Best Places to Visit in Tahoe

Up in the Sierras, America’s largest alpine lake is a scenic freshwater beauty spot that straddles California and Nevada, more than 6,200 feet in elevation at its crystal clear surface. Ringing the intensely blue Lake Tahoe, a backdrop of mountains are pretty in summer green and majestic in snow-covered winter white, making this a year-round destination. Visitors are wise to keep the high elevation in mind, staying well-hydrated and resting on hiking trails.

Featured Photo Credit: Max Whittaker/Visit California

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Photo: Eric Philbin/Flickr

Emerald Bay State Park

138 Emerald Bay Rd., South Lake Tahoe
530.541.6498

Sharp curves on narrow roads lead to one of the outstanding spots on South Lake Tahoe. At 600 feet above the lake, Inspiration Point provides views of shimmering watery deep blues set against a striking backdrop of green mountains, with an island thrown in for good measure. Take a kayak, SUP, or a glass-bottomed paddle wheeler boat ride to the little tea house on Fannette Island. Tip: One mile down the road, historians will want to see Vikingsholm, the original Lake Tahoe residence that’s a 1920s landmark and a fine American example of classic Scandinavian architecture. parks.ca.gov

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Photo: Max Whittaker/Visit California

Heavenly Valley

4080 Lake Tahoe Blvd., South Lake Tahoe
775.586.7000

Straddling the California-Nevada border, skiers can wind up in either state at the end of a run. Heavenly is known for its outstanding views, best appreciated on skis or through the windows in one of the resort’s eight-person gondolas. Halfway up the 2.4 mile ride, non-skiers can hop off at an observation deck at mid-station to appreciate the sapphire and emerald Tahoe beauty scene. When the snow is gone, there are hikes galore, zip lines, rope courses, climbing walls, 4×4 tours, and a summer tubing hill. And, of course, casinos on the Nevada side. Tip: Stop at the observation deck on the way up in the gondola, because it doesn’t stop on the way down. skiheavenly.com

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Photo: Visit California

Pope Beach

1209 Pope Beach Drive, South Lake Tahoe
530.543.2600

No trip to Tahoe is complete without dipping your fingers and toes in the crystal clear water. Forty public beaches ring the lake; this popular one has the longest shoreline. Dotted with dunes and pines, the sandy beach is on State Highway 89, convenient to South Lake Tahoe. Nearly a mile long, it has trees for shade, swimming (the water’s clear but cold), paddleboard and kayak rentals, picnic tables, food concessions, restrooms and parking (fees apply). There’s live music in summer. Tip: A National Park Service pass gets you a 50% discount on parking fees. tahoepublicbeaches.org/beaches/pope-beach

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Photo: Max Whittaker/Visit California

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

Olympic Valley, CA 96146
800.403.0206

Home to the 1960 Winter Olympics, the ski resort and village is a year-round draw for its skiing, snowboarding, and scenic Aerial Tram. In 10 minutes, up to 110 passengers ascend over 2,000 feet to get panoramic views of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra. In summer, meadows are ablaze with wildflowers  along hiking trails leading to waterfalls. In winter, 29 mountain lifts attract all levels of snow enthusiasts. Above the village, Via Ferrata is a guided, protected rock climbing experience using permanent steel anchors and cables. Tip: Squaw Valley is rebranding; the destination is changing its name in 2021. squawalpine.com

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Photo: Matt Whittaker/Visit California

Van Sickle Bi-State Park

Park Avenue and Lake Parkway, South Lake Tahoe
775.831.0494

Only five minutes’ walk from the village at Heavenly, you’re in Nevada. This park has easy trails with terrific lake views — so good in fact, that this 575-acre park connects to Tahoe Rim Trail, picked by National Geographic as one of the top 10 in the U.S. Along the way, outcrops of granite rock protrude, allowing perches not blocked by trees to expose breathtaking views of the lake. For more hearty hikers, a further 1.3 miles and 600 feet of elevation gain, are rewarded with a pretty waterfall. Tip: The park also has biking and horseback riding. Good for the whole family, it’s the right choice if you only have an hour or two. parks.nv.gov/parks

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