20 Great Things To See and Do In Lake Tahoe In Summer
Whether you're a local looking for fun things to do, or a tourist visiting Lake Tahoe, summer is the perfect season for outdoor activities in the area. From hiking trails and beaches to water sports and spa treatments, there are so many things to see and do that you could spend a few weeks relaxing at your favorite beach spot or exploring the hidden gems around this picturesque lake.
Camping At Lake Tahoe
Camping is a great way to experience Lake Tahoe because you can save money, be closer to nature and meet people from around the world.
In the summertime, camping is popular at Lake Tahoe as there are a few free campsites where you can pitch your tent and enjoy some woodsy solitude. If you would prefer not to spend your vacatio nin a ten, there are also some campgrounds that offer cabins or yurts for rent.
When planning your trip, keep in mind that there are rules about how long you can stay at these campsites based on whether they're designated as an “overnight” site or not. If you plan on staying longer than overnight make sure to check with park staff about what type of permit is required. Reservations aren’t always necessary but will help guarantee availability during peak times such as holidays or weekends during tourist season (June-September).
Some of the waterside campsites include:
DL Bliss State Park has campgrounds that open for the season and revert to a day use area outside of those times.
Meeks Bay Campground is wedged between two of the popular state parks in the Lake Tahoe area and is very popular for campers and RV's alike. With direct access to the beach this campsite fills quickly so be sure to book well in advance.
A little further away from the lake, Wylder Hope Valley has everything from campsites to bungalows and cabins and is about 25 mins drive from the waters edge. There are great hiking trails close by, a cafe on site and even a sauna.
Alternatively try the HipCamp website for private camp and caravan sites.
!! A lot of the campsites in this area are dog friendly too
Stand Up Paddle Boarding
Stand up paddle boarding is an exhilarating and fun way to get out on the lake. It’s also a great option for those who want to stay active but don’t feel like getting wet. As long as you have the right gear, it’s easy to learn how to stand up paddle board at Lake Tahoe.
You should know that there are two basic types of stand up paddle boards: hard shell and inflatable (or soft). Both types of paddle board work well for beginners.
The Waterfront Center hires paddle boards from Memorial day through Labor Day from $31/h + tax.
North Tahoe Paddle has half day SUP rentals from
Hourly – $30
2 Hours – $50
Half Day – $70 and
Full day rentals – $100
They do also offer multi day rentals. Give them a call for those rates.
Hire A Boat for The Day (Or Just A Few Hours)
If you are visiting Lake Tahoe, there are many things to do. One of the best activities is renting a boat and taking it out on the lake. There are many different types of boats available for rent at Lake Tahoe, including powerboats, sailboats and pontoon boats.
Tahoe Sports has Power Boat rentals from $184 per hour and $368 for 2 hours. If you plan your day well and are ready to go you can see a lot of the lake in 2 hours. You will need to reserve for anything of 4 hours and above. Their shorter rental times are on a first in first served basis. Check out their Powerboats page for up to date pricing. You can also hire water toys as well.
Boatsetter is a great place to find a captained boat for a few hours or a day on the lake. Check out their website for more options.
Rent A Boat Tahoe has an online booking system and a range of boats to suit every budget. For an extra hourly fee you can add a captain to drive the boat so you are free to relax.
Take yourself on a day hike around Lake Tahoe
Don’t forget to get out and explore on foot. With hundreds of miles of hiking trails, Lake Tahoe has something for everyone. Consider these day hikes in and around the lake. If you have AllTrails they have maps of all these hikes.
- Heavenly Mountain Resort: Take a 3-mile hike up to the top of Heavenly Mountain Resort where you can enjoy panoramic views of the lake, Reno and Carson City.
- Eagle Falls & Eagle Lake Loop. This easy 4 mile round trip hike long Eagle Creek takes you over the bridge to Eagle Falls. You can turn around here or continue on to Eagle Lake which is well worth the effort. If you have time, hike down to the lower falls which are across the road from the trailhead. You get a great view of the lower falls (which are very gentle) with Emerald Bay in the background. Stay away from the edge though.
Fallen Leaf Lake Trail. Hike through forests, meadows and along creeks as you make your way around this beautiful lake in Desolation Wilderness near South Lake Tahoe. This particular trail is 3.5 miles with very little elevation. If you are feeling energetic you can complete the Fallen Leaf Mount Tallac loop. At 15 miles (25km) with 4200 feet (1320m) of elevation change its a tough hike. Make sure you have experience and are well prepared.
- Vikingsholm Trail. At only 1.6 mile (2.8km) return this easy walk from the stone observation point above Emerald Bay down to Vikingsholm Castle, is doable by most able bodied people. There is almost 400 foot (115 meters) of elevation gain on the way back up but its a solid path and you can take your time.
- Spooner Lake Trail. On the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, this trail is a beautiful walk around lake Spooner. While most of the walk is flat, the entrance is a little steeper. There is only 130 feet (40 meters) of elevation change over the entire 2.4 mile (4 km) trail.
Some of the hikes in the Lake Tahoe area are on well compacted tracks and some are a little more adventurous. Make sure you don't do something too far outside your comfort level.
The Tahoe Rim Trail
Hiking trails around Lake Tahoe are a great way to get closer to nature. If you have the time, the Tahoe Rim Trail is one of the most beautiful scenic trails in North America, and it's right here! You can hike it in sections or all at once.
The trail runs in a loop around the lake meaning you can join it at a point that is suitable to you. At 175 miles it's a tough trail at and will take you between (on average) 14-20 days to complete. There are many places to resupply along the trail, but you should consider this a serious commitment. Snow can remain on some of the higher points well into the summer and you will have to carry a bear canister for your food.
Check out the Tahoe Rim Trail's website for more info and how to prepare for this stunning hike.
Heavenly Mountain Gondola
Take the gondola to the top of Heavenly Mountain. This 2.4 mile scenic ride is a great way to get the best view out over Lake Tahoe. Use your Gondola ticket to jump on the chairlift to access many hiking trails at the top.
At $63 for adults & $32 for children (5-12) its not the cheapest thing you will do in Lake Tahoe in the summer, but it is one of the best.
Check prices on their website.
Go Kayaking on Lake Tahoe
Kayaking on Lake Tahoe is a great way enjoy views of the surrounding mountains. You can rent kayaks at many locations around Lake Tahoe. Some locations offer guided tours and even classes, so be sure to ask if you're new to kayaking before renting one.
If you'd like some peaceful time with nature, head out early in the morning or later in the evening when there are fewer people and boats around.
There are many places that hire out Kayaks so you won't have any trouble finding one.
Visit Vikingsholm Castle
Vikingsholm Castle is a historic landmark located on the shores of Emerald Bay Lake Tahoe. The castle was built by Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight in 1929 as a summer home.
Modelled after homes she had seen on her travels to Scandinavia with its steeply gabled roof and medieval-style turrets, it is worth visiting. It's open to the public for tours during the summer months, with guided tours available. There is a visitors center next to the main home where you can add your name to the next tour list and pay for your tickets.
Be sure to check out the interior before you leave as it is quite grand. Check out the kitchen in particular to see some very retro appliances.
Gatekeepers Museum and Tahoe Dam
The Gatekeepers Museum and Tahoe Dam are both located in Tahoe City. The Gatekeepers Museum is a great place to learn about the history of Lake Tahoe. You can see many different things including old boats and photos from the early days of Lake Tahoe. You can also see how people used to live back then and how tough their lives would have been. It's also free! They often have some stunning example of native american crafts including hand woven rugs and baskets.
Gatekeepers museum is open Wednesday to Sunday 11am to 4pm
Tahoe Dam is another amazing place in Lake Tahoe that you should go check out! Built by workers 1909 and 1913 the dam controls the release of water into the main lake. Originally it was built to divert water for use in San Francisco, but that never went ahead. It is situated right in the center of Tahoe City and is free to walk over.
Relax at the Beach
You can relax at one of the many beaches around Lake Tahoe. Some are free, while others charge a small fee. Check with your hotel to see if they provide a beach shuttle service; otherwise, you can drive to nearby beaches.
Try Lester Beach, Secret Cove or combine a visit to Vikingholm Castle with some time at the beach right on Emerald Bay. One of my favourites is Chambers Landing which is a small public beach between Tahoma and Tahoe City. There is also a great restaurant and deck nearby for those afternoon cocktails. Parking is limited.
Beachgoers should bring sunscreen, sunglasses and hats for shade from the sun's glare. You might also want to bring some snacks to hold you over until lunchtime, as well as towels and water bottles for afternoons spent lounging on the sand. Don't forget your camera!
Go Truckee River Rafting
The Truckee River is a great place to go rafting. It’s a relatively short trip that takes about 2-3 hours, but it can be an exciting adventure for all ages! They have a shuttle that takes you up the river and drops you off with your raft. Then you simple paddle back at your leisure. There's no time limit and their rafts can take up to 8 people.
Before you go, make sure you pack:
- A light jacket (it gets chilly in the morning)
- Plenty of sunscreen (you’ll be outside for most of the day)
- Snacks and water so you can pull over and stop whenever you like.
Check out more info at Truckee River Rafting.
Do A Scenic Drive Around The Perimeter of Lake Tahoe
If you have a spare day, consider doing a Scenic drive around the perimeter of Lake Tahoe
There are many scenic drives around Lake Tahoe, and one of the most famous is along the shoreline. It's called Lake Tahoe Boulevard. If you're in a car or on a bike, it's a beautiful way to enjoy some fresh air while taking in some awesome views. This road runs along both Nevada and California side of the lake and to do a full circumference you will drive around 65 miles (105km). There are many places to stop, have a swim or grab some food or drinks so you can easily make this drive last the full day.
If you would like a shorter drive, consider the South Tahoe to Tahoe City drive. This 30-mile route is one of the most scenic drives around Lake Tahoe because it takes you up close to Emerald Bay, which has great views of mountains on both sides (and also includes hiking trails).
This Self driving audio tour is a great option for info and notes on where to stop and what to see. At only $10 its well worth it. It will take you from South Lake Tahoe all the way around the lake with over 20 points of interest, tips on where to stop & interesting info on the locations around the lake. You simply purchase the tour (there is no physical tour remember) and get the link to the app. Download the app and get ready for your self driving adventure.
Explore Tahoe City
You might have heard of the quaint community of Tahoe City, California. The area is an idyllic place to visit and has many great restaurants and shops. If you are looking for a place to stay while in Lake Tahoe and would like to be within walking distance of restaurants and bars, then Tahoe City is your best bet.
You don’t have to go far from your hotel room for amazing food and drink options: The River Grille is a popular spot overlooking the Truckee River. They have a great menu and are open from Tuesday to Sunday from 5pm. Front Street Pizza offers hand tossed New York style pizza that I can personally vouch for. I am very fussy with Pizza and this remains one of my favourite pizza places in the world! they also have other items like Burritos and fish taco's so if Pizza isn't your thing you should still be able to find something to eat.
Tahoe city is also home to Commons Beach, a popular family destination and more than a few small shopping areas, banks, a marina and of course some beauty and hair salons.
Horseback riding at Lake Tahoe
Horseback riding is a great way to see the lake and get some exercise. Horseback riding is also a great way to get around Lake Tahoe because it's so big that you can't cover it all on foot. There are several stables throughout the area where you can rent horses for an hour or more at a time, or you can go on longer guided tours.
Do A Cruise On The Tahoe Gal
Taking 120 passengers, the Tahoe Gal a paddle wheeler, offers a few options for cruising on Lake Tahoe. From a Happy hour cruise, to the very popular Emerald Bay cruise there is something for everyone. While 120 people does sound like a lot I never felt like it was too busy and there is ample room for everyone to see everything that is going on around the lake.
The dinner cruise is another popular option and $65 for a 2.5 hour sunset cruise I felt was very affordable. You can order dinner as well however be aware that an 18% gratuity is added to all dinner bills.
Visit their website for current prices.
Try Your Luck At A Casino
You can visit the casinos on either side of Lake Tahoe.
On South Lake Tahoe, the Nevada casinos are located in Stateline, NV (the town where you enter/leave California). This is where you'll find Harrah's, Bally's and Hardrock Hotel & Casino, among others.
South Lake Tahoe doesn't have a simple public transport option so the easiest way to get around is by renting a car or taking an Uber or Lyft driver service. There are public buses but they don't run frequently and do take more than a few hours to get from Tahoe City to Stateline.
North Lake Tahoe has a collection of casinos as soon as you cross the border into Nevada at Crystal Bay. You will find Jim Kelley's Nugget and the Crystal Bay Casino right on the border, but if you drive a little further the Grand Lodge Casino at Hyatt can be found in Incline Village. Of course there are more gambling places than I've listed here so you won't have trouble finding a casino on Lake Tahoe.
There is a bus company that services Truckee and locations as far as Tahoma and Incline Village so the casinos in the north are easier to access without a car than the ones at Stateline in the south.
Most casino hotels offer free shuttle services as well but these tend to be less frequent than taxi services.
Practice Your Photography Skills At Lake Tahoe
If you're looking to take some great photos of Lake Tahoe, there are more than a few locations to polish up your skills.
Emerald Bay is always a popular destination for photographers and the Emerald Bay State Park Lookout is a great place to get that island view. It does very much depend on the season however as sometimes if there has been a plentiful spring and summer, the trees can be a little thick. Inspiration Point off Emerald Bay road on the other side of the bay is more heavily treed but still has a great view of the bay.
Some other places to hone your camera skills are:
Eagle Falls – for waterfall photography
The Rubicon trail for great views out over the lake. If you have a great headtorch to find your way back after dark this could be a great spot for some over water sunset shots.
The hike up to Monkey Rock does have a few steep spots, however the view from the top is stunning. You can see all the jetty's from the houses along the waterfront and the varying depths of the lake are really clear from up here. Its a nice hike but bring plenty of water and don't attempt it after dark.
The rocks at Secret Cove can make for some amazing photography especially early morning before any wind has disturbed the water.
Sand Harbour is one of the most photographed locations around Lake Tahoe, but the popularity is deserved. Crystal clear water with amazing rock formations and a white sandy bottom mean that you won't have to do too much work to get a great photo here.
If you would rather join a dedicated photography tour, consider this tour that lets you take some great photos while experiencing some of the best sights and scenery Lake Tahoe has to offer.
Spend the day hunting waterfalls around Lake Tahoe
You may have heard about the waterfalls around Lake Tahoe, and if you haven't, you're missing out. There are so many different kinds of waterfalls in the area, from ones that you can hike to on foot to ones that require a boat or kayak to access. Here are some ideas for your next summer trip:
Eagle Falls – With both lower and upper falls to see and only a mile to walk in to the lower falls, Eagle Falls is a popular but serene setting. From the lower falls a short but steeper hike brings you to the upper falls. While it is only around a 70 foot drop it is a consistent flow and so perfect for those waterfall photos.
Cascade Falls – Accessible from a trailhead at Highway 89 Cascade Creek falls can be beautiful in the spring due to all the wild flowers in bloom. Lush ferns like the path and its a relatively easy walk into the falls.
Horsetail falls has an 800 foot drop so impressive as a waterfall, however combined with the incredible blue of the water, it is one you shouldn't miss. Only about 7 miles from Echo Summit the highway trailhead offers easy access to these falls.
Go Parasailing on Lake Tahoe
Parasail Tahoe offers parasailing at Kings Beach and from Tahoe City Marina. From only $100 per flight it might be the most affordable parasailing in northern California!
Splurge on a scenic helicopter flight over Lake Tahoe
If you have some extra money at the end of your holiday, consider splashing out on a scenic helicopter flight over Lake Tahoe. While you can do this in the winter as well, the colors of the water in the summer months is just stunning.
Check out these options from Get Your Guide.
My Top 20 Activities To Do In Summer In Lake Tahoe
With so many great things to see and do at Lake Tahoe, you’re sure to have a great time. You can spend the day exploring the trails on foot or by bike, paddleboarding on the lake, hiking up some of the awesome mountains around it and so much more! Don’t forget that if all this activity gets your blood pumping too much then there are also plenty of casinos located nearby where you can try your luck in their poker rooms or slots machines.
You will find some more day tours below if you would prefer to join a tour instead of driving yourself. You can even spend a day at Yosemite National Park if you don't have time to visit yourself.