Lake Tahoe is the second deepest lake in the United States (after Crater Lake in Oregon) and before Lake Chelan in Washington. My husband and I visited in August and unfortunately experienced some of the thick smoke from all the summer California wildfires. Despite the smoky air, we got lucky with a few clear days where the lake shone like a freshly polished emerald.
Lake Tahoe is split up into two main sections: South Lake Tahoe and North Lake Tahoe. Each has its own beach/lake vibe with restaurants, shops and great scenic viewpoints. Lake Tahoe is beautiful anytime of year; in summer you’ll have sunny days of lake life, and in winter it turns into a ski resort! While there is an endless list of things to do in Lake Tahoe, I’ll list ten fun things to do in Lake Tahoe below, including where to eat in Lake Tahoe!
10 Fun Things To Do in Lake Tahoe
- Visit Secret Cove (clothing optional beach)
- Hike the Rubicon Trail to Vikingsholm Castle and Emerald Bay
- Get Inspired at Inspiration Point Vista
- Enjoy Solitude at Hidden Lake North
- Walk the East Shore Tahoe Trail
- Explore Half Underwater, Half Above Water Boulders at Sand Harbor
- Rent Jetskis
- Mountain Bike the Flume Trail
- Stand Up Paddle Board to Bonsai Rock
- Take in the Views from a Gondola up to Heavenly Ski Resort and ride the Ridge Rider Coaster (sadly we did not get to do this activity, which was the #1 thing I was looking forward to, but they are closed on Mondays and the smoke was too bad, causing poor visibility. The cost is $71 per person, which includes both the gondola ride to the top of the mountain (over 10,000′ elevation) and the ridge rider coaster, which lasts just over one minute), so it wasn’t worth it to spend that kind of money and not see amazing views.)
This not-so-secret cove is a clothing-optional beach and has some the most stunningly clear water I’ve ever seen. It reminded me of coves that we saw in Greece and Italy during our travels abroad. Just plug in “Secret Cove” to Googlemaps and it’ll take you to the location. You’ll know you’re there because there are always cars lined along the street. Be careful parking because you’ll be on the side of a cliff. You’ll then need to find the not-so-obvious trail and head down a steep slippery hill.
Hike the Rubicon Trail to Vikingsholm Castle and Emerald Bay
The Rubicon Trail is one of the most popular trails in Lake Tahoe. The total mileage is 16.4 miles with 2,306′ elevation gain. Before your eyes glaze over, don’t worry, you don’t have to hike the entire trail! There are several entry points depending on how long you’d like to hike; even as short as one mile! The trail hugs the coast the entire way, so the views are jaw-droppingly gorgeous. We chose to park at D.L. Bliss State Park (what a name, hey?) and hike to Emerald Bay where Vikingsholm Castle is located. It ended up being about 7.5 miles round trip, but it’s easy because it’s relatively flat the entire time.
If you don’t feel like hiking 7.5 miles, you can also park at the Vikingsholm Trail and it’ll be a much shorter hike to the castle (1.7 miles round trip with 344′ of elevation gain.) A wealthy family purchased this land in 1928; Emerald Bay reminded her of her travels to Norway, so they hired a Swedish architect to design their home, which became their summer residence for many years. The State now owns the land and during non-Covid times you can take a tour of the interior of the castle.
*A note about bears*
Keep in mind at all times that you are in bear country. We stayed in South Lake Tahoe in an Airbnb just 8 minutes outside of the main part of town. We woke up one morning to our host screaming, “shit! Bear!” We didn’t think much of it because they have a large yard, so we figured they just saw a bear in the backyard. When we woke up, come to find out, a bear had actually opened the screen door to the mudroom and let itself into the house and was just outside of our bedroom door! How we wished we had poked our head out to see it!
Get Inspired at Inspiration Point Vista
You’ll pass this lookout if you’re coming from South Lake Tahoe, and it’s worth a stop, especially for sunset!
Enjoy Solitude at Hidden Lake North
This lovely beach hideaway is only accessible off the East Shore Tahoe Trail. You can park alongside the highway and walk to the trail.
Walk the East Shore Tahoe Trail
This trail is only 2.6 miles with 144′ of elevation gain and wraps around the lake with several secluded swimming spots and beaches to enjoy to yourself.
Explore Half Underwater, Half Above Water Boulders at Sand Harbor
Where To Eat in Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe is a very touristy town, so you’ll see a lot of the big chain restaurants that you would see in any resort destination, but we were able to find a few local gems.
- The Hangar – craft beers from all over the West with a huge outdoor seating area. You must purchase food (there is a taco truck on site)
- Poke Rok (poke bowls (raw fish))
My standards for poke are extremely high because I’m from Hawaii, and this place was pretty darn good!
- Primo’s Italian Restaurant
- Sprout’s Natural Foods Cafe (great smoothies and breakfast items)
- My Thai Cuisine
- Revive Coffee & Wine (breakfast)
Hopefully this gives you a good taste of what to expect in Lake Tahoe!
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