11 Things to See When Visiting Lake Tahoe in the Summer

Visiting Lake Tahoe in the Summer

World renowned as a premier ski destination, Lake Tahoe is also one of California’s best summertime adventure retreats. With nearly endless sunshine, high 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.

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

What Airport to Fly Into for Lake Tahoe

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

Drive about 35 miles south of Reno-Tahoe International Airport, 125 miles northeast from Sacramento International Airport or 215 miles northeast from San Francisco International Airport.

Expand the My Map below and follow this Lake Tahoe travel guide during your journey. Remember to save the map to your own Google My Maps for easy reference while visiting Lake Tahoe.


Lake Tahoe Activities: Visit Mount Tallac Whether you prefer hiking, biking or being on the water, there’s a good chance you’ll get to do so under the sun in Lake Tahoe, where there are more than 300 days of sun per year.


What to Do

1. Go on a quest to Mount Tallac

Perched high above the lake, this approximately 10-mile hike tops the list of must-do Lake Tahoe summer activities. The hike involves 3,500 feet of elevation gain and takes about nine hours, with stops at three alpine lakes along the way. Bring a picnic and a lot of water and enjoy an alfresco lunch with unparalleled views.

2. Hop on board a gondola

If you’re traveling with kids, consider skipping the more intense Mount Tallac hike and instead taking on the 1.6-mile East Peak Trail, which combines a gondola ride to the top of the peak at Heavenly Mountain Resort.

3. Hike and bike the Tahoe Rim Trail

Called “a trail like no other,” the 165-mile Tahoe Rim 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.

4. Go stand-up paddleboarding

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.

5. Rent a kayak on Emerald Bay and hike to the “tea house”

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.

6. Cool off with a sip of something local

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 Cold Water Brewery. A handcrafted, locally brewed beer and a brisket chili will have your tired muscles feeling like new in no time.

7. Play at Commons Beach

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.

8. Savor a progressive dinner at Heavenly Village

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 Base Camp Pizza Co., or a pint of beer, lamb lollipops and crispy pork belly for the adults at Gunbarrel Tavern & Eatery.

9. Get star-struck and spectate at the American Century Championship

For those traveling to South Lake Tahoe in summer, plan your trip around one of the biggest star-studded events of the season: the American Century Championship golf tournament at Edgewood Tahoe golf course. During the second full week in July, visitors can see some of their favorite stars — with the likes of Tony Romo, Justin Timberlake and Bobby Flay previously matching up — on the green during this casual and fun event that raises money for local and national causes. Tip: Parking is limited at Edgewood, so plan to park at one of the nearby casinos, such as Harrah’s, Harveys, MontBleu or Hard Rock.

Where to take a Day Trip from Lake Tahoe: Tube the Truckee River Though many creeks flow into Lake Tahoe, the only river feeding into the lake is Truckee River.

Interested in building a day trip from Lake Tahoe to your itinerary?

10. Tube in the nearby 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.

11. Take a dip and a blast through the past near Donner Lake

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.

Where to Stay in Lake Tahoe During a summer vacation in Lake Tahoe, families can opt to sleep at a variety resorts and lodges, or beneath the stars at one of many campsites.


Where to Stay in Lake Tahoe

Still debating whether your Lake Tahoe summer vacation hub should be in North Lake Tahoe or South Lake Tahoe? Check out this Lake Tahoe guide highlighting the best of both shores to determine where to stay during your trip. 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 is 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 & Casino.

Also located on the South Shore is Camp Richardson Resort, a campground that offers more than 115 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.

Get great deals on rental cars when you book your trip to Lake Tahoe in summer.

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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.