California

35 Things to do at Lake Tahoe with Kids in Summer

Emerald Bay National Park
One of the highlights of Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay State Park. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Straddling the border of Nevada and California, Lake Tahoe is a top lake destination in the U.S. Centered around outdoor fun, it is a year-round destination. Mountain biking, hiking and water activities are tops for summertime. After exploring Lake Tahoe since the late 90s, it’s still one of my favorite places in North America. Tahoe, as the locals call it, beckons everyone, from the kids to the pups, to explore the outdoors. Here are 35 of the top things to do at Lake Tahoe with kids in summer.

Lake Tahoe is the largest freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada mountain range and the largest alpine lake in North America. Since it’s 1,645 feet (501m) deep, it never freezes in the winter. Just a heads up, it warms to the low 60s in the summer for swimming and splashing.

Table of Contents

Why Visit Lake Tahoe

The stunning scenery is hard to beat. From the granite mountaintops to the evergreen forests to the wildflower meadows, Lake Tahoe puts on a summer show.

The easiest way to see Lake Tahoe is to drive around its perimeter on a scenic drive. Along this route, there are lots of places to stop and explore. Small towns ring the lake, like Incline Village, Tahoe City and South Lake Tahoe. Each offers places to eat and outdoor activities.

8 National Parks a Road Trip away from LA
Find places to rent kayaks and SUP boards all along Lake Tahoe. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

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. These are all the top things to do at Lake Tahoe with kids in summer.

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 the mountains, visitors will find wildflower meadows.

It’s a 68-mile drive around Lake Tahoe that connects U.S. Route 50, California Highway 89 and Nevada Highway 28. 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. It shares 50 miles with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and travels through the national forests and state parks. It’s a popular hike with long-distance hikers.

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.

Top Things to Do in Sacramento California with Kids
Humbolt Toiyabe National Forest. Things to do in Lake Tahoe with kids in Summer
Hike through the Humbolt Toiyabe National Forest at North Lake Tahoe. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

North Lake Tahoe

The north shore of Lake Tahoe includes Incline Village and Crystal Bay in Nevada. Then, cross the  California border and find Brockway, Kings Beach and Carnelian Bay. This area is closest to Reno, Nevada, and the largest airport in the region—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 per day 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 State Park is a must for your getaway. Photo Credit: Pixabay

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 is $10/$15 per car (cash only). Arrive before 10 a.m. during the summer for parking, especially during the weekends.

Located at 2005 NV-28, five miles south of Incline Village on Lake Tahoe’s north shore.

Spooner Lake – Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park 

This park is located near the Carson Range Pass at the intersection of Highway 50 and Highway 28. It offers 50 miles of multi-use trails, including part of the Tahoe Rim Trail. The Spooner Lake Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park offers cabin camping and backcountry camping. A new Spooner Lake Visitor Center and amphitheater opened recently.

Located on Highway 28 just after the turn-off from Highway 50. Admission is $10/$15 per vehicle, and it is open from dawn to dusk.

Tahoe Star Tours

Explore the night skies with a choreographed astronomy show. Then, see the night sky for yourself using a  Celestron telescope.

Held at the Spooner Lake Visitor Center and Amphitheater and the Northstar Cosmoarium. Adult admission is $50, and kids 3 to 12 are $30. Held at alternating locations every Thursday and Saturday from mid-June until Labor Day weekend. Program starts at 8 p.m.

Planning Guide to California’s Lassen Volcanic National Park
Tahoe Meadows.
A great first hike, Tahoe Meadows features a creek and wildflowers in summer. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

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 wildflowers. Stop and read the interpretive signs to learn more about Lake Tahoe. Leashed dogs are 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

This multi-use paved path offers three miles of accessible hiking and biking along the shore of Lake Tahoe. From Sand Harbor State Park to Lakeshore Bike Path, this path is free to use and paid parking is available at Highway 28 and Tunnel Creek.

Flume Trail

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.

Thunderbird Lodge

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), a boat house and more. Learn about early Tahoe history and the wooden boats of Lake Tahoe, like the wood speedboat the Thunderbird. 

From Memorial Day until mid-October, tours are on Tuesdays and Fridays at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. Admission is $75 per person, and you must be 6 or older. Shuttles (required) depart from 969 Tahoe Blvd., Incline Village.

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 a two-hour scenic cruise on the 55-foot Sierra Cloud catamaran for a leisurely tour.

Departs at 11. a.m., 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. from May through September. Departs from Carnelian Bay. Adult admission is $140 and $90 for kids 2 to 16.

What to do in Redwood National and State Parks 
Watson Cabin, Where to go in Tahoe City with Kids.
Walk by the Watson Cabin along the shores of Lake Tahoe. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

West Lake Tahoe

The western side of Lake Tahoe is entirely in California. Communities like Tahoe City, Sunnyside, Tahoe Pines, Tahoma and Meeks Bay are located here. This area is closest to the gateway town of Truckee, along Interstate 80, and popular with people driving in from the Bay Area.

Palisades Tahoe Resort

Find hiking, biking and shopping at Palisades Tahoe 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. There are 39 different hiking trails and a scenic chair lift. Northstar also features golf and lodging and dining on-site.

Located 5001 Northstar Dr.

Tahoe City Winter Guide 
Pine Lodge
Pine Lodge in the Sugar Point State Park is an old Tahoe mansion to tour. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park

Spend the day relaxing in the state park, which has 2 miles of shoreline and lots of hiking. Or make it a weekend and camp.

Located 10 miles south of Tahoe City on California Highway 89 in Tahoma, California. Day-use parking is $10Day-use parking is $10. Camping is $35 a night and requires a $7.99 fee for online reservations.

Tour Pine Lodge

Within the Ed E’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park, the Hellman-Ehrman Mansion, or Pine Lodge, was completed in 1903. It 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 are offered 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.

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 and swimming, as well as a playground and restrooms.

Located at 400 N Lake Blvd in Tahoe City, California. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Free to enter.

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.

Watson Cabin

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 noon to 4 p.m., late June to mid-September. Free.

The Best Sledding Spot on the West Shore

Truckee River Raft Trip

A leisurely raft trip is a great way to spend a few hours exploring Tahoe’s wilderness. Grab a raft and float 5 miles downriver past pristine scenery and over tame rapids. This trip is suitable for everyone, 2 years old and older, including dogs. It takes two to three hours.

Located at 185 W River Rd, Tahoe City, California. Adult admission is $70 and kids (6 to 12) are $40. 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, and 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. Adult admission is $10, and kids 12 and under are free. Open Wednesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

William B. Layton Park

Located next to the Lake Tahoe Dam, William B. Layton Park is 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.

Located on Highway 28 near Rocky Ridge Road. Free and open from sunrise to sunset. No water or restrooms.

Tahoe Treetops Adventure

With 10 courses from beginner to advanced, you will find 97 tree platforms, 27 zip lines, and other obstacles.

Located at Granlibakken Resort at 725 Granlibakken Rd. Adult admission is $73 and kids (6 to 12) are $63.

Tahoe State Recreation Area

This area offers a small but popular campground along with a fishing pier.

Campsites 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 small campground has about 20 sites and doesn’t offer showers, hook-ups, or a dump station. The RV limit is 25 feet. Camp for $20 a night, first-come, first-served.

Located at 2504-2540 Lake Forest Rd. in Tahoe City.

Lake Tahoe Winter Guide
Vikingholm
Inside Emerald Bay State Park, find Vikingholm. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe, like the North Shore, is divided by the California-Nevada state line.

D.L. Bliss State Park–Closed for 2024 for construction 

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.

Tour Vikingsholm 

Explore the interior of the Scandinavian-inspired historic home built by Lora Knight in 1928. Over 200 craftsmen worked on the project, which included furnishing from Scandinavia.

Vikingsholm tour tickets are available in the park and offered from Memorial Day weekend until September 30.

Camping is available 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, you must hike a steep one-mile distance from the parking lots. Wheelchairs or strollers aren’t advised. Dogs are not allowed at Emerald 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, artist’s cabin, and 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. The grounds are open daily, and the buildings are open from Thursday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the summer only. It is free to enter.

Located at 1 Heritage Way, South Lake Tahoe, in California.

Camp Richardson

Live a little old Tahoe when you stay at Camp Richardson. Originally built in 1926, it features a historic hotel, rustic summer cabins, and 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. 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+) $30 and kids (6 to 17) $20.

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

Free Sledding Areas in North Tahoe
Wildflowers in Lake Tahoe
Take a summer hike and find lots of wildflowers. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

East Lake Tahoe

The eastern portion of Lake Tahoe is the least developed. It’s closest to Carson City, Nevada’s state capital.

Zephyr Cove

With a one-mile sandy beach, you can find volleyball, rental beach umbrellas, 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.

Scenic Paddleboat

Take a 2-hour scenic cruise on the M.S. Dixie II, a paddleboat, to see the southern part of Lake Tahoe.

It departs from 760 U.S. Hwy 50 at Zephyr Cove Marina. Adult admission is $99, and kids (3 – 11) are admitted for $55. A shuttle is available.

Cave Rock Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park

See the tunnel bored through Cave Rock, and it offers a small beach along with a picnic area.

Located at Highway 89 in Glenbrook, Nevada. Day-use entrance fee is $10/$15.

Where to Stay in Lake Tahoe

With great views, North Lake Tahoe offers the easiest access from the Reno Tahoe International Airport. There, you can find a mix of hotels and casinos, along with condos and rental homes. The state parks and national forests on the north shore offer natural areas to explore on foot or a mountain bike.

West Lake Tahoe is the hub for mountain resorts, aka ski resorts. Since the resorts are in California, they don’t offer gambling, though they offer lots of outdoor adventure for novices and pros. Along the west shore, you can find charming towns with pocket parks and beaches.

South Lake Tahoe is the party zone and a major mountain resort. It has the largest concentration of hotels and casinos, so there is plenty of dining and activities. It offers as great a view as the north shore.

East Lake Tahoe is the least developed. It’s home to camping resorts, state parks, and national forests. It is also closest to Carson City, the Nevada State Capital.

Weather in Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe’s summers are dry and sunny, and rain is a rarity. The extremely dry air actually feels warmer than it is, so remember a hat, water bottle and sunscreen.

Summer high temperatures hover in the upper 70s F (25C), though heat waves can happen. 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). Lake Tahoe beaches are popular, and several public beaches are around the lake. Rental boating, sailing tours and paddling are also available. The U.S. Coast Guard patrols the lake, keeping everyone safe, so remember the life vests.

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.
Fire Restrictions

Summer in Lake Tahoe is extremely dry, and visitors will see Smoky the Bear Wildfire Dangers signs throughout the region. Campfire bans are frequent during the summer season.

Straddling California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe offers a summer outdoor escape with both mountain and lake activities. Find hiking, biking, boating, floating and sailing along with cultural activities. What to do in Lake Tahoe in the Summer | Best Things to do in Lake Tahoe during the Summer with Kids. #LakeTahoe #California #Nevada

Catherine Parker has a passion for travel and seen all 50 U.S. States. As a former flight attendant with one of the largest airlines, there isn't a North American airport that she hasn't landed in at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting architectural and cultural icons. She is based out of Central Texas dividing her time between writing and restoring a pair of 100-year-old houses. She shares her life with her three kids and her husband.

Write A Comment