19 fun things to do around Lake Tahoe in summer

Published Date: May 4, 2023

A luxury home on the shore of Lake Tahoe in summer makes a great second home.
When you hear “Lake Tahoe,” you may be tempted to grab your skis and parka, but this is more than a top skiing destination. More people visit Lake Tahoe in summer than at any other time of year. It’s one of the most scenic spots in the United States and a popular location for second homesWe’ve identified 19 fun things to do around Lake Tahoe (in no particular order) that will provide unforgettable experiences for visitors and residents alike:
Visitors enjoy sunbathing and paddleboarding at Lake Tahoe in summer.

1. Soak up some sun on a Lake Tahoe beach

With 72 miles of shoreline, Lake Tahoe is perfect for spending time at a beach. Most beaches have fine-grained white sand lapped by beautiful clear glacier water. Beaches are the best way to experience the water of Lake Tahoe, since shallower depths mean the water is warmer. Unfortunately, most Lake Tahoe beaches are not dog-friendly, and you’ll probably have to pay for parking, but it’s well worth it for a day of fun in the sun.Here are some of our favorite beaches in North Lake Tahoe:
  • Kings Beach State Recreation Area: At the largest beach in North Lake Tahoe you’ll find the warmest water for swimming, plus a playground and picnic area. It’s also near shops and restaurants to grab necessities.
  • Sand Harbor: Established as a public beach in 1958, Sand Harbor is one of the most popular beaches in Lake Tahoe, with opportunities for scuba diving, swimming and kayaking. Locals and tourists alike consider it to be the most beautiful beach in the Lake Tahoe area.
  • Lake Forest Beach: If you prefer a more laid-back and private beach, check out Lake Forest Beach. It’s small, so be sure to arrive early to stake out your spot for some swimming, birdwatching or a game of horseshoes.
  • Chimney Beach: This park got its name from a lonely stone chimney on the shore — all that remains from a caretaker’s cabin. Chimney Beach has gorgeous views, but it’s only accessible via a short hike. You might want to leave the kids at home for this one — meeting a few nude beachgoers is not unusual.
  • Commons Beach: A bit on the smaller side, Commons Beach is a great family beach spot with playgrounds, grassy areas for picnics and easy access to local restaurants and shops when you need to take a break from the sun.
There are also some great beaches in South Lake Tahoe:
  • Baldwin Beach: If you’re looking for the warmest water in South Lake Tahoe, check out Baldwin Beach featuring one of the lake’s gentlest slopes into the water. Baldwin Beach also has great access to water activities like kayaking, windsurfing and paddle boarding.
  • Pope Beach: Only accessible via a short trail, Pope Beach is wide and sandy, making it a popular destination for families. You can also rent kayaks from the beach.
  • El Dorado Beach: With its relaxed atmosphere, El Dorado Beach is a great spot for families to picnic and swim. It’s also one of the best places in Lake Tahoe to watch a sunset over the mountains.
  • Nevada Beach: Bring your dog to Nevada Beach to enjoy panoramic views of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Located on national forest land, Nevada Beach offers two distinct ecosystems and easy access to camping facilities.
Learn more about all the beaches Lake Tahoe has to offer and the rules for each beach from the Tahoe Fund.
A man hikes up steps on a trail in Lake Tahoe in summer.

2. Put some miles on your hiking boots

One of Lake Tahoe’s biggest summer activities is hiking, and there’s a perfect trail for every level of hiker. Explore the sequoia and pine tree forests, walk around Lake Tahoe or venture into the mountains to see gorgeous waterfalls and stunning granite cliff faces.The Tahoe Rim Trail is a 165-mile trail system that loops around the lake and has eight official trailheads. Fortunately, there’s no rule that you have to hike the entire trail! Hop on and off at whatever trailhead you like. For more leisurely treks, check out:
  • Fallen Leaf Lake Trail, a 3.6-mile out-and-back hike primarily on a paved path
  • Emerald Point Trail, a mostly flat 4.4-mile out-and-back trail along the northern shore of Emerald Bay
  • Glacier Meadow Loop, a ½-mile loop through a meadow
If you want to venture up a mountain, explore the Mount Tallac Trail. It’s 10.5 miles out and back, with an elevation gain of about 2,000 feet in 2.4 miles. Start your trek early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the sun at its height on the sun-exposed part of the trail.Other stunning hikes include:
  • Eagle Falls hike to Eagle Lake (1.9 miles point to point)
  • Rubicon Trail (18.2 miles point to point)
  • Glen Alpine Falls/Springs Trail (6.8 miles point to point)
  • Meeks Bay Trail (9.8 miles out and back)
The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit breaks down all the hikes in Lake Tahoe and links to trail maps so you can plan your hike.
Water flows down a waterfall in Lake Tahoe in summer.

3. Go waterfall hopping

With gorgeous mountains and cliffsides, Lake Tahoe has some truly stunning waterfalls. Spend a day hiking to different waterfalls around the lake, take some beautiful photos and enjoy a picnic.Some of the best waterfalls include:
  • Eagle Falls: The 1-mile hike has a gentle slope and a set of stairs carved into the stone taking you to the 60- and 90-foot falls. More adventurous hikers can continue the rest of the path to Eagle Lake (though you’ll need a permit for Desolation Wilderness).
  • Horsetail Falls: Several different trails lead to Horsetail Falls, an 800-foot waterfall off Highway 50. The Wilderness Boundary Trail takes you to the base of the falls, while the Pyramid Creek Trail follows the creek. Both are relatively easy, but Pyramid Creek is better for families.
  • Glen Alpine Falls: Located off Highway 89, Glen Alpine Falls stair-steps down the cliff face. This is one of the easier falls to access since there’s no hiking necessary (although there are trails you can take around the falls).
A kayaker paddles through the clear water of Lake Tahoe in summer.

4. Make a splash with some water sports

Lake Tahoe is the biggest North American alpine lake and the second deepest lake in the United States at 1,645 feet. The lake is 22 miles long and 12 miles wide, ringed by tall mountains covered in sequoia and pine forests. With all that lake, there’s no shortage of water activities you can do. The lake is smoothest in the morning, so venture out early to see up to 70 feet down into the lake. Remember that the water is warmest near the shore, so if you are in the deeper parts of the water, you may want to use a wetsuit to stay warm. Consider kayaking to explore shorelines you can’t get to otherwise. We recommend the 6-mile kayak trip from Cave Rock to Nevada Beach or the 13-mile kayak trip from Sand Harbor to Cave Rock. If you’re at Emerald Lake, kayak out to Fannette Island to see the ruins of a tea shop from the early 1900s. Parasailing is also a favorite Lake Tahoe pastime. No prior experience is necessary to get into the air for some thrilling panoramic views. Jet skiing and paddle boarding are also popular, and there are places around the lake where you can rent both.You can go fishing for trout or river rafting in the rivers that lead into or out of the lake.
Explore Vikingsholm at Lake Tahoe in summer.

5. Transport to Scandinavia with a visit to Vikingsholm

In 1928, Josephine Knight — enamored with Scandinavian architecture — commissioned a Norwegian-style castle on the shore of Lake Tahoe, and the result is the beautiful Vikingsholm. You can access the property via a short hike from the Highway 89 parking lot or take a boat like Mrs. Knight’s guests did. Tour the 38-room castle to see the stunning Scandinavian antiques, brilliant stone and metalwork and massive carved wooden beams. Cool off with a swim at the beach and munch on snacks from the cafe.Just watch out for the ghost! Captain Richard Barter, a caretaker at a local resort, lost his toes to frostbite when his boat capsized in the lake one winter’s night. Guests report seeing him on the property, shaking a box (rumored to contain his frostbitten toes) and saying, “Them’s my toes!” to anyone who will listen.
Historic Truckee near Lake Tahoe in summer is a great place to visit.

6. Visit historic Truckee

Considered the gateway into Lake Tahoe, the historic town of Truckee is packed with Old West architecture. Bike the 6-mile Truckee River Legacy Trail following the Truckee River, or stay in town to explore quaint shops, bars and wineries. Take the historical walking tour or visit the Old Jail Museum for a peek into Truckee history. The jail, which operated from 1875 to 1964, housed famous outlaws like “Machine Gun” Kelly, “Baby Face” Nelson and “Ma” Spinelli over the years.
Lakefront homes in Tahoe City make a great place to stay in Lake Tahoe in summer.

7. Explore Tahoe City

Tahoe City is a quintessential mountain town with a friendly vibe. On the west shore of Lake Tahoe, the town is home to some of best restaurants in the area. Commons Beach is great for swimming, sunbathing and picnicking, and features free concerts on Sundays and free movies on the beach on Wednesdays. 
Donner Memorial State Park at Lake Tahoe in summer is a peaceful place.

8. Experience history at the Donner Memorial State Park

In 1846, more than 80 men, women and children crossed into the Sierra Nevada mountains during their trek to California. After a series of bad decisions and bad luck, the group became stranded and spent four brutal winter months not far from Lake Tahoe before help arrived. Nearly half the group perished from sickness, starvation, extreme cold and even murder, with some resorting to cannibalism to survive.The Donner Memorial State Park preserves the Donner Camp and includes a visitors center detailing the history of the area. Pioneer Monument memorializes the Donner Party and others who made the difficult journey to California in the 1840s. The park also offers numerous hiking trails and camping spots.
The Heavenly Gondola at Lake Tahoe in summer showcases gorgeous views of the lake and mountains.

9. Ride the Heavenly Gondola

The Heavenly Gondola transports skiers up Heavenly Mountain in winter, and in summer offers sightseers unmatched views of the lake, Carson Valley and Desolation Wilderness.Park in Heavenly Village (grab a treat at Heavenly Donuts first!) and ride 2.4 miles up an incline of more than 9,000 feet. At the top, stop at Tamarack Lodge for snacks and coffee, or check out one of the many activities, including:
  • Zipline tours
  • 4x4 mountain tours
  • The Ridge Rider Mountain Coaster
  • Ropes courses
  • Hiking trails
A lone boat cruises around Lake Tahoe in summer.

10. Cruise around the lake

If you aren’t into water sports, don’t worry — you can still experience the beauty of the water with a cruise around the lake. Lake Tahoe companies offer a variety of charter and cruise options, so whether you prefer the peace of a sailboat, a sunset cruise with dinner and dancing, a relaxing catamaran or an old-fashioned paddle wheeler, there’s a perfect option for you.
A horse peers over a fence with the mountains in the background in Lake Tahoe in summer.

11. See Lake Tahoe on horseback

Ready to explore Lake Tahoe trails on four legs? Multiple companies around the lake offer guided horseback tours through the forest. Camp Richardson Corral and Zephyr Cove Resort Stables are two of the best.
A biker crosses a bridge on a bike path in Lake Tahoe in summer.

12. Bike around the lake

Want to explore but not willing to get jostled on horseback? Luckily for you, Lake Tahoe is a bike-friendly community with plenty of bike rental shops and trails that will satisfy everyone from first-timers to experienced mountain bikers.For relaxing rides, consider the South Lake Tahoe or West Shore Bike Paths, or rent an e-bike on the East Shore. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, check out the Corral Trail or Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. For those who want a bit more thrill in the ride, don’t miss the Downhill Mountain Bike Park at Northstar Resort, California’s biggest mountain biking park with more than 100 miles of challenging trails.
A hot air balloon soars above Lake Tahoe in summer.

13. View the lake from a helicopter or hot air balloon

The only thing more beautiful than looking up at the mountains from Lake Tahoe is looking down at the lake from a helicopter or hot air balloon. You’ll fly over Lake Tahoe and other lakes in the area, take in the mountains and see aerial views of waterfalls while pilots identify points of interest.
Virginia City’s Wild West storefronts are a must-see in Lake Tahoe in summer.

14. Travel to the Wild West in Virginia City 

If you love the Old West, travel to nearby Virginia City, Nevada. A mining town from the mid-1800s, the town features wooden sidewalks, saloons, vintage homes, churches and museums from the Gold Rush era. Hop on the Virginia & Truckee Railroad for a 35-minute trip to Gold Hill or participate in one of the town’s many ghost tours.
The cliffs of Yosemite are a close drive from Lake Tahoe in summer.

15. Take a trip to Yosemite

About three and a half hours south of Lake Tahoe lies Yosemite National Park, and the drive is just as gorgeous as the park itself. Take scenic Highway 395 for the best views, and pass through historic towns like the ghost town of Bodie. Consider stopping at a hot spring or two. Or take a guided tour to the park so you can focus on the scenery instead of driving.Spend the day at Yosemite exploring the more than 1,000-square-mile park. See the granite monoliths, hike to the stunning Yosemite Falls or soak up the views from Glacier Point or the Wawona Tunnel. Plan ahead if you want to camp overnight or stay at one of the local lodges before driving back to Lake Tahoe.
Drive around Lake Tahoe in summer on one of the many scenic roads.

16. Hop in your car for a scenic drive

If you want to get your bearings at Lake Tahoe, go for a scenic drive around the lake. The 72-mile drive covers three highways (US 50, NV 28 and US 89), and will take you about three hours with no stops. But trust us — you’ll want to stop at the multiple pull-off spots to take photos of the gorgeous views. Note that traffic on these highways is heavier on the weekends, so take your scenic drive for a weekday if you can.
Rope bridges at Tahoe Treetop Adventure Parks bring some adrenaline to Lake Tahoe in summer.

17. Get an adrenaline rush at Tahoe Treetop Adventure Parks

If you’re an adrenaline junkie, check out Tahoe Treetop Adventure Parks. The parks contain 10 different courses ranging from beginner to advanced. After a short training session, anyone 6 years or older can explore the 27 ziplines, 60 bridges and 97 tree platforms in the three parks.
Lake Tahoe in summer has some of the most beautiful night sky views.

18. Tour the night sky with Tahoe Star Tours 

The Lake Tahoe area is one of the best places to see the night sky. Its dry air and persistent western on-shore marine airflow pattern means an annual average of 300 clear nights. The darkness on the lake and the surrounding forest means there’s not enough light pollution to interfere with the starlight, so grab a blanket and some hot chocolate and head to the best places to see the stars, including:
  • Spooner Lake
  • Emerald Bay
  • Camp Richardson
  • Hope Valley
For a more educational evening of stargazing, go with Tahoe Star Tours. Each year they choose a different destination, and on Thursdays and Sundays from June through Labor Day, they’ll set up seating, fire pits and outdoor heaters, provide an astronomy presentation with a laser tour of the sky, and offer telescope observations.
Woman looks at the view mid-mountain climb in Lake Tahoe in summer.

19. Mountain climb at Tahoe Via Ferrata

Tahoe Via Ferrata offers a unique mountain climbing experience that amateur and advanced mountain climbers alike will enjoy. Climb the side of an 800-foot vertical cliff face with the security of a harness and the help of ropes, ladders, steps and suspension bridges. No previous rock climbing experience is necessary, so anyone in decent shape and at least 3 feet, 11 inches tall can join the 2-, 3- or 4-hour group tour with a professional guide.

Make Lake Tahoe your second home

Visiting Lake Tahoe in the summer and visiting in the winter are so different you can almost think of them as two separate destinations. No matter the time of year, the area is one of the top vacation destinations in the country, thanks to its natural beauty. Whether you love soaking up the sun or speeding down the mountain on skis, there’s plenty to do in Lake Tahoe. Consider making it your second home so you can see everything Lake Tahoe offers, regardless of the time of year. 

Lake Tahoe in Summer FAQ

Is Lake Tahoe worth visiting in the summer?

Despite its reputation as a top winter destination, Lake Tahoe is definitely worth visiting in the summer! With nearly 300 sunny days a year, no humidity and relatively few bugs, Lake Tahoe is a great place for outdoor summer adventures on water and land. And with summer high temperatures hovering between 69 and 77 degrees, you might not even break a sweat.

Is Lake Tahoe crowded in the summer?

Yes, Lake Tahoe’s peak tourist season is from June through August. It’s best to book your summer trip to Lake Tahoe early to ensure you have a great place to stay, or consider purchasing a vacation home so you can go whenever you want.

Is it safe to swim in Lake Tahoe?

Yes, it is safe to swim in Lake Tahoe. As an alpine lake fed by snowmelt, the water is clear, but gets colder the farther you are from the shallow shore. It’s best to swim close to shore when the sun is at its peak. Otherwise,  a wetsuit makes being in the water more enjoyable.

What’s the weather like in Lake Tahoe in the summer?

The weather in Lake Tahoe in the summer is beautiful. The summer high averages in the mid-70s, with an average low in the 40s. It’s the best weather for outdoor activities during the day without overheating, but you’ll need a jacket or sweater in the evenings. 

Lake Tahoe is 6,000 feet above sea level, so make sure you wear sunscreen and a hat — you’ll burn easier since the air is thinner.

What should I pack for Lake Tahoe in the summer?

What to pack for a summer in Lake Tahoe depends on what you plan to do while you’re there. If you plan on hitting one of Lake Tahoe’s beaches or spend a day on the water, pack these beach essentials:

  • Sunscreen
  • Beach towel
  • Rashguard
  • Beach cooler
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Snacks
  • Bottled water
  • Beach blanket
  • Beach umbrella 

If you plan on hiking, you should bring:

  • Hiking boots
  • Thick socks
  • Layers (you’ll experience all temperatures if you change elevations or move between sunny meadows and shady forests)
  • Bottled water
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Snacks
  • First aid kit
  • Trail map (you may lose cell service it the mountains)

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