Lake Tahoe Summer Travel Guide

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World renowned as a premier ski destination, Lake Tahoe is also one of California’s best summertime adventure retreats. With nearly endless sunshine, temperatures hovering in the 70s and low humidity, the weather is practically idyllic. Lake Tahoe’s beaches and mountains offer exciting activities for all types of travelers, from extreme mountain bikers and hikers to casual kayakers and boaters.

Fly into one of these three airports and, after a short drive, you’ll arrive at the lake’s shores and begin discovering all Tahoe has to offer:

Whether you’re planning a long vacation or a weekend getaway, this action-packed guide will help ensure you don’t miss any of Lake Tahoe’s (not so) secret summer gems.

What to Do:

Mount Tallac


On Land

At the top of the must-do list for any Lake Tahoe traveler: the quest to Mount Tallac. Perched high above the lake, this 9.5-mile hike involves 3,500 feet of elevation gain and takes about nine hours, with stops at the three alpine lakes along the way. Bring a picnic, a lot of water and enjoy an alfresco lunch with unparalleled views. If you’re traveling with kids, consider the 1.6-mile East Peak Trail instead, which combines a gondola ride to the top of the peak at Heavenly Mountain Resort.

If you like to hike and bike, head to the Tahoe Rim Trail. Called “a trail like no other,” the 165-mile trail circles the lake. Mountain bikes are permitted on certain sections of the trail, including the longest uninterrupted biking path on the southeastern side of the lake.

On the Water

Travelers who prefer the water can rent a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) and see for themselves why Lake Tahoe is considered one of the clearest lakes in the world and is known as the “jewel of the Sierra” for its clear emerald hue. Flatwater SUPs are great for any adventure level and most ages. Local shops, like South Tahoe Standup Paddle, will help determine which board is best for you based on your age and skill level.

For a prime view of one of the most photographed spots in all of Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay, rent a kayak and take the short paddle out to Fannette Island. Then hike up to the “tea house,” which offers a charming view of Lake Tahoe and Emerald Bay framed by a window in the historic stone remains. Follow your lake adventures back toward South Lake Tahoe with a short 15-minute drive southeast on State Route 89, where you can refuel at Coldwater Brewery. A handcrafted, locally brewed beer and a brisket chili will have your tired muscles feeling like new in no time.

With Your Family

If you’re vacationing with the family, head to Commons Beach in downtown Tahoe City. The grassy beach has evolved into a lakefront playground, with play structures for kids, fountains and barbecue grills. Enjoy live music on Sunday evenings in the summer.

After working up an appetite from hiking, biking or playing at the beach, enjoy a progressive dinner at Heavenly Village, where you can choose from a huge variety of eateries. For example, grab pizza and an ice cream brownie sundae for the kids at Basecamp Pizza Co., or a pint of beer, lamb lollipops and crispy pork belly for the adults at Gunbarrel Tavern and Eatery.

Where to Stay:

Cabin in South Lake Tahoe


From intimate cabins, rustic campgrounds and exciting casinos in South Lake Tahoe to luxury and family-focused resorts and lodges in North Lake Tahoe, there’s a myriad of lakeside lodging available to rest your head after a full day of heart-pumping adventures.

Lakeside options in South Lake Tahoe include super hip campsite-themed rooms at Basecamp, one- and two-bedroom condos at Lake Tahoe Vacation Resort and the all-night-party casino at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

Also located on the South Shore is Camp Richardson Resort, a campground that offers more than 200 tent sites, nestled in the shade of pine trees and a short walk from the lakeshore. Wake up to the sounds of birds and lapping water before heading out for a day on the lake.

The North Shore offers dozens of luxury resorts and quaint bed-and-breakfasts in 12 different towns. The stand-alone cottages at Cedar Glen Lodge provide rustic mountain escapes and award-winning dining options. And hikers and bikers will love Northstar California Resort. With 83 trails in its backyard, the resort is becoming a premier destination for adventure lovers.

Where to Take a Day Trip:

Truckee River

If you’re looking for even more time on the water, consider an easy day trip to the Truckee River for a fun-filled day of tubing. Less than an hour northeast of North Lake Tahoe is Sierra Adventures, which rents tubes and will shuttle you to the starting point.

Or drive west on State Route 267 about 30 minutes northwest of North Lake Tahoe to Donner Lake, a half-day trip that history buffs and adventure lovers alike will enjoy. Swim in Donner Lake, then explore the nearby gold rush mines and the Donner Memorial Bridge, aka Rainbow Bridge, which features a great lookout point over Donner Pass.

About the Author

Jade Broadus spends her summers on Southern California beaches and her winters snowboarding around California and Utah, but you’ll also find her in Lake Tahoe during both seasons. She documents her travels on various outlets, including National Geographic, The Points Guy, Travelmindset.com and her award-winning adventure family travel blog, Vagabond3.com.

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