View from the Zephyr Cove Resort, one of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe

21 Best Things to Do in Lake Tahoe (in 2023)

The possibilities of things to do in Lake Tahoe are endless. The pride and joy of Sierra Nevada Mountain towns, Lake Tahoe not only embodies the largest glass-smooth alpine lake in North America, but is also a rustic resort town with hipster cafes and an array of gear rental shops.

I’ve lived in the golden state for 26 years and have explored the coolest mountain towns in California, including Lake Tahoe (which technically straddles California and Nevada). In this article, I’ll share my insights on the best outdoorsy things to do and activities you cannot miss in the rugged mountain town.

Oh, and if you need accommodation, see my guide to where to stay in Lake Tahoe.

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21 Best Things to Do in Lake Tahoe

Emerald Bay State Park

Explore the main attraction of Lake Tahoe with a boat ride around the park island or a swim through the alpine waters.

Pink skies over the Emerald Bay State Park during sunrise
A cloudy pink sunrise over Emerald Bay

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (530) 541-3030| Website | Hours: 7 am-7 pm daily | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

The quintessential postcard view of Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay State Park is one of the top things to do in Lake Tahoe. Rent a boat and hang out all day lounging on the lakeside beaches or jumping off Emerald Bay State Park’s center island.

Also known as the crown jewel of Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay State Park displays vibrant blue waters surrounded by strikingly green forest foliage. The state park also encompasses many hiking trails and lookout points of the giant alpine lake. 

Emerald Bay can be accessed via Highway 89 from South Lake Tahoe. It is only a short drive from your Lake Tahoe Resort to the serenity of Emerald Bay. The most popular attraction in the Emerald Bay area is Vikingsholm Castle, a 38-room mansion known for its Scandinavian architecture.

Fallen Leaf Lake

Escape busy Lake Tahoe weekend crowds with a calm outing on this lesser-known lake.

Clear blue sky over the blue water of Fallen Leaf Lake

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (530) 544-2628 | Website | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

Only 1 mile southwest of Lake Tahoe, Fallen Leaf Lake is a great alternative to the busy lake on the weekends. This alpine lake is a hidden oasis in the greater Tahoe area and offers visitors a peaceful escape.

Fallen Leaf Campground is one of the best places to stay in Lake Tahoe with over 206 campsites accommodating tents, RVs, and rental yurts. The sites are nestled among native pine and cedar trees and allow eager fishers or swimmers easy sunrise access to the lake.

I recommend hiking the challenging Angora Ridge Loop trail during the summertime. This hike offers spectacular views of both Fallen Leaf Lake and Lake Tahoe, making it one of the best hikes in California. Work up a sweat on this 4.7-mile hike then go for a dip in the chilled alpine lake waters.

Sand Harbor State Park

Relax on the sandy white beaches of this pristine lakeside beach.

View from the Sand Harbor State Park during winter season
Sand Harbor during the winter

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (775) 831-0494 | Website | Hours: 8 am to 1 hour after sunset | Entrance: $10 per vehicle, $15 per non-Nevada resident | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

It’s hard to decide where to begin when visiting the huge Lake Tahoe. Sand Harbor State Park is a good place to start to lounge on the lake’s 72-mile circumference.

With water so clear you can see your toes at the bottom, Sand Harbor is the place to be. Most lake-goers take to swimming and kayaking in this area but it is also the ideal place to scuba dive in Lake Tahoe.

There are two boat ramps in the state park and picnic areas shaded by Jeffrey Pines are complete with grills and tables, making Sand Harbor State Park the best place to spend an entire day out on the water. 

👉 Pro Tip: If you find yourself in Sand Harbor State Park during the summer, be sure to check out the annual Shakespeare Festival.

Tahoe Rim Trail

Put your fitness to the test by thru-hiking 165 miles around the circumference of Lake Tahoe.

A marker on a tree in Tahoe Rim Trail

📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

Brave-at-heart adventurers visit Lake Tahoe with an endeavoring feat in mind – the Tahoe Rim Trail. This 165-mile thru-hike is the ideal way to get acquainted with Lake Tahoe and its surrounding forests.

While only experienced hikers should attempt to hike the complete trail, beginner hikers can enjoy sections of the hike at a time. The number of amazing vistas, meadows, high alpine lakes, and granitic peaks is endless in Tahoe’s Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The thru-hike typically takes 10-15 days and it is recommended to pick up supplies every 50-100 miles so you don’t hike with an excruciatingly heavy pack. Hikers can resupply in Tahoe City, Kings Beach, and Incline Village or mail resupply food ahead of time and pick up a package at any of the town’s post offices.

Heavenly Ski Resort

Ski down gnarly slopes at one of the top resorts on the west coast.

Aerial view of the Heavenly Ski Resort in Lake Tahoe

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (775) 586-7000 | Website | Hours: 10 am-6 pm Sunday-Thursday, 8 am-7 pm Friday & Saturday | Entrance: $189, adults, $104, children under 13 during weekdays, $225, adult, $124, child under 13 during the weekend | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

One of the coolest ski resorts in California, Heavenly Ski Resort offers the best views of Lake Tahoe from its powdery slopes. If you find yourself in Tahoe during the summertime, you can still enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery from the heavenly mountain gondola ride. 

There are 4,800 skiable acres at Heavenly Ski Resort including beginner and advanced slopes as well as backcountry skiing terrain. Straddling the California-Nevada border, some slopes even intersect the two states.

Lakeland Village Resort at Heavenly is one of the closest accommodation options to the ski resort. I stay here every time I hit the slopes at Heavenly and love the private beach area and hot tub.

Bliss State Park

Dive into the deep trenches of the largest alpine lake in North America with a scuba diving adventure to remember.

View of the clear water in Bliss State Park

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (530) 525-7277 | Website | Hours: Sunrise to Sunset | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

Campers and day-use visitors both enjoy spending an afternoon in Bliss State Park. From swimming to scuba diving, picnicking, and simply relaxing on the lake shores, Bliss State Park is a Lake Tahoe hotspot.

Juxtapose your relaxing day suntanning on the beach with a hike on either the Balancing Rock Trail or the Lighthouse Trail around the lake. You can also rent a nearby kayak and test out your upper arm strength.

The 744-acre park is home to some of the deepest sections of Lake Tahoe, making this a great place to go cliff jumping and freshwater fishing. This park is one of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe with the whole family and is sure to be a highlight of your Lake Tahoe area trip.

Rubicon Trail

Trek 16 miles through high-altitude pines, stopping to dip in the glaciated lake along the way.

View from the lighthouse in Rubicon Trail
A view of Lake Tahoe from the lighthouse on the trail

📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

Located in Bliss State Park, the Rubicon Trail is one of the best lookout spots in South Lake Tahoe. This 16.4-mile trail can be done in one long, grueling day or as an overnight backpacking trip. 

Most hikers choose to hike only sections of the Rubicon Trail, a better option for those with a short Tahoe itinerary. The hike starts at Vikingsholm Castle and takes hikers through dense pine forests throughout Bliss State Park.

Take a dip in the sandy coves along the way or hop from rock to rock along the untamed shoreline. Hiking the entirety of the Rubicon Trail is sure to be one of the coolest activities in California during your trip to the golden state.

🎒 Don’t forget to bring: No one wants a blister while trying to hike a long mountain trail. Hiking boots are a part of the essential California packing list and when paired with the perfect, blister-free hiking socks, you will be unstoppable on the Lake Tahoe trails.

Eagle Rock Hiking Trail

Hike to one of the best viewpoints in Lake Tahoe without pushing your limits.

Scenic view from the Eagle Rock Hiking Trail

📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

If hiking is the main prerogative on your California road trip itinerary, then visiting Lake Tahoe is a good move. Lake Tahoe is a true outdoor adventure haven with no shortage of hiking trails. The easy, 0.7-mile Eagle Rock Trail is the perfect trail to catch the sunrise.

Easily accessed from Tahoe City, this hike offers a quick way to one of the best vantage points of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding high-altitude peaks. The incredible views extend all the way to North Lake Tahoe and the California and Nevada border.

Lake Tahoe typically receives snow from late fall until late spring, sometimes even early summer. Be sure to bring the proper hiking equipment if you wish to hike in Tahoe from October-May. This includes good hiking poles, microspikes, and in extreme cases, an ice axe and crampons.

Northstar California Resort

Shred down steep slopes or backcountry ski in the resort’s 3,000 acres.

Skiers and snowboarders enjoying their day in Northstar California Resort

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (530) 562-2267 | Website | Hours: 24 hours, resort | Entrance: $154, adult, $91, children under 13 | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

Another famous Lake Tahoe ski resort, Northstar Resort is surrounded by lush evergreens and offers variability in its ski slopes.

The resort slopes are situated on Mount Pluto, an extinct volcano that last erupted 2 million years ago. With over 3,170 skiable acres at Northstar California Ski Resort, snow sport lovers tend to buy a multi-day pass to explore the best of the park.

Most slopes are intermediate-rated but there are a mixed variety of beginner and advanced slopes as well. This is also a great place to go snowshoeing or to take the gondola to a high-altitude ski restaurant.

Kings Beach

Meander through the local shops of this quirky beach town.

View of dog footprints at the Kings Beach

📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 6 am-10 pm daily | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

Located on the north shore of Lake Tahoe, Kings Beach is known as the funky beach town of the north Lake Tahoe area. The downtown area is lined with fun vintage shops, small cafes, and old-timey hotels like Bed-N-Bliss.

This is one of the warmest swimming areas in Lake Tahoe, making the wide stretch of white sand a local beach favorite. There’s also a playground area right on the beach for children to enjoy.

Because Kings Beach is one of the most beautiful and popular beaches in California, it receives many visitors per year. Do your part by leaving no trace and packing out all of your trash with you. 

Donner Memorial State Park

Pay tribute to California history with a visit to this high-altitude Donner Party memorial.

The Pioneer Monument found in Donner Memorial State Park
The Pioneer Monument

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (530) 582-7892 | Website | Hours: Sunrise to sunset | Entrance: $10 per vehicle per day | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

If you’re up-to-date with your California history, odds are you’re familiar with the ill-fated Donner Party. The Donner Memorial State Park commemorates the history of the snow-trapped group from 1846-1847.

Visit the Pioneer Monument that pays homage to the doomed westward-headed emigrants at 6,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. You will also find hiking trails, campsites, boating, fishing, and picnicking in this alpine park.

You won’t want to miss the Emigrant Trail Museum located inside the visitor center. It is open from 10 am-5 pm daily and charges $10 per vehicle per day for parking from May-September, and $5 from October-April. 

Carson Valley

Explore the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe with a visit to this eastern city.

The Carson River under the clear blue sky

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (775) 782-8145 | Website | Hours: 8 am-5 pm daily | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

Located just across the border on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, Carson Valley is a great place to stay when visiting Lake Tahoe for more accommodation availability and affordable gas prices.

Top activities to do in Carson Valley include sport shooting, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, snowsports, and golfing. There are also some fun annual events across the Stateline like a grand-scale bird-watching event in January, Western Heritage Days in April/May, and the Douglas County Rodeo in September.

🛎️ Need a Hotel? The Carson Valley Inn is in the heart of the action and even has an on-site steakhouse.

Memorial Point Trail

Enjoy a short hike to one of the best viewpoints of Lake Tahoe.

Clear blue sky over the Memorial Point Trail

📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

The Memorial Point Overlook Trail is a short, 0.3-mile trail in Incline Village right across the state border. This easy hike provides some amazing views of Lake Tahoe and is perfect to squeeze in a quick workout right after breakfast.

The Memorial Point Trail is one of the easiest ways to view the entirety of the largest alpine lake, Lake Tahoe. You will experience a bird’s-eye view of the variations in water color and the large granite peaks that frame the massive lake.

Eagle Point Campground

Camp among the pines with your four-legged friends.

Tables and chairs in Eagle Point Campground

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (530) 541-3030 | Website | Hours: Sunrise to sunset | Entrance: $35 a night | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

Located in Emerald Bay State Park, Eagle Point Campground is one of the best campgrounds in California. The campground offers 100 sites with faucets but no hookups. It’s best suited for tent campers and RVers who don’t mind dry camping.

Eagle Point Campground has distant views of the giant alpine lake through the surrounding campground pines. It typically opens in early June and allows dogs in the campground on a leash. They aren’t permitted on the beaches, however. 

Timber Cove Marina

Enjoy the best spot for watersports in Lake Tahoe.

View from the Timber Cove Marina

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (530) 544-2942 | Website | Hours: 9 am-5 pm daily | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

Timber Cove Marina is located in South Lake Tahoe and is the best place to enjoy watersports. This convenient recreation destination offers boat, jet ski, and paddleboarding rentals as well as parasailing tours.

There are also favorable eateries in this area and cool resorts like the Beach Retreat & Lodge at Tahoe. You are at full liberty to instead lounge on the beach or if you’re feeling adventurous, go for a sailing tour.

Truckee River

Go river rafting down the snaked river for the perfect summer outing.

Water rapid flowing in Truckee River

📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

This northeastern river flows for an impressive 121 miles near the Lake Tahoe area. This is a fun Tahoe excursion for the whole family. Bring your innertubes and float down the Truckee River for a fun summer Tahoe experience. 

The Truckee River is less than 1 hour from Lake Tahoe and is the perfect day excursion for an extended Tahoe trip. Besides exhilarating river rafting, families can also enjoy fishing and swimming in the river. 

Tallac Historic Site

Learn about the history behind Lake Tahoe and its cultural beginnings.

The Tallac Historic Site covered with snow during winter season
The historic site during the winter

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (530) 541-5227 | Website | Hours: 9 am-4 pm daily, Closed Tuesday-Thursday | Entrance: $15, adults, $10, children, Free children under 11 | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

Learn about the local heritage and natural history of the area with a trip to the Tallac Historic Site. Once a resort spot for the wealthiest families in the Bay Area, the Tallac Historic Site bears only remains of the estate today.

There are heritage programs, guided walks, building tours, and demonstrations that take place at the site. The Tallac Historic Site buildings are only open in the non-winter months but the area is open year-round for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

👉 Pro Tip: Pets are allowed at the heritage site and on the trails, meaning you don’t have to leave your furry loved one in the hotel room!

Zephyr Cove Resort

Take a nap with some peace and quiet on the resort’s private cove.

View from the Zephyr Cove Resort in Lake Tahoe during sunset
A sunset view of swimming geese and docked boats on the private beach

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (800) 238-2463 | Website | Hours: Sunrise to sunset | Entrance: $10 per vehicle | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

Technically located just across the Stateline, Zephyr Cove Resort is a fun RV and cabin resort with private beach access. Although there is no cell service in the wooded area of the resort, wifi is available so you can work remotely on the road.

I usually camp in my RV at the resort but there are also private cabins on the lake for visitors who appreciate the finer things in life. Zephyr Cove Resort has its own diner-style on-site restaurant and is pet friendly.

This site is less crowded than resorts in South Lake Tahoe and is the ideal place to stay for quick access to Lake Tahoe’s sandy beaches.

Glen Alpine Falls

Enjoy a huge waterfall during the springtime when its waters are rushing.

The Glen Alpine Falls under the clear blue sky

📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

Switch up your lake hikes with the Glen Alpine Falls hike. This steep, layered, 65-foot waterfall is easy to get to and is the coolest place for photoshoots in Lake Tahoe.

Get close enough to the falls to feel the cooling mist on your hot summer face. The Glen Alpine Falls are best viewed in the springtime before they transform into a mere trickle in the summer.

The falls are visible from the road for those who require wheelchair access but the short trail that leads to the foot of the falls is covered in gravel. 

Cross Country Skiing

Ski through the Tahoe backcountry away from the crowds.

View from the Grass Lake in Nevada

📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

If you visit Lake Tahoe in the winter, cross-country skiing is a must! The alpine forests transform into a blanketed winter wonderland with pristine, untouched snow beckoning you to make the first set of ski tracks.

North Lake Tahoe is the region with the most concentrated cross-country ski terrain. The Squaw Creek Resort has 18 miles and Northstar Resort has 25 miles of skiable wilderness. 

The Royal Gorge off of Donner Summit is one of the largest areas of cross-country skiing terrain in North America with nearly 90 miles of groomed trails. Cross-country skiing is a great way to skip the ski resort crowds and ski to the beat of your own drum.

Cascade Lake

Go fishing or rock diving in this hidden gem of a lake.

Overlooking view of the Cascade Lake

📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

This glacier-formed lake is only a few minutes away from pristine Lake Tahoe. At 170 feet deep, this is one of the best places to go fishing and rock diving in the Lake Tahoe Area.

Tucked into the southwestern side of the Tahoe Basin, Cascade Lake showcases 200-foot waterfalls and vista points with views of the entire Cascade Lake and neighboring Lake Tahoe. 

FAQs About What to Do in Lake Tahoe

What are the best things to do in Lake Tahoe?

The best things to do in Lake Tahoe involve exploring the great outdoors. Go skiing, hiking, sunbathing, boating, or on the Lake Tahoe balloons during your trip to Tahoe.

What are the best things to do in Lake Tahoe for children?

Ice skating, sledding, ice skating, and hot air balloon rides are the best things to do in Lake Tahoe for children. There are also playgrounds right on the lake beaches that kids can enjoy.

What are the best hikes in Lake Tahoe?

Mount Tallac is the best hike in Lake Tahoe. Other popular trails include the Tahoe Rim Trail, Eagle Lake, Crag Lake, and Bay View Trail.

What are the best summer activities in Lake Tahoe?

Hit the hiking trails, kayak on Lake Tahoe, go horseback riding through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and go fishing in Lake Tahoe during the summer.


Now that you’re well-versed in all activities in Lake Tahoe, leave a comment and let me know which is your favorite! If you can’t get enough of California’s mountain towns, you will want to also check out our guide to the best things to do in Idyllwild.

Enjoy all the fun things to do in Lake Tahoe!

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