Best Places to Visit in Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is one of the best year round destinations boasting large snow capped mountain ranges surrounding an insanely large blue lake. With many world class winter ski resorts such as Squaw Valley (home of the 1960 Winter Olympics) and Heavenly Ski Resort to name a few, it is easy to see why it is a popular winter destination. As the temperature heats up, a summer trip to Lake Tahoe is a must. 


Lake Tahoe water clarity
Amazing Lake Tahoe Water

How to get to Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is on the border of Nevada and California where you can easily boast that you swam, stood, or skied in two states at once! Depending on California traffic and where on the lake you will be staying, it is a 3-4 hour drive from San Francisco or a 7-8 hour drive from Los Angeles. 

The easiest way is to fly in to Reno Airport (RNO) and take about a 1 hour drive. One of the great things about Reno Airport is it is small with virtually no crowds. It is a beautiful sight to see when you are used to flying in and out of LAX. 


Best places to visit in Lake Tahoe:


Sand Harbor

This is one of the best spots on Lake Tahoe and it is certainly no secret. If you don’t get to the parking lot by 8AM (when it opens) you will not be able to park. Get up and catch a sunrise and get here early to claim your parking spot ($10) and favorite spot on the beach. There are nice public bathrooms and even a restaurant and bar to grab drinks and food throughout the day. There are also many open grills for people to BBQ. You will quickly see people get here early and camp out all day with their tents and coolers. 


There is a great long sandy beach followed by some of the best coves on the lake with the clearest waters. The visibility of the water is amazing and you can see all of the boulders below the surface. Depending on the water levels (rain/snow pack) there will be plenty of rocks you can swim out to for some great natural cliff (boulder) jumping. 


This is a great spot to dock your boat, jetski, or even take out a kayak or paddleboard. Be sure to get out here first thing in the morning to take advantage of the great flat glassy lake conditions. The waves from the boats and the wind picks up by the afternoon which makes it much harder for water activities. 



Crystal clear and calm glassy waters of Sand Harbor Beach in Lake Tahoe
Sand Harbor Beach

Bonsai Rock 

Bonsai rock can be accessed by kayaking/paddleboard/boating down from Sand Harbor or by parking along the road and hiking down. There is limited parking on the road but you can map the “Bonsai Rock Trailhead” to find where it is. The grade is steep on your hike down to the lake form the road so be sure to have proper hiking shoes. Flip Flops aren't ideal and you may end up slipping on to your butt. There are many paths that will take you down to cool little coves and rock formations but be sure to look for the little rock about 15’ from the shore with a little tree hanging out of the rock. This rock is a great spot for some cliff jumping as long as the water level is at an appropriate height. The water is crystal clear so you can easily gauge the depth from above or below. 



Bikini babe soaking up the sun at Bonsai Rock in Lake Tahoe
Bonsai Rock

Cave Rock 

If you ever drive along the East side of the lake you will certainly pass through the little tunnel. This area is called Cave Rock and there is a great easy hike that will take you to the top of the mountain perfect for sunset. The hike is about 15 minutes on an easy path followed by a 5 minute hike up some rocks if you want to get to the top of the peak. There isn’t much parking at the trail head so be sure to get there at least an hour before sunset. 



Cave Rock Tunnel at sunset in Lake Tahoe, California
Cave Rock Tunnel

Heavenly

Many of the Ski resorts offer great summer time activities for hiking, mountain biking, sightseeing, zip lining, etc. Heavenly Resort is a popular destination because it is in the heart of South Lake Tahoe which is one of the more popular areas of the lake. There is a great little village with restaurants and shops with a gondola located at the center of the base. You can take the gondola up to the top of the mountain where they offer their summer activities. The price is high but if you are an avid skier and have a season pass to Vail Resorts (Epic Pass), the $50 gondola ride is free! It is definitely different when you are on a chair lift without the snow beneath but it is definitely great to see it from a different perspective. The gondola has a great observation at the top where you can get out and see great views of the lake too.  


Heavenly Ski Resort gondola vista point of Lake Tahoe
View from the Gondola Vista Point at Heavenly Ski Resort

Emerald Bay 

One of the most scenic areas is on the South West side of the lake which is about an hour from South Tahoe. There are some great vista points along the road to see some great panoramic views of the bay. From the road you can either hike up to the top of the mountain peaks and catch some waterfalls or hike down to the shore line. The hike down is very steep but rewarding once you get to the beautiful blue waters. Don’t bother coming in the afternoon as the traffic will build up greatly. Get here early in the morning for parking and the best flat water conditions. 

There are some great waterfalls and hikes here including the Eagle Falls hike. You can hike up the mountain or you can hike down to see some of the falls. Hike with caution as people have slipped on the wet rocks and have even died. 



Hiker sitting atop Emerald Bay looking at the calm waters in Lake Tahoe California
Emerald Bay

South Lake Tahoe

This is where all the action is. There are a few Casinos (on the Nevada Side of the border), restaurants, shops, you name it. If you are looking for peace and quiet you won’t want to come here but it is still a great spot to enjoy the nightlife. 


Some other great spots in the area are

Squaw Valley - another great ski resort that has great summer activities

Incline Village - on the North East Side of the lake is a larger community as well boasts one of the nicer hotels on the Lake, the Hyatt. 

Kings Beach - A great beach on the North Side of the lake but will get crowded

Reno - If you are flying out of RNO be sure to stop by the famous Reno downtown which boasts being the biggest little city in the world. It is more glamorous at night than in the day time. 


What to bring


Hiking Shoes

Recommendations for Men: https://amzn.to/34yAPLm

Recommendations for Women: https://amzn.to/316WqZd


Rash Guards / Wetsuits (Water is very cold even in the peak of summer)

Recommendations for Men: https://amzn.to/2ZKgnZb

Recommendations for Women: https://amzn.to/2ZZK97x


Camera 

Sony A6000 (Great Beginner / Budget Friendly): https://amzn.to/2LOW3fJ

Sony A7 (More expensive but better camera): https://amzn.to/2PXuwxE


Polarizing Lens Filter needed to get a good photo through the water

82 MM Lens - https://amzn.to/34vwB7j


Travel Tripod https://amzn.to/318pDTF


Waterproof Camera / Housings

GoPro Hero 7: https://amzn.to/2A3D6jG

DJI Osmo Action: https://amzn.to/2A3S6yc

Aquatech iPhoneX Housing: https://amzn.to/317ewdK

Aquatech iPhone 7/8 Housing: https://amzn.to/2PV1gaU


Inflatable Paddle Board: https://amzn.to/316YY9J

(A great way to be able to take your paddle board on your own terms all around the lake)


Inflatable Float: https://amzn.to/34x0ZhO