Check out this complete itinerary to discover the main attractions in Lake Tahoe, the incredible lake that is located on the border of the states of California and Nevada.
THE LAKE TAHOE
Lake Tahoe is a freshwater lake located on the border between the states of California and Nevada in an area of 82.4 km². Located at an altitude of 1,897 meters, it is considered the North America's largest alpine lake! Furthermore, he is the second deepest lake in the United States, with a depth of 501 meters. According to geologists, Lake Tahoe formed more than 2 million years ago, in the last Ice Age. It is surrounded by mountains on all sides and fed by 63 tributaries.
Although the lake is on the border between California and Nevada, approximately two-thirds of the lake is in California territory. The 3 main cities that surround Lake Tahoe are: South Lake Tahoe and Tahoe City in California and State Line in Nevada.
CLIMATE NO LAKE TAHOE
Lake Tahoe has a dry summer continental climate, featuring hot, dry summers and cold winters with regular snowfall (up to 1440 mm of snow). August is normally the hottest month, with average temperatures of 26°C. January is the coldest month with a temperature that generally varies between -7ºC and 4ºC. The vegetation is dominated by a mixed coniferous forest, with several types of towering pines.
To have more freedom to get to know the region, the best option is rent a car. Lake Tahoe is approximately 3:30 hours northeast of San Francisco. But, for those who don't want to drive all that time and find it interesting to take a plane that leaves somewhere in the surroundings, the airports closest to the region are:
- Reno-Tahoe International Airport (Reno, Nevada)
- Lake Tahoe Airport (South Lake Tahoe, California)
- Truckee-Tahoe Airport (Truckee, California)
- Minden-Tahoe Airport (Miden, Nevada)
Nonetheless, for those who do not want to rent a car, there are tours (tours, excursions) that leave San Francisco for Lake Tahoe and also others that depart from cities near the lake to take interesting tours in the region. See some of the options:
> EXCURSIONS FROM SAN FRANCISCO
> TOURS FROM CITIES AROUND LAKE TAHOE
- Lake Tahoe and Squaw Valley: Full-Day Narrated Bus Tour
- Lake Tahoe Scenic Car Tour
- Wine and Harvest Tour to Gold Country from Lake Tahoe
ACTIVITIES AT LAKE TAHOE
The region is very famous for sports, outdoor activities, including winter sports. In this way, the place is a great option to be visited at any time of the year, since there are several ski resorts in the region. In 1960, Squaw Valley, which is northwest of Lake Tahoe, even hosted the Winter Olympics! skiing and snowboarding, generally, are practiced between the months of October and April. During late spring to early autumn, the lake is popular for beach activities and water sports such as, parasailing, jet skiing, diving, canoeing, kayaking and stand up paddle. There are several equipment rental locations located around Lake Tahoe.
See winter tips:
- California: Winter at Lake Tahoe
- List of California ski resorts
- California: Heavenly Mountain Ski Resort at Lake Tahoe
There are also numerous hiking trails and mountain bike around the lake. They vary greatly in length and difficulty. One of the most famous trails in Tahoe is the Tahoe Rim Trail, a 270 km trail that circles the lake. Directly west of the lake is the Granite Chief Wilderness, which provides great hiking and wild camping. One of the most popular trails used to access these popular destinations is the Eagle Lake Trailhead, located near Emerald Bay on Tahoe's west coast. Other activities include: Boat tour with dinner included, helicopter tour, train ride, snow sleigh ride, guided tours to take pictures or visit wineries in the region, between others. Check out some options for cool tours in the surroundings below.
WHAT TO KNOW AT LAKE TAHOE
To help you build your Lake Tahoe travel itinerary, we have put the top tips suggested in this post on the interactive map below. Here you will find the main stops in Lake Tahoe, cities, places to eat and shop, entertainment tips and nearby ski resorts. Everything you need to know to have an amazing trip around the place any time of year. We recommend that you stay at least 2 days in the region, to get around the entire lake and still have time to do some activity or sport that interests you.
1. MAIN CITIES OF LAKE TAHOE
To travel the entire length of Lake Tahoe, it will take you just over 2 hours if you don't make any stops. However, make sure you stop whenever possible. The road is two-way and requires a lot of attention, as some stretches are very narrow. We it took us around 5 hours to travel approximately 120 km, but it can easily be more if you're willing to go hiking. It's relaxing to take a leisurely look at that magnificent landscape! Along the way, you will pass through villages and citadels. We highlight the main cities in the states of California and Nevada:
South Lake Tahoe is the most populous city in the region and, as its name suggests, is located on the south shore of Lake Tahoe. With just over 20,000 inhabitants, the city stretches for about 8 km along Route 50, also known as Lake Tahoe Boulevard. The eastern end of the city borders the city of Stateline, Nevada. This area is mainly for tourism, with shops, restaurants, hotels and the famous Heavenly Mountain Resort ski resort. In addition, the main hotel area in the region is concentrated in South Lake Tahoe. We love to enjoy the South Lake Tahoe beaches so much to see the sunset, as well as to observe the beautiful landscapes of the lake, surrounded by mountains.
Tahoe City is located on the shores of Lake Tahoe at an altitude of 1905 meters and has a population of about 1,500. Due to its high altitude, Tahoe City has a continental Mediterranean climate with dry summers, very hot days and cold nights, and extremely snowy winters. The city is listed as one of the best ski resorts in the United States and one of the best places in the country for mountain biking.
With less than 4,000 inhabitants, King's Beach is a seaside town full of old hotels, cool shops and good dining options. There are numerous places to rent kayaks and paddle boats. If you want a little more action, venture out on one of the many hiking or biking trails.
Incline Village and Crystal Bay are two nearby towns that together have just under 9,000 inhabitants. Several streams run through Incline Village on the way to Crystal Bay. Incline is basically a big country club, which offers ski trails, tennis courts, a recreation center and golf course. Crystal Bay offers lake water sports, beautiful beaches, excellent mountain bike trails, one of the only skate parks in Lake Tahoe and a golf course. Crystal Bay also has a very famous event: the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, considered one of the best of its kind in the entire country.
> STATELINE, NV
Stateline is a tiny city with less than a thousand inhabitants, located on the border between the states of California and Nevada. Stateline is home to five casinos, four of which qualify as resorts: MontBleu, Harrah's Lake Tahoe, Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Lake Tahoe, and Harveys Lake Tahoe. The Lakeside Inn caters to locals and modest gamblers.
2. INTERESTING POINTS AROUND LAKE TAHOE
The Californian side of Lake Tahoe is the best known by tourists and has the postcard view of the region, Emerald Bay. There are several points where you can stop to admire the view of the lake. There are two more structured stops to enjoy the view. The first, vision is impaired by trees. In the second, you can leave your car in the parking lot (paying the amount of US$10) and go on trails that lead up to the lake. There is also a building called vikingsholm which is a summer house that was built in the 1920s and inspired by a Nordic castle (guided tours are available between June and September). It is also possible to observe a small waterfall on the right side.
> MEMORIAL POINT
Memorial Point is located on Highway 28, between Incline Village and Sand Harbor, and offers a very beautiful panoramic view of the lake. In this place it is possible to admire the variations in the color of the water and large granite stones that frame the shore of the lake. The place has a free parking structure, restrooms. There are large informational totems about the area, telling about its flora, fauna, and lake fish habitats along a paved, easy-to-walk trail. This is an excellent spot for fishing, as access is simple.
3. BEACHES AROUND LAKE TAHOE
The interactive map we made above has a list of 30 beaches around all of Lake Tahoe, including both California and Nevada. You can find more details about each of them. here, here, here and here. It would be impossible to talk about them all in this post, so we've separated some examples to show you what Lake Tahoe has to offer in terms of beaches.
Leaving Emerald Bay, the road follows very close to the shores of the lake. In several places there are “beaches” with many rocks and beautiful views. One of the most interesting places we stopped was Hurricane Bay, where local owners dock their boats in this beautiful bay. We enjoyed the view of the lake and the mountains without rushing, throwing stones in the water and enjoying a nice sun. A very relaxing activity! The place is great to have a picnic and even go for a swim. But, we confirmed that the water was very cold even though the day was hot and sunny. Hurricane Bay Beach is one of the favorite beaches for dogs, with a 15 meter section designated as “dog friendly”.
And it was without much pretense and without information about the Nevada side that we found a very beautiful pebble beach known as Hidden Beach. There are no signs on the road, so keep your eyes peeled. There is also not a good structure to park the car. The way is to stop on the side of the road to take beautiful pictures of the crystal clear water of the lake.
The beach is a gem located in an area surrounded by mountains, including Mount Tallac. The beach itself is a huge flat sand plain that sits at the mouth of Taylor Creek. As it is hidden, it is not usually crowded and provides a pleasant experience for those who want to sunbathe and have a picnic in this region. It's about 200 meters of a narrow strip of sand, next to a swamp region. We ended up getting to know the place when we decided to take our dog Luna to the place to enjoy the beach. We were there during the winter and summer and Luna was definitely able to enjoy it more in the heat, enjoying the beach and diving in the clear waters of Lake Tahoe.
We fell in love with this beach! It is in an area with a very good structure and ample parking. There were many people sunbathing and doing sports like canoeing and stand-up paddle. This beach had an area and a breathtaking view of Lake Tahoe.
4. SKI STATIONS IN THE SURROUNDINGS OF LAKE TAHOE
The Lake Tahoe region has the largest number of California ski resorts, which are very popular in the winter months. Some of them are also located in the state of Nevada. Check the list of stations and choose yours!
> IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
- Alpine Meadows Ski Resort & Squaw Valley Resort (1960 Squaw Valley Rd, Olympic Valley, CA 96146) – The site was the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics and has an excellent parking structure, hotel, restaurants and the ski resort itself. The village is very charming, all decorated with wooden and stone houses. It was full of stalls with activities for children and full of dogs of all breeds. In the center of the village, a stage set up on which a rock band animated the place with extremely pleasant music.
- Bear Valley Mountain (2280 State Route 207, Bear Valley, CA 95223)
- Boreal Mountain Resort (19749 Boreal Ridge Rd, Soda Springs, CA 95728)
- Donner Ski Ranch (19320 Donner Pass Rd, Norden, CA 95724)
- Granlibakken Ski & Sled Hill (725 Granlibakken Rd, Ski Hill, Tahoe City, CA 96145)
- Heavenly Mountain Resort (4080 Lake Tahoe Blvd, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150) – access is in downtown South Lake Tahoe and the station offers incredible views of the lake
Read more: Lake Tahoe Heavenly Mountain Ski Resort
- Homewood Mountain Resort (5145 W Lake Blvd, Homewood, CA 96141)
- Kirkwood Mountain Resort (1501 Kirkwood Meadows Drive, Kirkwood, CA 95646)
- Northstar California resort (5001 Northstar Dr, Truckee, CA 96161)
- Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort (1111 Sierra-At-Tahoe Rd, Twin Bridges, CA 95735)
- Soda Springs Resort (10244 Soda Springs Rd., Soda Springs, CA 95728)
- Sugar Bowl Resort (629 Sugar Bowl Rd, Norden, CA 95724)
- Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Area (15275 Alder Creek Rd, Truckee, CA 96161)
> IN NEVADA STATE
- Diamond Peak Ski Resort (1210 Ski Way, Incline Village, NV 89451) – provides great views of Lake Tahoe
- Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe (22222 Mt Rose Hwy, Reno, NV 89511)
- Sky Tavern Ski Area (21130 Sky Tavern Rd, Reno, NV 89511)
5. MAIN CASINOS IN THE SURROUNDINGS OF LAKE TAHOE
It's not just in Las Vegas that Nevada casinos are found. The state legalized gambling in 1931, although casinos have existed even before this date. Casinos, each with a variety of slot machines and table games, are located on the South Shore in Stateline, and on the North Shore in Crystal Bay and Incline Village. Even if you don't like gambling, visiting the casinos is always an attraction. They can house hotels, restaurants, miscellaneous stores and even concerts and exhibitions. Discover some of the top casinos in the Lake Tahoe area:
- Harrah's Lake Tahoe (15 US-50, Stateline, NV 89449)
- Harveys Lake Tahoe (18 US-50, Stateline, NV 89449)
- Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe (50 US-50, Stateline, NV 89449)
- Dotty's Casino (27 US Highway 50, Ste 103, Stateline, NV 89449)
- Montbleu Resort, Casino and Spa (55 Hwy 50, PO Box 5800, Stateline, NV 89449)
- Lakeside Inn and Casino (168 US-50, Stateline, NV 89449)
- Crystal Bay Casino (14 NV-28, Crystal Bay, NV 89402)
- Jim Kelley's Tahoe Nugget (20 NV-28, Crystal Bay, NV 89402)
WHERE TO EAT IN LAKE TAHOE
We already wrote a post with 10 dining tips in Lake Tahoe. Now, we are going to organize these tips and give you several others according to the location of the restaurants to make your planning easier. All of them were placed on the interactive map at the beginning of the post.
> RESTAURANTS IN SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, CALIFORNIA
- Jimmy's (American, Mediterranean)
- Stateline Brewery & Restaurant (brewery)
- FiRE+iCE (Pub)
- Base Camp Pizza Co. (Pizza)
- Cold Stone Creamery (Ice cream)
- Blue-Latin Kitchen (eclectic)
- California Burger Company (burger)
- Driftwood Cafe (American)
- Blue Dog Gourmet Pizza (Pizza)
- Applebee's Grill + Bar (American)
- Izabella Italian Ristorante (Italian)
- The Naked Fish (Japanese)
- IHOP (American and breakfast)
- The Bear Moon Bar & Grill (Pub)
- The Red Hut Café (American)
- Blue Angel Cafe & Catering Co. (Coffee)
- Freshies Restaurant & Bar (American)
- Scusa Italian Ristorante (Italian)
- Simple Bliss Vegan Cafe (vegan)
> RESTAURANTS IN TAHOE CITY, CALIFORNIA
- Pete 'n Peters (Pub)
- Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co. Brew Pub (brewery)
- Fat Cat Bar & Grill (Pub)
- Wolfdale's Cuisine Unique (Seafood)
- Moe's Original Bar B Que (meat)
- Jake's On the Lake (American and seafood)
> RESTAURANTS IN KING'S BEACH, CALIFORNIA
- Lanza's Restaurant (Italian)
- Jason's Beachside Grille (American)
- Char-Pit (American)
- Soule Domain (American)
- La Mexicana Meat Market & Taqueria (Mexican)
- Log Cabin Caffe and Ice Cream (breakfast and ice cream)
> RESTAURANTS IN STATE LINE, NEVADA
> RESTAURANTS IN INCLINE VILLAGE, NEVADA
WHERE TO BUY AT LAKE TAHOE
Many people who visit the place in winter are always looking for equipment, boots and coats both to protect themselves from the cold and to practice winter sports. Therefore, here are some tips on the main shopping centers around Lake Tahoe, which have stores for different types of items:
- Villa Shopping Center (4000 Lake Tahoe Blvd, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150)
- Alta Mira Shopping Center (3339 Lake Tahoe Blvd, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150)
- Town & Country Shopping Center (2660 Lake Tahoe Blvd, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150)
- Cobblestone Center (475 N Lake Blvd, Tahoe City, CA 96145)
- Trading Post Shopping Center (925 N Lake Blvd, Tahoe City, CA 96145)
- Incline Center Shopping (930 Tahoe Blvd, Incline Village, NV 89451)
WHERE TO STAY AT LAKE TAHOE
One of the biggest doubts of those who are planning to visit the lake is where to stay. We like to stay in larger cities with lots of dining options, so we recommend the cities of South Lake Tahoe and Stateline. If you have plans to go skiing and snowboarding in a specific season, it is recommended to stay in the surroundings. As the options are diverse, here are suggestions for accommodation in the five main cities in the region, with suggestions for all tastes and pockets.
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> ACCOMMODATION IN SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, CALIFORNIA
- Blue Jay Lodge
- Rodeway Inn Casino Center
- Big Pines Mountain House
- Cedar Inn & Suites
- Bluelake Inn @ Heavenly Village
- Black Jack Inn
- Americana Village
- Stardust Lodge
- The Lodge at Lake Tahoe by VRI Resort
- Lake Tahoe Ambassador Lodge
- Alpine Inn & Spa
- Travel Inn
- The Beach Retreat & Lodge at Tahoe
- Basecamp Tahoe South
- Postmarc Hotel and Spa Suites
- Best Western Station House Inn
- Becket Hotel
- Heavenly Inn Hotel – read about our experience!
> ACCOMMODATION IN STATELINE, NEVADA
- Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe (4 stars)
- Montbleu Resort Casino & Spa (4 stars)
- Harrah's Lake Tahoe Hotel & Casino (4 stars)
> ACCOMMODATION IN TAHOE CITY, CALIFORNIA
- Basecamp Tahoe City (2 stars)
- Americas Best Value Inn Tahoe City (3 stars)
- Tahoe City Inn (3 stars)
- Granlibakken Tahoe (4 stars)
> ACCOMMODATION IN KING'S BEACH / TAHOE VISTA, CALIFORNIA
- Firelite Lodge (2 stars)
- Red Wolf Lakeside Lodge Owners Association, Inc. (3 stars)
- Franciscan Lakeside Lodge (3 stars)
- Mourelatos Lakeshore Resort (3 stars)
- Tahoe Sands Resort (3 stars)
- Tahoe Vistana Inn (3 stars) – read about our experience!
> ACCOMMODATION IN INCLINE VILLAGE / CRYSTAL BAY, NEVADA
- Border House at Crystal Bay Casino (2 stars)
- Hyatt Residence Club Lake Tahoe, High Sierra Lodge (3 stars)
- Club Tahoe Resort (4 stars)
- Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa & Casino (4 stars)
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