35 Things to do in Lake Tahoe with Kids in the Summer
Straddling the border of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe, or Tahoe as the locals call it, offers two high seasons. Centered around outdoor fun, the winter brings deep powder and about a dozen ski resorts. The summer is all about water sports, mountain biking and hiking.
I’ve been exploring Lake Tahoe since the late 90s and it’s still one of my favorite places in North America. Hotels.com wanted me to share my favorites in Lake Tahoe.
Lake Tahoe is the largest freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Since it’s 1,645 feet (501m) deep, it never freezes in the winter. It’s also the largest alpine lake in North America.
Where to Stay in Lake Tahoe
With great views North Lake Tahoe offers the easiest access from the Reno Tahoe International Airport. Find a mix of hotels and casinos along with condo and rental homes. The state parks and national forests on the north shore offer natural areas to explore on foot or on a mountain bike.
West Lake Tahoe is the hub for the mountain resorts, aka the ski resorts. Since the resorts are in California, each don’t offer gambling though find lots of outdoor adventure from novice to pro. Along the west shore find charming towns with pocket parks and beaches.
South Lake Tahoe is the party zone along with a major mountain resort. It’s the largest concentration of hotels with casinos, so find lots dining and activities. It offers as great as a view as the north shore.
East Lake Tahoe is the least developed. So it’s home to camping resorts along with state parks and national forests.It is closest to Carson City, the Nevada State Capital.
Weather in Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe’s summers are dry and sunny. Rain is a rarity. With extremely dry air, it actually feels warmer than it is. So remember a hat, water bottle and sunscreen.
The summer high temperatures hover in the upper 70s F (25C) though heat waves can happen. The summer lows dip into the 40s (4 to 9C) and it can freeze overnight even in the summer. Pack a fleece in your backpack, even in summer. When the sun dips behind the mountains, it will feel chilly.
During the summer, the surface water temperature ranges from 60 to 70F (16 to 21C). The Lake Tahoe beaches are popular and find several public beaches around the lake, along with rental boating, sailing tours and paddling. The U.S. Coast Guard patrols the lake, keeping everyone safe so remember the life vests.
What to do in Lake Tahoe during the Summer
Stroll the streets of the quaint towns that ring the lake. Explore the national forests in the mountains above Lake Tahoe. Or take a boat out on the lake for the ultimate getaway.
Scenic Lake Tahoe Drives
Lake Tahoe offers spectacular scenery in every direction so a scenic drive around Lake Tahoe is a must. Highways wind through national forests dotted with craggy mountain peaks. In-between mountains, find wildflower meadows.
It’s a 68-mile drive that connects U.S. Route 50, California Highway 89 and Nevada Highway 28 around Lake Tahoe. Pack a picnic and stop at one of the parks around the lake.
Interstate 80 eastbound from the San Francisco Bay area is a scenic drive. U.S. Route 50 into South Lake Tahoe is another scenic route.
Tahoe Rim Trail
The Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) is a popular 165-mile (266 km) long distance trail that rings Lake Tahoe. Hike through the national forests and it shares 50 miles with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). It’s a popular hike with long-distance hikers.
For families, shorter trails can be found around the lake. Head to Mount Rose Meadows, west of Incline Village for a hike in the meadow on a boardwalk.
Lake Tahoe Horseback Riding
Take in the scenic Lake Tahoe on horseback.
Zephyr Cove Resort Stables–located at 825 U.S. Route 50
Camp Richardson Corral–located at 4 Emerald Bay Rd.
Alpine Meadows Stables–located at 355 Alpine Meadows Rd.
North Lake Tahoe
The north shore of Lake Tahoe includes Incline Village and Crystal Bay in Nevada. Then cross the California border and find Brockaway, Kings Beach and Carnelian Bay. This area is closest to Reno, Nevada, with the largest airport—Reno/Tahoe International Airport (RNO).
Kings Beach State Recreation Area
Spend a perfect summer day lounging on a sandy beach. It’s a day-use park outfitted with water sports rentals, steps from the sand. Find kayaks, aqua cycle trikes, paddle boards and jet skis. Restrooms, picnic tables and a playground round out the facilities.
Parking $10 during the summer.
Located between Bear and Coon Streets in downtown Kings Beach on the north shore of Lake Tahoe on the California side.
Sand Harbor Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park
See the most photographed rocks in Lake Tahoe while you soak up the sun. Find kayaks and stand-up paddle boards, available for rent within the park. It’s a favorite spot to explore on the water.
Open year-round. Admission $10 per car. Arrive before 10 a.m. during the summer for parking, especially during the weekend.
Located at 2005 NV-28, five miles south of Incline Village on Lake Tahoe’s north shore.
Tahoe Meadows Hike
Take a wildflower hike with level terrain and a well-defined 1.3 mile trail in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. Explore a sub-alpine mountain meadow and walk along Ophir Creek’s boardwalk to enjoy the summertime wild flowers. Stop and read the interpretive signs to learn more about Lake Tahoe. Leashed dogs welcome.
Located 3.8 miles west of Mt. Rose Ski Resort on Nevada Highway 431 in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. Free
Tahoe East Shore Trail
For cyclists wanting a scenic ride, take the 3-mile trail from Incline Village’s Tunnel Creek Cafe to Sand Harbor State Park. Easy. Popular with locals too.
A 14-mile one-way mountain bike trail with amazing views of the lake. Since it’s above 7,000 feet, it’s considered moderate to difficult.
Use the shuttle ($) from Incline Village to Spooner Lake State Park to start the Flume Trail.
Back in the 1920 and 1930s summer estates strung up along the shores of Lake Tahoe. George Whittell, Jr. built his summer getaway on the north shore. It is open for tours and considered one of the top historic homes. During the tour, walk through the main house, along with a card house (for playing cards), boat house and more. Learn about early Tahoe history and the wooden boats of Lake Tahoe, like the wood speedboat the Thunderbird.
Tours are Tuesdays and Fridays at 10 a.m. from mid June until mid October. Admission is $75 per person and must be 6 or older. No shuttle bus in 2021.
Incline Village Skate Park
Drop in at the in-ground concrete skate park.
Located at 939 Southwood Blvd. Free and seasonal.
Scenic Catamaran Cruise
Take two-hour scenic cruise on the 55-foot Sierra Cloud catamaran for a leasurely tour.
Departs at noon, 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. from the Hyatt Regency Incline Village Resort at 111 Country Club Dr. from May through September. Adult admission is $75 and $50 for 2 to 16.
West Lake Tahoe
The western side of Lake Tahoe is entirely in California. Find communities like, Tahoe City, Sunnyside, Tahoe Pines, Tahoma and Meeks Bay. This area is closest to gateway town of Truckee, along Interstate 80, and popular with people driving in from the bay area.
Squaw Valley Ski Resort
Find hiking, biking and shopping at Squaw Valley after the snow melts. It’s packed with outdoor summertime adventure. Take the aerial tram for disc golf, the 1960 Olympic Museum, guided hiking and Via Ferrate on the Tram Face. Find lodging and dining on-site.
Located at 1960 Squaw Valley Rd.
Northstar California Resort
Learn how to mountain bike during your trip to Lake Tahoe with group or private lessons for kids and adults. Also find 39 different hiking trails along with a scenic chair lift. Northstar also features golf along with lodging and dining on-site.
Located 5001 Northstar Dr.
Tahoe Star Tours
Explore the night skies with a choreographed astromony show. Then see the night sky for yourself using a Celestron telescope.
Located in the Castle Peak Parking lot, near Northstar. Adult admission is $45 and kids 3 to 12 are $25. Held every Thursday and Saturday from mid June until Labor Day weekend. Program starts at 8 p.m.
Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park
Spend the day relaxing in the state park with 2 miles of shoreline along with lots hiking. Or make it a weekend and camp.
Camping is $35 a night and requires a $7.99 fee for online reservations.
Tour Pine Lodge
Hellman-Ehrman Mansion, or Pine Lodge, was completed in 1903 and is one of the grand estates on the western shore of Lake Tahoe. Take a tour to see the furnishings of the timber and stone mansion.
Tours offers Tuesday to Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. from mid June until September 30. Adult admission is $12 and students (7 to 17) are $10.
Located 10 miles south of Tahoe City on California Highway 89 in Tahoma, California. Day-use parking is $10
Commons Beach Park
Tahoe City’s Commons Beach Park offers a destination for summer getaways. Take a walk along the path and find space for picnicking, swimming along with a playground and restrooms.
Located at 400 N Lake Blvd in Tahoe City, California. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Tahoe City Farmers Market
Grab a basket and stroll the stalls near Commons Beach for fresh vegetables and flowers.
Held on Thursdays from May through October from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Free to attend.
Built in 1908 by Robert Montgomery Watson, it’s the only remaining original log cabin in Tahoe City.
Located at 560 N. Lake Blvd. Open Thursday to Sunday from late June to mid-September. Free.
Truckee River Raft Trip
Spend a few hours exploring Tahoe’s wilderness the easy way, with a leisurely raft trip. Grab a raft and float 5 miles downriver past pristine scenery and over tame rapids. Suitable for everyone, 2-years-old and older, including dogs. Takes two to three hours.
Located at 185 W River Rd, Tahoe City, California. Adult admission is $55 and kids (6 to 12) are $35. Online reservations required.
Gatekeeper’s Museum and Lake Tahoe Dam
Visit the Gatekeeper’s Museum for a lesson in Old Tahoe. See exhibits on Washoe history, the boating legacy on Lake Tahoe along with highlights from the 1960 Winter Olympics.
The Gatekeeper lived in a cabin to tend to the Lake Tahoe Dam gates for the Truckee River.
Located at 130 W. Lake Blvd. Admission. Open Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
William B. Layton Park
Located next the Lake Tahoe Dam find William B. Layton Park, a three-acre park on the lake with a self-guided nature walk.
Burton Creek State Park
With 2,000 acres of wilderness at the edge of Tahoe City, it offers 6 miles of unpaved roads for cross country skiing.
Free and open from sunrise to sunset.
Located on Highway 28 near Rocky Ridge Road.
Tahoe Treetops Adventure
With 10 courses from beginner to advanced, find 97 tree platforms and 27 zip lines along with other obstacles.
Located at Granlibakken Resort at 725 Granlibakken Rd. Adult admission is $65 and kids (5 to 12) are $55.
Tahoe State Recreation Area
This area offers a small but popular campground along with a fishing pier.
Camp sites are $35 with a $7.99 reservation fee. The RV trailer limit is 15 feet and a camper or motorhome limit is 21 feet. Find showers and an RV dump station though no hook-ups.
Located .25 miles north of Tahoe City along Highway 28.
Tahoe City Lake Forest Campground
Another campground close to Tahoe City. This campground is small with about 20 sites and doesn’t offers showers, hook-ups, or a dump station. The RV limit is 25 feet. Camp for $20 a night.
Located at 2504-2540 Lake Forest Rd. in Tahoe City.
South Lake Tahoe
South Lake Tahoe, like the North Shore is divided by the California-Nevada state line.
D.L. Bliss State Park
With hiking trails, swimming and camping head to D.L. Bliss for a Tahoe weekend getaway. Hike on the Rubicon Trail, the Lighthouse Trail or Balancing Rock Trail, a self-guided .5-mile walk.
Day-use parking is $10 during the summer season. Seasonal camping is $45 for beach front camping and $35 for the rest of the campground. D.L. Bliss campground features showers and a RV dump station. Each online reservation requires a $7.99 fee.
Located at 9881 CA-89, South Lake Tahoe, 17 miles south of Tahoe City.
Emerald Bay State Park and Vikingsholm
As the most photographed spot in Lake Tahoe find a grand summer home open for tours. Emerald Bay State Park offers a historic home tour, a beach, hiking trails and a spectacular waterfall.
Explore the interior of the Scandinavian inspired historic home built by Lora Knight in 1928. Over 200 craftsmen worked on the project and it included furnishing from Scandinavia as well.
Vikingsholm tour tickets available in the park and offered from Memorial Day weekend until September 30.
Camping located nearby. Lakeview sites are $45 and the rest are $35. Each online reservation requires a $7.99 fee.
Located on CA 89 South, in Tahoma, California. Day-use parking fee is $10 and limited parking on site.
Note: To visit Vikingsholm requires a steep one-mile hike from the parking lots. Wheelchairs or strollers aren’t advised. No dogs allowed at Emeral Bay State Park.
Tallac Historic Site
Nestled next to each other explore the glorious past of Lake Tahoe with several historic properties within walking distance. Start with the Tallac Resort and the remains of Lucky’s Casino Resort.
Then move to the Baldwin Estate built in 1921, where a free museum offers glimpses into the domestic life of Old Tahoe. Next up is The Pope Estate, built in 1894. It offers a guided tour through the historic home, restored gardens, working blacksmith shop and artist’s cabin along with the guest cottages.
The Heller Estate is the final historic property. It’s also known as the Valhalla, and a popular events space.
Tallac Historic Site is west of South Lake Tahoe, next to Camp Richardson. Grounds open daily, buildings open from Thursday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the summer only. Free to enter.
Located at 1 Heritage Way, South Lake Tahoe, in California.
Live a little old Tahoe when you stay at Camp Richardson. Originally built in 1926, it features a historic hotel, rustic summer cabins, year-round heated cabins along with a campground and RV Park. Also grab the Lake Tahoe Water Taxi to South Lake Tahoe at its marina. And Camp Richardson features a stable for horseback riding.
Located at 1900 Jameson Beach Rd., in South Lake Tahoe.
South Lake Tahoe
As the largest town on the south shore, it’s actually two towns, Stateline is in Nevada and South Lake Tahoe in California. Find gambling at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and Mont Bleu Resort, Casino and Spa–all in Nevada.
South Lake Tahoe offers lots of dining options. Also find water sports equipment to rent and parasailing.
Heavenly Mountain Resort
Find a scenic summer gondola ride, hiking and an alpine mountain coaster.
Located at 4080 Lake Tahoe Blvd.
Lakeside Beach and Marina
This private beach sells day passes to the public. Rental umbrellas and chairs available. Also find a playscape.
Summer adult day pass (18+) $15 and kids (4 to 17) $5.
Located at 4081 Lakeshore Blvd.
South Lake Tahoe Skate Park
Find a concrete skate park.
Located at 1201 Al Tahoe Blvd in South Lake Tahoe. Open seasonally. Free
East Lake Tahoe
The eastern portion of Lake Tahoe is the least developed. It’s closest to Carson City, Nevada’s state capital.
With a one-mile sandy beach find volleyball, rental beach umbrellas along with a marina, stables and scenic cruises.
Zephyr Cove offers camping. like airstream campers, along with RV campsites and tent camping.
Located at 760 U.S. Hwy 50 in Zephyr Cove, Nevada.
Take a 2-hour scenic cruise on the M.S. Dixie II, a paddleboat, to see the southern part of Lake Tahoe.
Departs from 760 U.S. Hwy 50. at Zephyr Cove Marina. Admission from $69.50. Shuttle available.
Cave Rock Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park
See the tunnel bored through Cave Rock. Also a small beach along with a picnic area.
Day use entrance fee is $10.
Located at Highway 89 in Glenbrook, Nevada.
Bears in Lake Tahoe
Though encounters are rare, Park Rangers offer some guidelines to reduce bear encounters:
- Remain observant.
- Keep campsites clean.
- Make noise while hiking by wearing bear bells and talking.
- Don’t approach bears or let bears approach you.
- If a bear notices you, you are too close. Back away slowly and if attacked, fight back. Don’t play dead.
Summer in Lake Tahoe is extremely dry and visitors will see Smoky the Bear Wildfire Dangers signs throughout the region. Camp fire plans are frequent during the summer season.
This post was sponsored by Hotels.com.