Whether you live in the San Francisco Bay Area or another US state, or even from other countries, traveling to the Lake Tahoe in the winter will sure to reward any visitor. Usually blanketed by layers of deep snow, the most famous lake in the Sierra Nevada mountains spreading over California and Nevada is a paradise for those looking for fun activities in the winter. What to Do in Lake Tahoe in the winter includes, of course, skiing, but there is more to the area! But read out this post to find out!

And if you wonder why Lake Tahoe, we are biased to the area where we snowboarded and snowshoed for over 15 years living in California, and even went snow-camping and snowkiting! We can only recommend the area for its winter sports opportunities and stunning mountains!

This post contains affiliate links, which means we receive a percentage if you make a purchase using these links – at no cost to you. Our opinions are our own and are not impacted by these partnerships.

What to Do in Lake Tahoe in the Winter // Mount Rose Meadows, North Lake Tahoe

Mount Rose Meadows, North Lake Tahoe

Why Lake Tahoe in Winter?

Picture a high-altitude turquoise lake, tall mountains all around, thick forests covering from one end to the other, wood cabins here and there – the perfect mountain feel! That’s Lake Tahoe for you!

Indeed, the snow at Lake Tahoe is known for its depth and quality, though, of course, some years have been drier than others. After several years of droughts, recent years have seen an impressive amount of snow. According to the US Climate Data, the average annual snowfall is 408 inches though the higher elevations can take twice that after heavy snowstorms. Lake Tahoe winter temperatures range from 24°F to 40°F (-5°C to +5°C).

Top Lake Tahoe Winter Activities:

Ski Resorts in Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe skiing is what comes first to mind when you think about the area in winter. After all, the 1960 Winter Olympics were organized by the famous Squaw Valley for a reason! Indeed, from north to south, Lake Tahoe is home to dozens of downhill ski resorts, with 12 on the California side, and two on the Nevada side, though Heavenly Ski Resort stands over the state line and has ski runs in both states.

Among the better-known resorts are Squaw Valley, Northstar, Diamond Peak, Heavenly, and Kirkwood. These more prominent resorts offer prime ski and snowboarding conditions. But other smaller Lake Tahoe winter resorts are also worth mentioning like Tahoe Donner.

Our preferred ski resorts are Kirkwood for its backside runs, Northstar for its long runs, and Sugar Bowl for its extended rides and backcountry runs. Click here to find out more about snowboarding in Kirkwood. 

In addition to downhill skiing, Lake Tahoe also features an impressive number of cross country ski areas where Nordic skiing can be practiced.

Things to do in Lake Tahoe in Winter for Non-Skiers.

There are plenty of other Lake Tahoe activities for those who don’t ski. What type of "Lake Tahoe winter activities not skiing fun" might you expect? We list several cool stuff to do!

What to Do in Lake Tahoe in the Winter // Sunny Winter in Lake Tahoe

Sunny Winter in Lake Tahoe

Gondola Ride

Board the 2.5-mile gondola in Heavenly in South Lake Tahoe for a ride up to the observation deck. From there, the views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains that extend far from the Lake Tahoe are breathtaking.

Ice Skating

Another great way to enjoy the winter in Lake Tahoe! A couple of places have ice rinks like the South Lake Tahoe Recreation Complex and Heavenly Village. For more traditional options, head to the Sawmill Pond, but make sure to check with the locals to ensure the ice is thick enough and the pond safe for skating.

What to Do in Lake Tahoe in the Winter // Backside of Kirkwood Ski Resort California

Backside of Kirkwood Ski Resort California

Sleigh Rides

Horse rides take you centuries back, following the steps of the pioneers crossing the Sierra Nevada mountains on the way to the California coast. Winter is the perfect season to enjoy the same feel, horse-drawn sleds taking you on rides traveling the old way.

Helicopter Rides

Fancy admiring the area from high above? Search no more and board a helicopter ride. Departing from the Lake Tahoe Airport by South Lake Tahoe, the helicopter tours take you over Fallen Leaf Lake, Emerald Bay, Desolation Wilderness, Sand Harbor, and Crystal Bay on different tour durations, from 10 to 60 minutes.

What to Do in Lake Tahoe in the Winter // Deep snow in Lake Tahoe

Deep snow in Lake Tahoe

Ridge Rider Mountain Coaster

This cool alpine coaster will let gravity pull you through the stunning scenery around the Heavenly Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe as you slide between pine trees and rocks. A fun way to go downhill without any skiing skills!

Adventurous Things to Do in Lake Tahoe in Winter

Skydiving

Looking for another way to enjoy bird’s views of the Lake Region area but with more punch, why not going skydiving! And yes, you can do that in winter too!

Dog Mushing

If an adventure has ever been closer to experience winter to its wildest, sledding through snow-covered open terrain is, thanks to a team of energetic dogs. Dog-sledding in Tahoe is possible around Truckee, Squaw Valley, Hope Valley in South Lake Tahoe, Reno, Kirkwood.

Interested in dog mushing? Check out our dog mushing experience in the Canadian Arctic 

What to Do in Lake Tahoe in the Winter // Sunset over Lake Tahoe

Sunset over Lake Tahoe

Snowmobiling 

Snowmobiling is a thrilling activity though not as quiet or eco-friendly as other winter sports. Depending on the level of excitement you are looking for, the guided tours will take you on a well-groomed track, or will give you the full snowmobiling off-trail experience. Emerald Bay in South Lake Tahoe, Kings Beach and Crystal Bay in North Lake Tahoe are the main departing points for snowmobile tours in Lake Tahoe. Zephyr Cove on the Nevada side is another popular spot, with trails leading you to almost 9,000 feet!

More about adventure trips? Go Snowmobiling on an Ice Road in Canada

Free Things to Do in Lake Tahoe in Winter

You don't need to spend a fortune to enjoy the mountains. Check out this list of Lake Tahoe winter things to do for budget-conscious travelers.

Snowshoeing

With so many hiking trails around Lake Tahoe, it comes as no surprise that snowshoeing is significant in the area as well when winter snow covers the same paths. You can don your snowshoes and hit the trail anywhere for incredible winter hikes. But a couple of awesome snowshoeing adventures are especially worth mentioning.

What to Do in Lake Tahoe in the Winter // Snowshoeing around Mount Rose, Nevada

Snowshoeing around Mount Rose, Nevada

Famous Emerald Bay is not just for kayaking but head there on your snowshoes for stunning views of the Lake Tahoe. Other fantastic Lake Tahoe winter hikes will take you to Peter Grubb Hut or the Donner Pass in North Shore, or even Mount Tallac for the most experienced and fit hikers if you are in the South Shore.

What to Do in Lake Tahoe in the Winter // Snowshoeing around Donner Pass, North Lake Tahoe

Snowshoeing around Donner Pass, North Lake Tahoe

Snowkiting

Winds are never really far from the Sierra mountains, and with several locations with few or almost treeless, snowkiting has become popular in the Lake Tahoe region in the past years.

Nevada has several locations, but California has a couple of interesting spots as well.

In the North Lake area, Prosser Creek Reservoir and the North side of Martis Valley are good spots, as well as is Hope valley in South Shore. And further south of Lake Tahoe towards Los Angeles, check the east side of the Conway summit in the Mammoth area.

What to Do in Lake Tahoe in the Winter // Sunset over Prosser Creek Reservoir, North Lake Tahoe

Sunset over Prosser Creek Reservoir, North Lake Tahoe

Backcountry Skiing and Snowboarding

Backcountry skiing and snowboarding are popular winter activities thanks to a substantial open terrain offering thousands of vertical feet for all levels of riders.

Sledding in Tahoe

You can sled and go tubing at the snow parks of several Tahoe resorts like at the Echo Summit in South Lake Tahoe, or the Donner Summit Sno-Park in North Shore, but that’s one of the free things to do in Lake Tahoe. Basically, any hill is up for grab. Watch out that you don’t land over a road, cliff, or rocks. Recommended areas for free sledding include Sawmill Pond and Kahle Park in South Lake Tahoe, Meeks Bay, Tahoe Meadows, and Tahoe City in the North Lake Tahoe, Spooner Lake in the Nevada side.

What to Do in Lake Tahoe in the Winter // Snowshoe winter hike in North Lake Tahoe

Snowshoe winter hike in North Lake Tahoe

Snow Camping & Igloo Building

If you usually like trekking and spending the nights in your tent under the open sky, consider snow camping this winter! Grab your snowshoes or backcountry skis and head to one of the Wilderness Areas around Lake Tahoe. A fabulous experience for those with trekking and camping experiences!

Igloo building is tough but fun! Plan for one or two days for building it, but done correctly, you are in for a great night!

What to Do in Lake Tahoe in the Winter // Building an igloo, North Lake Tahoe

Building an igloo, North Lake Tahoe

Winter Festivals

Lake Tahoe things to do are not just for the active, and the area offers several cool events through the winter months.

If you are in North Lake Tahoe come March, head to Squaw Valley for the annual WinterWonderGrass Tahoe Festival for exciting bluegrass music! The 3-day event has become a yearly event, not to be missed!

Another popular winter event is the 10-day Tahoe SnowFest around North Lake Tahoe, which usually occurs at the end of February to the beginning of March.

What to Do in Lake Tahoe in the Winter // View of Lake Tahoe from Diamond Peak, Nevada

View of Lake Tahoe from Diamond Peak, Nevada

Where is Lake Tahoe?

Lake Tahoe is about 200 miles from San Francisco and sits on the state line between California and Nevada. The lake can be accessed from either the South or North side. From San Francisco, I-80E will lead you Truckee and the area commonly called North Lake Tahoe, or North Shore. The I-80 E and then US-50 will take you to South Lake Tahoe, which obviously gives the name of the whole area.

The drive takes about 3 hours in the best conditions, though it can take as twice as long in winter when the roads might be snowy, and traffic is heavy on weekends.

What to Do in Lake Tahoe in the Winter // Birdwatching among the frozen trees around Lake Tahoe CA

Birdwatching among the frozen trees around Lake Tahoe CA

Airports in Lake Tahoe 

While most people will drive from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe, the Reno-Tahoe International Airport is perfect for accessing the Lake Tahoe area quickly. With over 130 non-stop flights from San Francisco but also as far as Chicago and Houston.

The distance from Reno to Lake Tahoe is about 38 miles and takes around 45 minutes.

Lodging at Lake Tahoe

There is a wide array of hotels in Lake Tahoe, with budget South Lake Tahoe hotels thanks to the nearby Casino, Lake Tahoe hotel resorts scattered all around the lake, or luxurious cabins at Lake Tahoe. So accommodations for all budgets and style.

Remember that going from North Shore to the South Shore takes time, so figure out what activity you want to do, and where to do it, and then search for your accommodation at Lake Tahoe.

To find some of the best hotels in Lake Tahoe, check these specials here:



Booking.com


Lake Tahoe Winter Travel Tips

  • Decide whether you want to visit North or South Lake Tahoe as the drive along the lake itself takes some time
  • Weather conditions can change rapidly in the mountains. Be prepared for snowstorms and take the appropriate equipment for your car and the planned activities
  • Grocery stores are readily available in several towns like Truckee and South Lake Tahoe.
  • Don't forget to keep your fuel tanks if you are planning on traveling to less-maintained roads
  • Weekend traffic can be horrendous and might double your travel time especially during snowstorms
  • Some experiences like snowkiting, and snow camping, require previous experience and relevant winter gear
  • Make sure to take maps before going off-trails
  • Ensure you have up to date safety equipment and inquire about avalanche risks

Have you been to Lake Tahoe? What was your experience or preferred thing to do in Lake Tahoe? Share with us your adventures!

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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This post contains affiliate links, which means we receive a percentage if you make a purchase using these links – at no cost to you. Our opinions are our own and are not impacted by these partnerships.

What to Do in Lake Tahoe in the Winter // Lake Tahoe Views

What to Do in Lake Tahoe in the Winter // Lake Tahoe Snowshoeing

What to Do in Lake Tahoe in the Winter // Sunny day over Lake Tahoe

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