Lake Tahoe straddles the border of California and Nevada and boasts some of the best winter terrain in North America. As the host of the 1960 Winter Olympic Games, Tahoe offers a bucket list winter destination. For a perfect winter getaway, here’s what to do in North Lake Tahoe in the winter with kids.
What to Do in North Lake Tahoe in the Winter with Kids
Lake Tahoe boasts a dozen ski resorts within an hour’s drive. Find world class ski resorts. Then a ski-in, ski-out resort that mirrors an alpine village. Even find intimate ski hills that never feel crowded. And for daredevil boarders, Lake Tahoe offers gravity-defining terrain parks. For all this, Lake Tahoe has been my go-to winter destination for over 20 years.
I love to carve powder through a glade in the evergreens while grabbing glimpses of a pristine lake that never freezes. On a sunny day, the mountains sparkle like they’re dusted with diamonds.
Where to go Skiing in Lake Tahoe
- Squaw Valley Ski Resort
- NorthStar California Ski Resort
- Mt Rose Ski Tahoe
- Diamond Peak Ski Resort
Squaw Valley for Families
Squaw Valley is a legendary Olympic resort that boasts 6,500 acres to explore. Its runs top lists, like the KT-22. It’s a bucket list destination for skiers from around the world.
But what about the kids? My family loves this resort, part of it is the allure of Old Tahoe, the make-you-smile vibe that resonates with today’s kids as much as it did 50 years ago. The other is telling the kids back home you got to ski Squaw.
Squaw is the resort where locals take their friends when they want to ski big. A day at Squaw is a day kissing the clouds while the snow and the lake try to out sparkle each other.
Best for families with older kids that can appreciate and handle mainly mountaintop skiing. And the winds can howl and temporarily shut down operations so check out the weather forecast first.
The Village offers lodging, restaurants and shopping along with plenty of close-in parking. And I appreciate the way Squaw Valley handles traffic at peak times though hang out and grab a cup of cocoa and let the traffic ease instead.
Located at 1960 Squaw Valley Road, Olympic Valley, California. Squaw Valley and its sister resort, Alpine Meadows, can be skied the same day with the same lift pass and shuttle bus.
NorthStar California with Kids
NorthStar California offers the premier program to learn how to ski or snowboard at Lake Tahoe. The indoor and outdoor facilities along with engineered runs that guides kids into perfect turns impressed me the most. The Burton Academy, only Lake Tahoe resort to feature the program, teaches kids as young as 3 to snowboard.
Northstar offers a protected location keeping the wind at bay. Enjoy mountaintop skiing a gondola ride from The Village.
Packed with an ice rink, theatre, live music along with a slew of restaurants, The Village is the après hub. Also find shopping along with indoor activities, guests can spend their entire ski vacation at Northstar.
Northstar Ski Resort is located at 5001 Northstar Drive, Truckee, California.
Mt. Rose-Ski Tahoe offers a entire green skiing area for families at Lake Tahoe. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker
Mt Rose Ski Tahoe
With an elevation of 8,260 feet, Mt Rose is the highest resort at Lake Tahoe. It’s usually the first resort to open every year and the last to shut down. And Mt Rose offers a big resort at a value price point. That’s why it’s a favorite among locals.
My kids love the Wizard lift that drops them off in the Enchanted Forest area, packed with lots of green runs that wind through a treed glade. I love this area since it’s a kids’ destination and not a green run tacked on to the bottom of more advanced skiing. Keeping kids away from the older and faster skiers and boarders, is a must for me.
On the downside, Mt. Rose doesn’t offer a full-day kids program, instead it features two-hour lessons that are better suited for middle school students and not the preschool crowd. The lodge lacks luxury but I love the fact I don’t battle traffic to get back to Incline Village.
Mt Rose Ski Tahoe is located in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest at 22222 Mt. Rose Hwy (Hwy 431) 25 minutes from Reno, Nevada.
Diamond Peak Ski Resort
Diamond Peak, another local’s favorite, sits in the heart of North Lake Tahoe’s Incline Village. Boasting some the best views of the lake, it’s a must for a blue bird day.
Diamond Peak caters to families where parents can share lift tickets and offers free skiing for kids 6 and under. Add that to family ski packages and you see why the locals flock to the resort.
Diamond Peak Ski Resort is located in Incline Village at 1210 Ski Way. Limited parking at resort and an open-air trailer shuttles skiers to the the string of parking areas.
Winter Fun Guide at Lake Tahoe
The scenery is for the adults but what about the kids? I found crazy amounts of sledding in the nearby national forests. Snowmobile tours and horse-drawn sleigh rides can’t be topped for scenery. And snowshoeing or cross-country skiing offers more ways to explore.
Free Sledding at Lake Tahoe
Capture the nostalgic charm of finding a perfect sled hill in the largest national forest outside of Alaska. Find hills for everyone from bunny-suited toddlers to dare-devil teens. Best of all it’s free.
Tahoe Rim Trail Head–Find off-highway parking and a year-round restroom. Located in Tahoe Meadows, a year-round outdoor destination about seven miles from Mt. Rose Ski Resort. It’s just pass the Mt. Rose Summit on the Mt. Rose Highway (Hwy 431) on the way to Incline Village.
Spooner Summit—With off-highway parking and a steep hill, this area attracts a crowd quick during school holidays and weekends. Find parking in front of the sledding hill and along the short access road off the highway but no restrooms. Located just pass Spooner Summit on U.S. Highway 50 at the turnoff for Nevada Highway 28.
Lake Tahoe State Parks
The Lake Tahoe area offers several state parks that ring the lake. Most state parks are open year-round for winter exploring.
Spooner Lake State Park for Snowshoeing
If you can walk, you can snowshoe. And with cheap daily rentals that strap on to regular winter boots, it’s an easy winter sport to enjoy.
Spooner Lake State Park offers several types of winter trails, multi-use, cross country skiing and snowshoe. The Lakeside trail offers level terrain, perfect for first-timers. Or make a loop around Spooner Lake on the Lakeside Trail. For cross country skiers, the Meadow Trail can’t be beat for scenery–ski through a postcard.
Open year round from sunrise to sunset. Located at the intersection of U.S. 50 and Nevada Highway 28. Admission $10 per car.
Tahoe Rim Trail
Another place for snowshoeing is the Tahoe Rim Trail trailhead in Tahoe Meadows. So if the kids are sledding, take the snow shoes and explore too. Good place for dog snow play too. It’s just pass the Mt. Rose Summit on the Mt. Rose Highway (Hwy 431) on the way to Incline Village.
Sand Harbor Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park for Sleigh Rides
One of the most photographed places in Lake Tahoe and a water sports favorite is Sand Harbor. Though it’s open year-round and the winter hosts horse-drawn sleigh rides.
From November through March, find Borges Sleigh Rides with their Amish-made sleighs and Belgium draft horses. The Borges Family has offered one hour and 30-minute sleigh rides along the shore of Lake Tahoe for 50 years. Reservations required and prices start at $20.
State Park admission is $10 per car. Located at 2005 Nevada Highway 28 near Incline Village.
Cross Country Skiing and More at Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park
With 20 km of cross-country trails, spend the day exploring the western shore of Lake Tahoe. In addition to cross country skiing, Sugar Pine Point offers full moon snowshoe tours open to families.
Located 10 miles south of Tahoe City on California Highway 89. The winter season day use fee is $5.
Lake Tahoe Snowmobiling Tour
Get a rush along with a chance to see Lake Tahoe’s unspoiled beauty. A guided snowmobile tour makes it easy to explore the wilderness.
Start with a two-hour guided tour, that’s prefect for beginners. Located at Highway 267 at Brockaway Summit in Tahoe Vista.
Lake Tahoe Towns
Find tiny towns, hamlets and villages stocked with winter family fun all around Lake Tahoe. I focus on the northern and western shore since South Lake Tahoe is accessible from the east only, due to seasonal road closures.
Where to go in Tahoe City
A day of skiing can’t be beat but Mom needs a break after a couple of days. Tahoe City offers several activities that scream fun like sledding, ice skating and snowshoeing, all within walking distance.
Tahoe City Winter Sports Park
A solid option for winter fun featuring an outdoor ski rink, sledding hill, access to 4 km of groomed cross-country ski and snowshoe trails. All the winter sports are conveniently located next to each other and rental equipment is available at the Tahoe City Winter Sports Park.
If your hands need a warm up, pop into Café Zenon for a signature cocktail and comfort food, located next to the Tahoe City Winter Sports Park.
Located at 251 North Lake Blvd in the in the center of Tahoe City.
For the serious cross country or skate skier, head to Tahoe XC. With 65 km of groomed trails, including 8 km of dog-friendly trails, it’s a premier place to explore. Find 21 trails along with three warming huts.
Located at 925 Country Club Dr. Adult day pass is $32 for those 19 and older and free students and kids. Dogs are $5 a day.
The Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema
Evening comes early in the winter so escape to the movies. Sit in the cozy couch seating or rock away in a leather seat, the Tahoe Art Haus Cinema shows the latest blockbusters.
As Lake Tahoe’s only cinema draft house, order a local draft beer or coffee drink. Don’t miss the popcorn spice bar and I found hotdogs and cheese pizza too.
Located at 475 N. Lake Blvd in Tahoe City.
Commons Beach Park & Playground
If the snow isn’t too deep then let the kids play along one of most picturesque walking paths at Lake Tahoe. The Common Beach Park features open spaces for running, a walking path and a playground. The divided path offers a lane for cyclists and walkers along with interpretive signs.
Located at 400 N. Lake Blvd in Tahoe City. Free
Head over to 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 on the spot to tended to Lake Tahoe Dam gates, located close by.
So head to the Lake Tahoe Damon the Truckee River. Located at 130 W. Lake Blvd.
William B. Layton Park
Located next the Lake Tahoe Dam is the William B. Layton Park, find a three-acre park on the lake with a self-guide nature walk.
Burton Creek State Park
With 2,000 acres of wilderness at the edge of Tahoe City, it offers six miles of unpaved roads for cross country skiing.
Free and open for sunrise to sunset. Located on Highway 28 near Rocky Ridge Road.
Nestled in a glade of evergreens, Granlibakken Tahoe offers lodging, a small ski operation, and a super fast sledding hill. For nearly half what other ski resorts charge for an hour of snow tubing, Granlibakken offers a full day of crazy, sledding fun.
For less than 20 bucks, kids get a heavy-duty saucer and an all-day pass for a manual yet monitored sled hill (sledder must walk up the hill, no carpet lift available). After a few sledding runs, treat the kids to s’mores! Granlibakken’s ski hut at sells s’mores packages with enough chocolate, grahams, and marshmallows for a family to toast at their fire pit.
Located minutes from Tahoe City, find Granlibakken Tahoe at 725 Granlibakken Road.
Truckee for Families
Truckee is along Interstate 80 and a gateway town for the western shore of Lake Tahoe. Find traveler’s services, like a full-service gas station that installs tire chains, along with a quaint downtown area.
Walk down West River Road or Donner Pass Road for locally-owned shops and restaurants. Truckee also features a regional airport and three-star accommodations.
Donner Memorial State Museum
Settlers from Missouri drove their wagons across the plains to be stranded by an early, heavy snowstorm in November 1846. Unable to continue, the emigrants had to hunker down with few supplies and built shelter for the winter. Nearly half of the Donner Party perished and the remaining used drastic measures to survive.
Parking is $5 in the winter and $10 in the summer. Located at 12593 Donner Pass Road.
Lodging on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe
The Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe’s only AAA Five-Diamond resort offers families a destination for laid-back luxury. Taking design clues from Timberline Lodge, The Ritz-Carlton-Lake Tahoe features scrumptious fabrics along with rustic furnishings.
Packed with programs for the kids, The Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe wows with an in-house marshmologist. Imagine savoring a glass of champagne while your rosy-cheeked kids toast house-made marshmallows all while watching the Tahoe sunset slowly fade to stars.
Another bonus for families, the ski valet service keeps all the equipment stored keeping Mom and Dad as cool as an icicle. The Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe is located at 13031 Ritz-Carlton Highlands Court.
Incline Village for Families
I’ve used Incline Village as my North Lake Tahoe base for over 20 years. Since it’s on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, find casinos in and around Incline Village.
Austin’s Restaurant–A favorite for 20 years, it serves up family friendly fare. Start with the buttermilk fries and follow with a salad, burgers or their chicken strips, all outstanding. The dining room is small so expect a wait.
Austin’s is located at 120 Country Club Dr. #24, across for the Hyatt Resort. Open everyday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Raley’s Grocery Store sells inexpensive outdoor winter gear like gloves, hats and plastic sleds. It also features a large selection of wine, beer and liquor along with lots of grab-and-go items. Also find all your grocery needs.
Raley’s is located at 930 Tahoe Blvd.
Lodging in Incline Village
Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino
With 422 guest rooms, suites and cottages with access to Lake Tahoe, the Hyatt offers an AAA Four-Diamond resort perfect for family getaways. I found several restaurants on the property and the Lone Eagle Grille offers lake views and a fine dining menu.
The Stillwater Spa is one of the largest spa facility in the area. And the Hyatt offers a free ski shuttle and a kids camp for kids 5 to 12.
Grand Lodge Casino offers adults an upscale mountain-themed casino that tempts locals and travelers alike.
Hyatt Regency Resort, Spa and Casino is located 111 Country Club Dr.at Lakeshore Blvd.
Know Before You Go
- Lake Tahoe is not a ski in/ski out destination. To enjoy the best of Tahoe you will need to rent a SUV.
- Don’t skimp on the rental. AWD or 4WD is a must for winter and check out NVRoads.com for winter road closures.
Consideration for brands mentioned.