 4.6  

Location: Kings Beach town.

  • Lake activities.
  • Lovely views.

Kings Beach town is on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe and enjoys direct sunshine and white sandy beach, which is ideal for swimming, boating, sunbathing, or lounging. 

The town of Kings Beach is filled with many motels, casual eateries, restaurants, street vendors, independent boutiques, and trendy retail shops.

Kings Beach is a place worth visiting during your trip around the northern shores.

After checking out the town of Kings Beach, head towards the Kings Beach State Recreation Area. 

This is a 13-acre park with a fair amount of shoreline and also has plenty of parking,  picnic tables in a shaded area, public restrooms, barbecue pits, a playground, and places that rent out kayaks and paddleboards. Fishing is also allowed within the park.

6. Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park

Craig Cooper | Shutterstock

Rating: 4.8  

Location: 7360 W Lake Blvd, Tahoma.

  • Great hiking trails.
  • A unique place to visit with your family.

The Sugar Pine Point State Park extends along Lake Tahoe for nearly two miles, with densely wooded forests of aspen, pine, fir, and juniper trees. 

Sugar Pine Point State Park has picnic areas, campsites, and barbecue pits. The facilities are available for use year-round.

During summertime, visitors head to the Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park to go hiking around the park’s ample trails and sunbathing or swimming at the small lakeside beach. 

Surrounded by woodlands, the Hellman-Ehrman Mansion is a hidden gem in Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park; the casual yet elegantly rustic mansion features terrific views of Lake Tahoe.

The estate was built as a summer vacation home. The dining rooms of the mansion feature redwood paneling, and all the guest rooms are decorated with exquisite Navajo rugs.

The mansion’s grounds include a flower garden with a gazebo, often used as a wedding venue. Besides the mansion, you can find a Nature Center with exciting exhibits about lake ecology, birds, trees, wildflowers, and other environmental topics.

Interested in more parks trip? check our list of national parks in California!

7. D.L. Bliss State Park

Susanne Pommer | Shutterstock

Rating: 4.6  

Location: 2 miles north of the Vikingsholm Castle at Emerald Bay.

  • Hiking and biking campsite.

Just shy of Emerald Bay, if you’re looking for some peace, making a stop at this State Park is one of the cool things to do in Lake Tahoe in winter. 

This state park in the Lake Tahoe area features several popular hiking trails and one of the finest beaches in the area.

Visitors can soak up the beauty of this state park with its attractive picnic spots, lovely sandy beaches, and pleasant lakeside areas.

The beaches have a secluded feel because they are tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding towns in densely wooded groves and accessed by a two-mile hike.

Visitors also visit D.L. Bliss State Park for its hiking trails, especially the Rubicon Trail, which offers magnificent views of Lake Tahoe. This 4.5-mile trail leads straight to Emerald Bay State Park.

Head towards the park’s Calawee Cove and Lester Beach, which are among the loveliest beaches in Tahoe.

Sunbathers enjoy basking under the warm summer rays, while swimmers enjoy the crystal-clear waters, and water sports enthusiasts enjoy the park’s various activities like fishing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and canoeing.

The campground is also available if you want to stay overnight, with plenty of tent spots, firepits, and shower areas. 

8. Sand Harbor State Park

Dominic Gentilcore PhD | Shutterstock

Rating: 4.8  

Location: Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, Sand Harbor, Hwy 28.

The entry fees: $10 per vehicle and $15 for Non-Nevada vehicles.

  • Crystal clear waters.
  • Perfect paddling place.

The Sand Harbor State Park in North Lake Tahoe on the Nevada side offers miles of sandy beaches, shady pine forest, as well as hidden coves. 

The Sand Harbor is a 55-acre park that offers opportunities for swimming, kayaking, and scuba diving, in the translucent waters of Lake Tahoe.

Visitors can hike the scenic walks along the Sand Point Nature Trail, a short hike with remarkable views of the lake, and the Sand Harbor to Memorial Point Trail, a short trail with access to secluded beaches and rocky coves.

The Sand Harbor State Park has various facilities like shaded picnic areas under the fragrant Jeffrey pines, a gift shop, the Sand Harbor Visit Center, and a casual restaurant. 

For those interested in Literature, you should plan to visit during the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival (held from mid-July through mid-August).

Highlighting Shakespeare’s most famous works, the festival offers a series of entertaining performances in a lovely outdoor theater.

9. Eagle Rock Hiking Trail

Manivannan T | Shutterstock

Rating: 4.8  

Location: 3370 W Lake Blvd, Homewood.

  • Easy, short hike with remarkable views.
  • Family-friendly.

The Eagle Rock Hiking Trail is a spectacular hiking trail on Lake Tahoe’s west shore, four miles away from Tahoe City. 

Eagle Rock is a volcanic outcrop, settled at more than 6,000 feet, a few hundred feet above Lake Tahoe. 

This easy, short hike is a half-mile long; however, it rewards with breathtaking views, so it is definitely worth it to be on your list of things to do near Lake Tahoe.

10. Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum

Donner Memorial State Park, The Donner Party | Zack Frank | Shutterstock

Rating: 4.6  

Location: 12593 Donner Pass Rd.

The entry fees: $10 per vehicle.

  • Beautiful and historic park.
  • Interesting trail.

Donner Memorial State Park is situated on the scenic Sierra Nevada mountain at about 6,000 feet.

The Donner Memorial State Park and the Emigrant Trail Museum honor one of the darkest moments in American pioneering.

This famed alpine park offers summer hiking, boating, picnicking, water-skiing, fishing, and camping.

During winter, visitors can cross-country ski, play in the snow, and snowshoe on trails.

The Visitor Center features exhibits that explain the Emigrant Experience, the Land of the Washoe, the Donner Party, the early motoring adventures over Donner Pass, and the Chinese construction of the railroad.

If you are looking for more information about the tragic Donner Party, head to the Emigrant Trail Museum. There you will find dioramas detailing the history of the railroad in the Sierra Nevada region. 

11. Heavenly Mountain Resort and Gondola

Heavenly ski resort Gondola from the top with the best scenic view of south lake tahoe | Shutterstock

Rating: 4.5  

Location: 3860 Saddle Rd.

The entry fees: Prices vary seasonally.

  • Spectacular skiing and views.

Overlooking the clear sapphire-blue waters of Lake Tahoe, with its peak 10,067 feet above sea level, this popular resort truly is heavenly. Heavenly is one of the unique year-round outdoor recreation destinations on the planet, and it’s the only ski area located on the southern shores of Lake Tahoe. 

Heavenly offers more than 4,600 skiable acres and two snowboard parks, 30 lifts, and a 50-passenger aerial tram. Heavenly also offers daycare programs and children’s ski lessons, so feel free to bring the kids along.

Despite Heavenly’s excellent skiing options, its main draw is not the fresh powder but its famous Heavenly Gondola, one of the top things to do in Lake Tahoe.

Hop aboard an 8-passenger glass gondola for 2.4 miles up the side of a mountain for views of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada mountain range that will leave you in awe.

You can check out the observation deck, located halfway up, for even more incredible sights.

Once you have reached the top, buy a coffee from Cafe Blue, a souvenir from The Gondola Sports shop, or go on one of the numerous hiking trails.

Lift tickets can be expensive, so make sure to book in advance and check out the resort’s website for online deals.

12. Ridge Rider Mountain Coaster

Zak Crouch | Facebook

Rating: 4.5  

Location: Heavenly Mountain Resort.

The entry fees: Gondola and coaster tickets ($71 for adults, $59 for seniors and teens, and $43 for children)

  • Thrilling ride.

To all of you looking for a bit of adrenaline rush, if there’s going to be anything that you will try from this amazing things to do near Lake Tahoe, it should be the Ridge Rider Mountain Coaster.

The Ridge Rider Mountain Coaster is one of the many activities offered at the Heavenly Mountain Resort. 

The Ridge Rider Mountain Coaster is 3,400 feet long and offers you an exhilarating ride with 360-degree loops, turns, and twists.

This gravity-powered alpine coaster is self-controlled, which means that you can choose the speed at which you rocket down the mountain. 

Depending on your speed, your ride on this thrilling coaster will be about a 6-minutes journey from the peak to the base.

Due to its location, the ride offers some magnificent views of the lake as it flies past trees on its way down the mountain.

13. Marcus Ashley Fine Art Gallery

Marcus Ashley Gallery | Facebook

Rating: 4.7  

Location: 4000 Lake Tahoe Blvd #23, South Lake Tahoe.

  • Must see for art lovers.

The Marcus Ashley Gallery is a must-visit for any art lovers visiting the Lake Tahoe area, showcasing contemporary and classic North American and international art pieces, spanning everything from glass to oil paintings, sculptures, and prints.

With a rotating calendar of art shows, which often include wine, hors d’oeuvres, and refreshments, you see rare pieces as well as meet the local artists behind them!

Located in South Lake Tahoe’s Heavenly Village, this 4,400-square foot gallery is one of the coolest things to do in Lake Tahoe and nearby during the afternoon.

The gallery hosts special events and art shows, where artists can showcase their work, and often provides demonstrations. Many of the art pieces in the gallery are available for purchase.

14. Mount Tallac

Cole Coppolino | Shutterstock

Rating: 4.5  

Location: El Dorado County, southwest of Lake Tahoe.

  • A challenging but incredibly rewarding hike.

At 9,735 feet, Mount Tallac is one of the highest mountain peaks around the Lake Tahoe area.

Mount Tallac Trail is 10.5 miles out and back trail near South Lake Tahoe, which is rated difficult. The path is mainly used for hiking and snowshoeing.

Although the trail is challenging for average hikers, the entire journey and the view at the top are worth it.

The Mount Tallac Hike trail will take you through loose rocks and crushed granite, giving you fantastic views of Fallen Leaf Lake and a panorama of Gilmore Lake, Desolation Wilderness, and Cathedral Lakes along the way.

Mount Tallac trail is fantastic with breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe; it has quite an elevation gain, so take care and enjoy the tremendous views; it will be so worth it.

15. Tallac Historic Site

Xeuphoriax | Shutterstock

Rating: 4.7  

Location: 1 Heritage Way, South Lake Tahoe.

The entry fees: Tours start from $15 for adults.

  • A collection of 1920s summer cottages.
  • Quiet and beautiful with lots of history.

Three miles northwest of South Lake Tahoe, the Tallac Historic Site,  listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a must-see for locals and tourists alike. 

The Tallac Historic Site is home to the once-thriving 100-year-old casino and resort; the site now allows visitors to wander all through the vintage estates, walk through the luxurious gardens, take a look at the Vintage Clothing Exhibit and the Tallac Museum, or even watch a live Blacksmith in action.

Nowadays, the site is home to the Valhalla community activities center and its annual Valhalla Festival of Arts and Music.

Take a stroll around this beautiful set of homes restored to display how the families lived there in the early 20th century.

Ready for more adventures in California? Why not to take a look of cool things to do in San Diego, and best things to do in Malibu, what to do in San Jose, California during the weekend!

16. Tahoe Treetop Adventure Park

Rating: 4.8  

Location: 725 Granlibakken Rd, Tahoe City.

  • Challenging outdoor activities.
  • Exhilarating fun for the whole family.

A different kind of outdoor activity, the Tahoe Treetop Adventure Park, is a must-visit.

Featuring treetop platforms, bridges (up to 50 feet high), and ziplines, the Tahoe Treetop Adventure Park is so much fun for the whole family. 

With a gigantic 97 treetop platforms across ten complete courses (2 low ones for beginners, six mid-height, and 2 advanced for the real experts), Tahoe Treetop is a rush of adrenaline for visitors of all ages.

Making a stop at Tahoe Treetop Adventure Park is one of the most thrilling things to do near to Lake Tahoe.

Visitors are safely harnessed and are provided with pieces of equipment to make your exhilarating experience completely safe.

The park’s Flying Squirrel zone is perfect for younger children and includes zip lines, bridges, and more for young and beginning climbers.

17. Lake Tahoe Balloons

Drewthehobbit | Shutterstock

Rating: 4.6  

Location: 2435 Venice Dr. E, South Lake Tahoe.

The entry fees: $349 per person.

  • Once in a lifetime experience.

Lake Tahoe Balloons offers hot-air balloon tours over Lake Tahoe and the surrounding area. The tour company is well-known with experienced employees who provide a safe, friendly, and exciting service. 

The adventure begins shortly after sunrise when the balloon conditions are the best, and the remarkable natural beauty of the alpine setting is revealed.

Tours start and end onboard one-of-a-kind aircraft carrier-style boats, where the balloon is inflated right on its deck, and guests are invited onboard.

From lake level to magnificent panoramic views of Lake Tahoe, your experienced pilot acts as your tour guide and welcomes questions from you while pointing out points of interest and Lake Tahoe’s extraordinary beauty.

Enjoy views of Emerald Bay, Cascade Lake, Fallen Leaf Lake, and the Desolation Wilderness. Some days, visibility allows views of peaks in Yosemite and coastal foothills from over 150 miles away!

18. Northstar California Resort

Lance Huntress | Shutterstock

Rating: 4.5  

Location: 5001 Northstar Dr, Truckee.

The entry fees: Prices vary seasonally.

  • High-end ski resort.

Northstar California is a ski resort located at the northwestern shore of Lake Tahoe and offers beautiful scenic views of the mountains.

Northstar has many inches of natural snow each year, as well as a snowmaking system.

The Northstar Resort has a large village with shopping opportunities and a variety of restaurants, activities like snow tubing, ice skating, a movie theater, and options for overnight accommodation.

The resort offers activities all year round, and summer activities include a mountain bike park that visitors can access by lift and an 18-hole golf course.

Although it’s on the pricier side, Northstar California Resort is often well worth the small fortune for families. 

19. Kirkwood Mountain Resort

Larry Zhou | Shutterstock

Rating: 4.7  

Location: 1501 Kirkwood Meadows Dr, Kirkwood.

  • The most challenging terrain of all the Tahoe mountains.

Kirkwood Mountain is well-known for its challenging terrain and the best powder skiing experience in Lake Tahoe. 

This spectacular Sierra ski resort has a base elevation of 7,800 feet open for skiing during the winter season and excellent hiking trails in the summer.

Some of Kirkwood Mountain’s crazy terrain has been famous in classic ski movies. Their beginner skiing area is also a hidden gem that is set aside from the more advanced ones.

Kirkwood’s retro vibe and location keep the crowds to a minimum. They do have a good variety of restaurants and some shopping opportunities at the base.

At the Kirkwood Ski Resort, you might not experience a lot of great views of Lake Tahoe, but it has many other pulses like an extensive selection of tricky terrain and one of the highest resort snowfalls in the world. 

20. Desolation Wilderness

Rating: 4.6  

Location: 138 Emerald Bay Rd, South Lake Tahoe.

The entry fees:

  • A place to lose yourself.

Desolation Wilderness is a federally protected wilderness region in the Lake Tahoe Basin and Eldorado National Forest. 

Desolation Wilderness is 63,960 acres full of alpine and subalpine forest, glacially-formed valleys, and granite peaks and lakes.

This natural area features miles of scenic trails, including beginner and advanced ones.

Camping is available in parts of the wilderness area; however, wilderness permits are required for the protected area.

21. Thomas F. Regan Memorial City Beach

Rating: 4.6  

Location: 3199 Sacramento Ave, South Lake Tahoe.

  • Perfect for morning walks.
  • Very relaxing.

Thomas F. Regan Beach is South Lake Tahoe’s oldest beach facility.

The secluded lakefront park offers spectacular views of the Lake and is often used for weddings, with a playground and restaurants.

Regan Beach is the town’s best place to launch your kayak, have a picnic,  or take your kids to run on the grass.

The beach facilities include free parking, a large grass area, observation deck, playground, restroom, restaurants, and sand volleyball courts. 

The incredible lake scenery and shallow crystal-clear swimming water make Regan Memorial City Beach a must-see spot in South Lake Tahoe. And we can’t forget to mention that the beach is also home to the City’s only water dog park.

Thinking of more more beaches & islands trips? take a look of top Catalina Island also top places for Catalina island camping and more fun things to do in Huntington Beach!

22. Logan Shoals Vista Point

Jim Watkins Photography | Flickr

Rating: 4.8  

Location: Lake Shore Blvd, Zephyr Cove.

  • Great views, free parking, and easy in and out
  • Picturesque views during sunset and sunrise.

The Logan Shoals Vista Point on the east side of Lake Tahoe offers clear, panoramic views looking west across the lake.

Therefore, Logan Shoals makes for a perfect place to watch the sunrise or sunset at Lake Tahoe.

Known among locals as the easy hike that leads to the most picturesque spot in Nevada, Logan Shoals Vista is a 0.18 miles lightly trafficked trail located on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe.

The path is primarily used for bird watching, walking, and nature trips and is accessible year-round. 

Although the trail is well-marked and easily accessible, this incredibly scenic spot is a hidden gem.

The remoteness of this location makes it a popular place to visit in Lake Tahoe for couples, families, and friends.

It’s so easy to fall in love with this area’s lovely charm.

Pictures don’t do this spot justice, but they will give you an idea of what to expect before visiting this place.

Planning to make more tours in California? here you can find our list of fun things to do in Bakersfield and also best things to do in Oceanside!

I hope this was useful in helping you plan your next adventure. Enjoy your trip to Lake Tahoe. Stay adventurous!