Blessed with sparkling natural beauty, Lake Tahoe is considered the jewel of the Sierra Nevada and has been named one of the best adventure vacations in the United States by the U.S. News & World Report. Tahoe is known for the clarity of its water and the panoramic views of the surrounding mountains on all sides. At 6,229 feet above sea level, Lake Tahoe is the highest lake of its size in the United States, measuring 22 miles long by 12 miles wide, with a surface area of 191 square miles and 72 miles of shoreline. Lake Tahoe is the second deepest lake in the United States, with a maximum depth of 1,645 feet, trailing only Oregon’s Crater Lake.
In addition to its awe-inspiring size, Lake Tahoe features unique dining experiences, local art galleries, and a broad selection of boutiques and shops.
Conveniently located just 30 minutes from downtown Reno, Lake Tahoe and all it has to offer is just a short drive, whether you want to grab lunch, see a concert or spend the day exploring hiking and biking trails. Looking to pay a visit? Discover where to stay in Reno Tahoe.
Things to do in Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe Outdoor Activities
The best way to see Lake Tahoe is to get out there and experience it! Offering countless opportunities to venture to the highest peaks or dive deep below the water, it’ll be hard to just choose one.
During the winter months, visitors flock from around the globe to experience world-class skiing and snowboarding. A handful of lakeside towns are spread along the shores of the lake including Incline Village, Kings Beach, South Lake Tahoe, Truckee and Tahoe City.
During the summer months, there is everything to do from hiking and kayaking to whitewater rafting, to lounging on the beach or even backpacking the Sierras. Popular beaches in Lake Tahoe include Kings Beach, Chimney Beach, Hidden Beach and Sand Harbor State Park. Sand Harbor, in particular, is a favorite among visitors and locals, offering a boat launch, picnic areas and a beautiful beach. During July and August, the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival at Sand Harbor offers plays set against the breathtaking backdrop of Lake Tahoe. If you are looking for other ways to explore the lake from the water, there are several shops in the area to rent stand-up paddleboards, kayaks and other water toys.
Another fantastic way to experience Lake Tahoe is by foot. There are a number of trailheads around the Lake, offering hikes for beginners to advanced. A fun one to check out is Spooner Lake trail, a family-friendly hike where you can really appreciate the flora and fauna of the area. Another local favorite that offers one of the best views you can get of the Lake is the Mount Rose Trail. Not for the faint of heart, this 9.5-mile round trip hike climbs 2,444 feet in elevation to awe-inspiring 360° views of Reno and Lake Tahoe.
These are just some of the limitless amazing outdoor activities that the Lake Tahoe area offers, check out more Lake Tahoe Outdoor Activities.
Lake Tahoe Arts and Culture
What better way to experience the lake, than to see it through someone else’s eyes? Lake Tahoe’s selection of local art galleries and performing arts centersallow visitors to see art in its many forms. Dramatic photography and print, impressive sculpture and interpretive performance are just some of the ways that the lake inspires locals and non-locals alike.
Lake Tahoe Shopping
There is nothing like taking in the fresh mountain air while window shopping in Northstar Village, picking up some new snow gear at the Village at Palisades Tahoe or strolling through Truckee or Tahoe City for a unique Tahoe souvenir. The various Lake Tahoe shopping selections are as unique as the areas in which they reside. You won’t find big box stores or large shopping malls here, but what you will find is a cool selection of locally-owned shops, thrift stores and outdoor marketplaces.
Lake Tahoe Dining
Lake Tahoe has a dining option for everyone’s taste buds, ranging from fine dining to cheap eats. If you have the chance, lead your own food tour by eating your way around the lake. Start with a cup of locally-brewed coffee in Reno and take a short drive over Mount Rose Highway to get lunch at T’s Mesquite in Incline Village, a favorite among locals. No day exploring Lake Tahoe is complete without a refreshing Wet Woody at Gar Woods Grill & Pier in Carnelian Bay with views overlooking the lake. Cozy up next to a beachside fire pit for a cocktail and s’mores at Lone Eagle Grille in Incline Village.
Places to Visit at Lake Tahoe
Incline Village is named for the Great Incline Tramway, built by loggers in the late 1870’s. Incline’s proximity to Sand Harbor and Diamond Peak, both known for their stunning views of Lake Tahoe, means you can soak up the lake views year-round from the slopes or the shoreline.
In summer, theatergoers flock to see the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival at nearby Sand Harbor State Park. Mountain bikers and hikers can explore perfect trails, such as the Flume trail, which ends near Sand Harbor, just south of Incline Village. Winter sees snowboarders and skiers making turns at Diamond Peak and Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe. Additionally, Reno casino gaming is only a short drive away.
The Lake Tahoe neighborhood of Crystal Bay serves its namesake and sits upon a magnificent granite boulder spread peninsula straddling the California and Nevada border. This area caters to everyone from the outdoor enthusiast to the low-key vacationer with a handful of outdoor rental companies, lively casinos, and many delicious dining options. One of the newest additions to this area, the Border House at Crystal Bay Casino offers luxury lodging, a world-class entertainment venue, and a high-end steakhouse.
If you are looking to get out during the day for a one-of-a-kind outdoor adventure, visit Tahoe Adventure Company in Crystal Bay for your anything from kayak and SUP rentals, to hiking and backpacking tours.
Boating is to Carnelian Bay what blue is to Lake Tahoe. In summer, it is life. The Sierra Boat Company, considered a premier U.S. wooden boat builder, opened here in the early 1950s, annually draws boat fanatics from around the world to see their classic wooden boats at the Concours d’Elegance wooden boat show for a weekend of nostalgic cruising and flair.
The town was christened Carnelian Bay in 1860 because of the semi-precious yellow and red stones sprinkling the shoreline. Today, a plentiful prize of vacation rentals contour the bay as well. Carnelian Bay is also considered the place where big, hungry Mackinaw trout can be found lurking in the depths.
Tahoe City is perched on the north shore of Lake Tahoe at the headwaters of the Truckee River (the only river outlet for Lake Tahoe). A concoction of lively year-round activities awaits every visitor. Bike, walk, jog or skate the unspoiled trail system along the lake, across the historic Lake Tahoe dam and down the river. Soak up the summer sun with a host of challenging water sports, family fun, outdoor concerts, art shows, movies at the beach, farmers markets, lakeside camping, backcountry hiking and mountain biking. Also, don’t forget to feed the colossal trout from Fanny Bridge!
Lake Tahoe Weather
The mean annual precipitation ranges from more than 55 inches in watersheds on the west side of the Lake Tahoe basin to about 26 inches near the lake on the east side of the basin. Most of the precipitation falls as snow between November and April. There is a pronounced annual runoff of snowmelt in late spring and early summer, the timing of which varies from year to year.
The National Weather Service reports that August in the Lake Tahoe area is normally the warmest month with an average maximum of 78.7 °F (29.5 °C) and an average minimum of 39.8 °F (4.3 °C). January is the coolest month with an average maximum of 41.0 °F (5.0 °C) and an average minimum of 15.1 °F (-9.4 °C). No matter what type of weather you prefer, it’s always a great time to visit Lake Tahoe.
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Lake Tahoe FAQ
Got a question? We’ve got the answers. Check out the most frequently asked questions below about Lake Tahoe.
What Is the Best Time of Year To Go to Lake Tahoe?
The best time to visit Lake Tahoe depends on what you want to do while you’re there. During the warmer months of June through August, there are plenty of summer activities, and December through April are usually best if you are a winter sports enthusiast. Spring and fall are also great times to visit, since the weather is mild and there are fewer crowds. There really is no “bad” time to visit Lake Tahoe.
From snow capped mountains surrounding the clear water of the lake in the winter to warmer weather and lots of sunshine in the summer, you will enjoy your trip to Lake Tahoe no matter what time of year it is. Visiting the area in the fall? The Lake is one of our fall favorites in Reno Tahoe, with patches of aspens turning brilliant gold, making hikes here a breathtakingly beautiful experience.
What Can You Do in Lake Tahoe in One Day?
There are plenty of things to do in Lake Tahoe in one day. Here are some ideas:
- Visit Crystal Bay, Sand Harbor or Kings Beach
- Check out ski resorts like Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe, Northstar California Resort, Diamond Peak and more
- Discover Lake Tahoe hiking trails like the Tahoe Rim Trail, Mount Rose Trail, Tunnel Creek Trail or Tahoe East Shore Trail
- Visit Truckee, Incline Village or Tahoe City and enjoy local shops and restaurants
- Hit up local breweries, including Tahoe Mountain Brewing Company, Alibi Ale Works or Bear Belly Brewing Company. Check out the Reno Tahoe Brewery Map for more information
- Fish for brown trout and Kokanee salmon at a depth of 1,645 ft on a Lake Tahoe fishing charter
Can You Go Swimming in Lake Tahoe?
In the summer months, swimming in Lake Tahoe will certainly leave you refreshed and cooled off. Since Lake Tahoe gets its water from snow run-off from the surrounding mountains, the water is clear and very cold. While that first jump in may leave you catching your breath, swimming in Lake Tahoe is an unforgettable experience.
Is Lake Tahoe a Natural Lake?
Yes, Lake Tahoe is a natural lake. The water level of the lake is regulated by Lake Tahoe Dam in Tahoe City, where the Truckee River begins.
Is September a Good Time To Visit Lake Tahoe?
Looking for a less crowded time to visit Lake Tahoe? While Tahoe doesn’t technically have an “off season,” September is a great time to visit because summer crowds have left and you’re more likely to have trails and beaches to yourself. For those looking for a relaxing trip to Lake Tahoe, visiting in September might be right for you, with fewer crowds and lower room rates.