Lake Tahoe is easily one of the most beautiful places in the U.S. Home to world-class ski resorts & the biggest alpine lake in North America, there are endless activities in Lake Tahoe! In the summer time, picture yourself paddle boarding through clear blue water, going for a boat cruise, hiking with epic views, and more. Keep reading for some amazing things to do in Lake Tahoe in the summer and start planning your trip.
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Lake Tahoe in Summer: Trip Overview
- PTO/Vacation Days Required: 1-3
- Cost: $$$
How to Get to Lake Tahoe
- I personally love the drive from LA to Tahoe. It’s long (about 8 hours) but there are so many scenic stops along the way on 395 that can help to break up the drive. If you live in SF or Las Vegas, you are also within driving distance.
- Fly into Reno
- Rent a car and drive about 1.5 hours
- OR take one of the free shuttles to a casino in South Tahoe, and then Uber from there (saves you a lot of money vs ubering from the airport!)
Where to Stay in Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe is huge! The lake itself spans 22 miles, and is partly in California and partly in Nevada. First off, you need to decide which area of the lake you want to stay in – South, North, East or West. If you want to be near a plethora of dining/nightlife options, the South shore is for you. If you are looking for a more tranquil, secluded atmosphere, pick North, East, or West.
There can be a lot of traffic on the road around Lake Tahoe in the summer, so I would map out the spots that you definitely want to visit beforehand to help you decide which area to stay in.
It’s most common to stay in South Lake Tahoe in the summer, which is what I will base this blog post on.
Best Lodging in South Lake Tahoe
There are several great hotels and vacation rental homes to choose from! Make sure you book well in advance as things book up pretty quickly for the popular summer months.
I’ve heard great things about The Coachmen Hotel! This trendy boutique hotel in South Lake Tahoe is located right on the California/Nevada state border and is just a 5 minute walk to Lakeside Beach
There are plenty of awesome VRBO’s to choose from in Tahoe. If you’re looking for an affordable option for a big group, look no further than this awesome house. I rented this house for my birthday last year with 15 people and it was amazing! There are so many games – pool table, air hockey, foosball, volleyball net, ping pong table, shuffle board – you will always be entertained! It has a big backyard with a river in the back.
A great option for a smaller group is this beachfront townhome. Look at that view!
Note that almost all of the vacation rental homes in Lake Tahoe implement a strict noise curfew at 10pm. The Tahoe neighborhoods are notorious for this. If a neighbor calls on you for being loud past 10pm, it’s about a $3K fine… not worth it!
Best Things to Do in Lake Tahoe in Summer
There are so many awesome things to do in Lake Tahoe in the summer – you will never be bored!
You’ve likely seen some epic pictures on Instagram of people paddleboarding through crystal-clear water with boulders surrounding it. Once you see it for yourself -it’s even better than in the pictures! The whole lake is not like this. You’ll need to go to a specific area, two of which are listed below. They are both in North Lake Tahoe, about 30-ish minutes from South Lake Tahoe. Normally, I suggest not straying far from the area where you are staying when visiting Lake Tahoe in the summer, because the traffic can get pretty bad, but these paddleboarding spots are worth it. Just make sure to go early in the morning to beat traffic, beat the crowds, and get a parking spot!
Pro Tip: Instead of renting a paddle board, buy an inflatable paddle board to bring with you! I’m sure you’ll use it again after this trip. I bought this one and also this one. They both worked great, are easy to inflate, and fit perfectly into a backpack for easy transport!
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Sand Harbor State Park
This is one of the most popular spots to go, but for good reason! It’s absolutely beautiful. You can drive right up and pay to park in the parking lot right near the beach. If you’re going on a weekend, make sure to get there early. The parking lot tends to fill up about 30 minute after it opens at 7am!
You can rent a paddle board or kayak from Sand Harbor Rentals, located at the boat ramp on the northern cove of the park. Spend some time paddle boarding, but also walking along the boardwalk to see all the different viewpoints!
Just 5 minutes south of Sand Harbor is Secret Cove. The parking lot is small here – make sure you arrive early! Take the trail down about a half mile and you’ll reach the cove. It’s also a nude beach. The water is super clear and aqua-blue, and there are several huge rocks jutting out of the water that people will be basking on in the sun, or jumping off of! It’s a very peaceful, scenic spot.
2. Tiki Boat
One of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe in the summer with a group of friends is to go out on the Lake Tahoe Tiki Boat! This was one of the highlights of my trip. It was SO much fun! The boat departs from Tahoe Keys Marina (South Lake Tahoe). I recommend booking it for at least 4 hours. The captain will take you through Emerald Bay and a few other sites before anchoring in a beautiful cove with bright blue, clear water! You can jump off the top deck into the water (or use the waterslide!), float around, and hang out in one of the most amazing coves. The boat has a bunch of floats for you to use, and there’s also a blender on board to make frozen drinks! You can hook up to their bluetooth stereo system to play tunes. The captains are super nice and helpful and will refresh your drinks as needed. It’s a blast.
3. Hang at the Beach
Obviously, one of the most chill things to do at Lake Tahoe in the summer is to hang out at the beach! There are numerous beaches to choose from, however to keep it simple/easy, I recommend going to the beach that is closest to where you are staying. Otherwise, you’ll risk getting stuck in traffic or fighting for parking, which is not the best way to start a beach day!
For the big VRBO that I recommended in the beginning of this blog, you are able to access the private beach called “Keys Beach” near Tahoe Keys Marina for a $10 fee, which is what we did since it was the closest to our house and was also less crowded than the other beaches . Otherwise, Pope Beach or Baldwin Beach are good options in South Lake Tahoe!
4. Take a Jet Ski Tour
One of the most thrilling things you can do at Lake Tahoe in the summer is to take a jet ski tour! Cruise around the lake with your crew, following the guide around as they show you different areas. I recommend booking a morning tour when the water is glassy. What a great start to the day!
There are SO many awesome hikes in the area. A few that I recommend:
- Cascade Falls Trail
- 1.4 miles
- 255 ft elevation gain
- beautiful trail to a waterfall within Emerald Bay State Park. Very popular – get there early!
- Emerald Point
- 4.4 miles
- 521 ft elevation gain
- This hike offers sweeping views of the lake along the northern section of Emerald Bay State Park. The trail takes you down to the waters edge. Bring a swimsuit in case you want to jump in!
- Eagle Lake Trail
- 1.9 miles
- 459 ft elevation gain
- This trail is easy enough for all skill levels and leads to the most beautiful alpine lake at the base of Maggie’s Peak. Very picturesque!
6. Eat & Drink
Check out below for some of my favorite restaurants/bars in South Lake Tahoe!
- The Hangar Outdoor Beer Garden
- great outdoor taphouse – good vibes
- Cold Water Brewery & Grill
- this spot has great food, craft beers and a full bar!
- California Burger Company
- grass-fed burgers + the back bar has over 130 types of whiskeys!
- Beach Tiki Bar
- good for day time or happy hour – this bar is directly on the beach! drinks with a view.
7. Check Out Fannette Island Tea House
Within Emerald Bay State Park, there is a little island in the lake called Fannette Island. On this island are the remains of a tea house that someone built back in the day when the area was privately-owned. One of the most unique things to do in Lake Tahoe in the summer is to get out to this island and hike up to the top to check out the tea house + the epic views from the top!
The only way to get here is by boat, or by renting a kayak or paddle board. Park at Emerald Bay and hike 1 mile down to the shore. The kayak rental spot opens at 10am on the beach down there, where you can rent one for about $25. The island isn’t too far from the shore, so it should only take you about 10 minutes by kayak to get there. The hike up is short – another 5-10 minutes – and then you’ll be up at the top soaking in the surroundings!
This area also seems to be a popular place to jump off the rocks into the water.