California is world-famous for its cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, its stunning national parks like Yosemite, and water sports like surfing in San Diego. But for the locals in search of incredible outdoor experiences, Lake Tahoe is the place to go. Why, you may wonder? Well, find out the best things to do in Lake Tahoe in summer, from enjoying water sports in the lake or the vast forest area surrounding it.

As Californian residents, we spent many weekends in and around Lake Tahoe. Be it in the summer, but also in winter in Lake Tahoe, the region is close to our hearts and the set of many memories. Many weekends were spent on crazy Tahoe adventures, and we hope you will get a chance to experience Tahoe as well.

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Top Lake Tahoe Summer Activities:

Things to Do in Lake Tahoe in Summer

Lake Tahoe in summer is simply magical. Whether you want to chill by the lakeshore or explore the great outdoors of the Sierra Nevada mountains, you are in for a treat.

Top Lake Tahoe Summer Activities for the Adventurous 

Lake Tahoe is an outdoor paradise. Whether in summer or during the winter months, Tahoe is the place to enjoy the open landscape, with sweeping views across the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Hiking in Lake Tahoe

Probably one of the most popular Lake Tahoe summer activities, hiking opportunities are endless in the area. Indeed, the Sierra Nevada mountain range offers hundreds of trails for all levels of fitness and expectations. For those looking for challenging hikes, look into the 195-miles (314-km) Sierra High Route, or section of the John Muir Trail (JMT), or hike up Mt. Tallack for sweeping views of Lake Tahoe and Desolation Wilderness. Other popular trails include Emerald Bay Trail and Tahoe Rim Trail. For more hiking suggestions, check this book on top Tahoe trails or even backcountry backpacking ideas.

Best Things to Do in Lake Tahoe in Summer // Horseback Riding in Lake Tahoe area

Horseback Riding in the Lake Tahoe area

Horseback Riding in Lake Tahoe

About a dozen equestrian centers, ranches, and stables spread around Lake Tahoe, where you can join a horseback riding adventure. A great way to explore the meadow grass, the wilderness, and the mountain range!

Biking in Lake Tahoe

Mountain biking is an obvious activity, whether on designated trails or downhill mountain bike parks like Northstar.


A couple of locations like Tahoe City, Tahoe Vista, and Palisades Tahoe (formerly known as Squaw Valley) resorts offer ziplining circuits.

Lake Tahoe Waterfalls

The area is home to several incredible falls. The 90-foot Eagle Falls by Emerald Bay, the 800-ft Horsetail Falls of South Lake Tahoe are probably among the better-known waterfalls in Lake Tahoe.

Hot Air Ballooning

Join a ballooning ride from South Lake Tahoe to enjoy incredible bird’s views of the lake and the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Top Lake Tahoe Water Activities

The area attraction is, of course, the lake! And what better way to enjoy it than try one of the water sports activities available on the water.

Kayaking in Lake Tahoe

The most famous kayaking spot is Emerald Bay. But with its 75 miles of shoreline, the area doesn’t lack on kayaking adventures. Ideally, go kayaking in the morning to avoid the afternoon winds. For those looking for a challenging trip, check the 13-mile trip from Sand Harbor to Cave Rock. For itinerary ideas, the 72-mile circular Lake Tahoe Water Trail takes you around the lake for a complete experience.

Lake Tahoe Sailing and Cruising

Grab one of the several Lake Tahoe boat rentals or board the iconic MS Dixie II

Jet Skiing

For those looking for adrenaline-packed activity, rent a jet ski.


Another thrilling yet gentle way to enjoy the lake and take in the scenery. Parasailers fly high while attached to the pulling boat.


Accessible to most, paddleboarding, or SUPing, is a relaxing way to explore the lake at your own pace. Rent paddleboards from Kings Beach, El Dorado Beach,


From either Incline and Stateline from the Nevada side, dive sites include Sand Harbor, Meeks Bay, Carnelian West Beach, and Rubicon Wall. Much different than ocean diving, there is neither coral nor seaweed and few animals, but it features granite boulders and sunken trees instead. High-altitude diving in cold water requires preparation and knowledge.


Thanks to some afternoon winds, kiteboarders can try their luck in Lake Tahoe. The winds there tend to be potentially strong and often irregular, making the lake better reserved for experienced riders.

River Rafting

Not on the lake per see, but we added rafting under the water activities section. Rafting around Lake Tahoe is best done on the Truckee River, a relatively calm and easy river with a few rapids. Those looking for more challenging white water rafting adventures should consider the American River or the Merced River west of Tahoe.

For Relaxing Moments in Tahoe

If you are looking for some more chill activities, Lake Tahoe won’t disappoint either.

Heavenly Mountain Gondola Ride

Board a Gondola from the South Shore resort, and enjoy the lift to incredible views with minimal effort.

Vikingsholm Castle

An unusual sight, yet one of the top Lake Tahoe places to see when you are on the Southshore. The 38-room mansion was built in the late 1920s and is known for its incredible Scandinavian architecture. Listed as a National Register of Historic Place, you can also visit inside.

Spa Treatments

Whether to recover from a day’s efforts or to relax, treat yourself to a spa. Several locations offer the services, mostly located around South Lake Tahoe or Tahoe City and Kings Beach on the Northshore.

Swimming Pools

If swimming in the lake is not your thing, consider one of the dozen swimming pools around Tahoe, like in South Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Dollar Point, or Incline Village. But one pool stands out – the High Camp Pool & Hot Tub at Palisades Tahoe (ex. Squaw Valley), located at 8,200 feet; the swimming pool lets you soak in while surrounded by views of the Sierra mountains and Tahoe lake. 

Beaches in Lake Tahoe

What makes Lake Tahoe famous is the deep blue of the water. No wonder that “Keep Tahoe Blue.” With 70 miles of shoreline, the numbers of beaches you can relax in are plentiful. Some beaches offer BBQs setups and picnic tables; some require parking fees, many don’t allow dogs. Among the most popular beaches are:

  • Sand Harbor Beach – North Shore, Nevada side, and the picture-perfect settings thanks to the nearby boulders
  • Kings Beach for the longest sunshine exposure
  • Pope, Kiva, and Baldwin beaches. Pope Beach is the longest beach in Lake Tahoe.
  • Cave Rock
  • Commons Beach
  • Meeks Bay
  • Zephyr Cove Beach
  • D.L. Bliss & Emerald Bay

Lake Tahoe Weather

Summer is the best time to visit Lake Tahoe. Temperatures usually reach the high 70s, the winter snow has long melted, and the “warmer” water temperatures make for refreshing dips.

With Lake Tahoe elevation sitting at 6,225 ft (1,897 m), the water is never really warm, even in summer. With an average water temperature in August of around 65-70 ° F (18-20° C), be mindful before you jump to prevent cold water shock.

As with all mountain weather, conditions can change rapidly, so always check the Lake Tahoe weather forecasts before heading out.

Lodging at Lake Tahoe

The accommodation in Lake Tahoe fits any budget. From cheap Lake Tahoe hotels and motels in South Lake Tahoe thanks to the local casino to fancier ski resorts at Lake Tahoe that cater to summer visitors, or even more private Lake Tahoe cabins in secluded settings, you can find it all. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy staying at one of the numerous campsites at Lake Tahoe.

Check the latest specials and available for your stay on this Lake Tahoe map:

Where is Lake Tahoe?

Lake Tahoe is spread across the California and Nevada states, around 200 miles west of San Francisco. You can reach Lake Tahoe by either the Southshore via I-80 E and then US-50 to South Lake Tahoe city, or the Northshore via I-80E to Truckee. Plan for at least 3 hours driving, even double that comes the weekends as the road traffic tends to be heavy on the smaller roads.

Airports by Lake Tahoe 

Most people will drive from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe, but flying there is also an option. Indeed, the Reno-Tahoe International Airport is the closest airport to Lake Tahoe and provides quicker access since it takes a shorter 45-minute drive from Reno to Lake Tahoe, with flights as far as Houston and Chicago in addition to San Francisco.

North Shore or South Shore?

Before planning your Lake Tahoe trip, decide which activity you want to do and where you want to do it. Driving from the South Shore to the North Shore (or the way around) is time-consuming (albeit through beautiful scenery). So we recommend you focus on one or the other.

Lake Tahoe Travel Guide

  • Weekends tend to be busy and with heavy traffic. Plan for long drives or, if you can, leave earlier in the week.
  • If you travel independently, you can grocery shops in the main towns like Truckee and South Lake Tahoe.
  • Keep your fuel tanks full as gas stations may be far in between
  • Grab a Lake Tahoe map
  • Get hiking ideas here for South Lake Tahoe
  • Keep Tahoe Blue. Please apply the Leave No Trace Behind to keep the lake as pristine as you find it.

So did you visit Tahoe already? What are your preferred Lake Tahoe activities? Anything we missed that should be listed here?

If you are looking for more Lake Tahoe trip ideas, California tours, or winter adventures, check out our California travel blog posts on:

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