Aside from being the largest alpine lake in the country, Lake Tahoe is – after the five Great Lakes – the largest lake by water volume in the United States. These two factors alone would make it a must-visit. Aside from the beauty of the lake, Lake Tahoe is also one of the best-known tourist attractions in the nation and is home to not only water sports but also a variety of biking and hiking trails, beaches, winter sports, historic attractions, and more.
While the lake is gorgeous throughout the year, it is in the summer that this must-visit destination truly shines. Straddling the California-Nevada border, this location promises endless sunshine and gorgeous views in the summer months. No matter whether you’re looking for a family-friendly day out or an unforgettable mountain adventure, Lake Tahoe has something to sate your appetite!
Lake Tahoe is easily accessible by plane – Reno-Tahoe International Airport is the closest airport and is located only a 45-minute drive away from North Lake Tahoe. Additionally, many bus and shuttle routes go to both South and North Lake Tahoe, and the Amtrak makes daily stops at the Truckee station, which is under 20 minutes away from Lake Tahoe proper. Of course, you can always drive there if you live close by for a summer vacation getaway.
A summer vacation in North Lake Tahoe should be spent outdoors on the water and many trails. If you find yourself overwhelmed by all the options you’re facing, don’t worry – to help you out, we’ve got a list of top things to do in Lake Tahoe during a summer vacation.
Spend a Summer Day at Sand Harbor State Park & Beach
Sand Harbor is one of Nevada’s most beautiful state parks. It boasts over 55 acres of gorgeous scenery, attractive rock formations, and crystal clear waters that are perfect for a day of swimming and scuba diving. If water sports aren’t your thing, you can also enjoy the beach and the tanning opportunities, or simply enjoy a leisurely walk around the area.
There are also tons of walking and hiking trails at Sand Harbor, perfect for visitors who prefer an outdoorsy adventure during their summer vacation. Sand Point Nature Trail offers a beautiful scenic walk/hike, with stunning views of the lake’s translucent beauty. The park also offers tons of family-friendly activities such as kayaking and paddle boarding. If you’re a literature lover who enjoys the beauty of nature, Sand Harbor is also famous for its annual Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, held on the shores of the lake every summer. For boaters and fishermen, the park’s boat ramp is an easily accessible spot that offers quick access to some of the most gorgeous parts of the lake.
Ride the Iconic Lake Tahoe East Shore Trail
Also known as ‘America’s Most Beautiful Bikeway,’ Lake Tahoe East Shore Trail is a 3-mile, paved trail that connects Incline Village to Sand Harbor State Park. The paths are 10-feet wide, making it easy for you to use, no matter whether you’re planning to walk, bike, or run the trail.
The trail was opened in 2019 and is completely family-friendly. No matter whether you’re planning bike ride or a relaxing day out with your kids walking the trail, there’s something for everyone on this trail. The trail offers 11 beach access points, so if you’re a water-lover, don’t forget to bring a towel and a change of clothes!
Aside from being a great way to access some of Lake Tahoe’s most beautiful beaches, the first mile of the Lake Tahoe East Shore Trail also offers gorgeous views of the lake and the surrounding areas from high vantage points. Once you cross this distance, the next two miles are along the shoreline, offering a great space for an easy stroll. Additionally, there are 16 vista points along the trail where nature lovers can get off the path, enjoy the views, and take a moment to catch their breath.
The Tunnel Creek Café, located in the Northern Trailhead, is a great option if you’re looking to refuel before or after traveling the trail. The trail is also pet-friendly, so feel free to bring your dogs along for a walk. There are several parking spots at the northern end of the trail, and the trail can also be accessed via the East Shore Express shuttle. Bike rental shops are also available for people in need of renting a bike in Lake Tahoe. Vista Trail Bikes specializes in Electric Bikes which are an ideal way to experience the trail, but also offers comfort and kids bike rentals.
Hike or Mountain Bike the Flume Trail
Located in North Lake Tahoe, near Incline Village, the Flume Trail is one of the most gorgeous trails not only in Lake Tahoe but also the world. The trail is great for both hikers and bikers and follows the path used to deliver water to Virginia City in the 1800s.
The trail is a 20 mile, round-trip hike, making it a good option for serious hikers and trail runners looking for a workout surrounded by beautiful scenery. At the same time, if you’re a hobbyist or looking for a more relaxing day, you can consider accessing the 4.4 mile Marlette Flume Trail from Spooner Lake – this stretch offers gorgeous views, and as its part of the descent, the trail is relatively tame.
Mountain bikers can access the trail at Spooner Lake State Park for a 14-mile ride. It is better suited for intermediate to advanced bikers, with many steep sections and over 1000 feet of climbing within just the first four miles. Keep in mind that the trail is only accessible once it is snow-free and may be closed in the early summer depending on the snowpack. The trail can be easily accessed via shuttle, and there are several bike rental shops available for those looking to rent a mountain bike.
Climb & Zip Line at the Tahoe Treetop Adventure Park
Open around the year, Tahoe Treetop Adventure Park is the first Aerial Adventure Park in the area. Offering courses suitable for both children and adults, this park serves as a fun, adventurous option for people looking for a family-friendly day out with children of all ages during the summer.
The park offers three Lake Tahoe locations – Tahoe City, Squaw Valley, and Tahoe Vista. The Tahoe City and Tahoe Vista parks are the largest of the three and boast about 90 tree platforms each, which are connected via 30 zip lines and 60 bridges. The Squaw Valley park features an impressive 50’ Alpine Tower and is built into the hillside, offering gorgeous views of both Shirley Canyon and the Squaw Valley peaks.
All three parks are ideal for both beginners and experienced climbers, with several courses available for people of all abilities. If you’ve never experienced this type of climbing adventure they also offer a green level course where you can learn the basics of zip lining before trying your hand at the rest of the park.
Hit the Water with a Boat or Jet Ski Rental from Action Water Sports
One of the biggest boat rental companies in Lake Tahoe, Action Water Sports opened its doors in 1996. They boast a complete fleet of boats, ranging from ski boats to cruising boats and luxury yachts, making them the first choice if you’re looking for lake activities in Lake Tahoe during your summer vacation.
Aside from boat rentals, they also offer you the opportunity to indulge in a wide variety of water sports, including parasailing, wakeboarding, water skiing, and more. Aside from providing rentals, they also offer lessons for newbies. Additionally, they offer daily boat and yacht tours around the lake. With the wide range of watersport options they offer, there’s something for everyone to enjoy, from young children and senior citizens to adventure lovers looking for an adrenaline rush.
Action Water Sports is present in four Lake Tahoe locations: the Camp Richardson Resort and Marina, Lakeside Marina, Timber Cove Marina, and Round Hills Pine Marina. Each location has distinct offerings, so make sure to check out whether the location of your choice has the service you’re looking for before you make your way there this summer!
Hike the Mount Rose Nevada Trail
At 10,776 feet, Mount Rose is the third tallest mountain in the Lake Tahoe Basin, and the Mount Rose Trail is among the most popular in Nevada. Well-traveled, this trail is 10.7 miles long and features both family-friendly and more challenging sections.
The initial portion of the trail takes you through a pine forest, with a gradual ascent. This portion is perfect for families and first-timers and eventually takes you to a gorgeous meadow, which offers stunning views of the peak, and a year-round waterfall. This is the halfway point of the trail, and from here on out, the hike gets progressively more challenging.
If you’re not planning to continue on the trail, the waterfall is a great spot to end your hike. This spot also allows you to access several other trails, including the Lake Tahoe Rim Trail and Tamarack Peak Loop Trail. If you’re continuing onwards, you’ll be faced with a steeper climb uphill as you approach the peak. While this is a strenuous workout for even experienced hikers, it offers gorgeous views of Lake Tahoe shining in the sun.
No matter which option you choose, make sure you don’t miss the meadow around Galena Falls and Galena Creek. The meadow is full of stunning wildflowers in the spring and summer, and it’s well worth the hike to see this sight alone. The trail is dog- and horse-friendly, so if you want, you can access it via horseback. The hike will take an average of 6 to 7 hours on foot, so make sure you’ve allocated enough time if you’re planning to complete the entire trail.
Lake Tahoe is a must-have on everyone’s summer vacation bucket list. From family-friendly trails and activities to adventurous treks, there are lots to get you out exploring and staying active during the summer. If you’re in need of hotel recommendations in the Tahoe South area, check out this guide.
While these are just some of the many fun activities you can enjoy in the area, they’re also a must-do if you’re planning a short visit to the lake. This list offers you the ability to enjoy all of Lake Tahoe’s offerings – from the fun water sports, hiking and bike trails, to the gorgeous beaches and relaxing opportunities to choose from, there’s no chance you’ll find yourself without something to do in Lake Tahoe during your summer vacation.