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A First Timer's Guide to Lake Tahoe

sand harbor lake tahoe turquoise water blue
Sand Harbor

It’s no secret that Northern California has some of the most scenic landscapes in the state — Lake Tahoe ranks as one of the top destinations on my list. With its incredibly diverse scenery, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Lake Tahoe draws over 2.5 million visitors a year. Explore its turquoise lake, expansive mountain ranges, lakefront beaches, and pine forests with this travel guide:

Quick Facts About Lake Tahoe

  • Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains

  • Second deepest lake in the U.S.

  • Lies across the California and Nevada border

  • Over 20 million years old — making it one of the 20 oldest lakes in the world

Where to Stay in Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe offers numerous accommodation options including Airbnb’s, cabin rentals, and hotels. Accommodations can be found in both South Lake Tahoe and North Lake Tahoe. Here are a few top-rated spots to check out:

South Lake Tahoe

  • Hotel Azure

  • The Landing Tahoe Resort & Spa

  • Grand Residences by Marriott, Lake Tahoe

North Lake Tahoe

  • Cedar Glen Lodge

  • Red Wolf Lakeside Lodge

  • Northstar Lodge by Welk Resorts

Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park Lake Tahoe Turquoise Water Blue
Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park

When to Visit Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe can be visited year-round, and is abundant in outdoor recreational activities for all seasons.

Spring (March-May): The weather during spring fluctuates — it’s generally mild and even warm on some days, but can snow in the earlier months. If weather permits, outdoor activities include waterfall hikes, mountain biking, and lake cruises.

Summer (June-August): With temperatures in the high 70s, summer is a popular time to visit Lake Tahoe as most outdoor activities are open — hiking, kayaking, paddleboarding, boating, and jet skiing to name a few.

Fall (September-November): Fall is the perfect time to visit Lake Tahoe as there are less crowds and the temperatures become cooler. Tip: Visit during October for fall foliage viewing.

Winter (December-February): You can expect snowy winters in Lake Tahoe, making it another popular time to visit and participate in outdoor activities such as snowboarding, skiing, and snowshoeing.

Emerald Bay State Park Lake Tahoe Water Blue Fannette Island Kayaking
Emerald Bay State Park

Getting Around Lake Tahoe

The 72-mile road that ribbons along Lake Tahoe is best explored by car as it will allow you to travel at your own pace and enjoy the views at leisure. If you're visiting in winter, note that some sections of Highway 89 may be closed due to snow — you can check here for updated road conditions.

Where to Visit in Lake Tahoe

Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park Turquoise Lake Tahoe Water Blue
Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park

Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park: Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park features a picturesque pier that sits atop turquoise waters, overlooks the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and is nestled amongst pine and cedar trees. It’s a must-see in Lake Tahoe, and has easily become one of my favorite places to visit in the area.

Emerald Bay State Park Lake Tahoe Blue Water Fannette Island Inspiration Point Vista
Emerald Bay State Park

Emerald Bay State Park: Emerald Bay State Park is one of the most popular attractions in Lake Tahoe, and with good reason — it features a deep blue lake surrounded by a dense pine forest. Be sure to stop by Inspiration Point Vista for a panoramic view of the lake and Lake Tahoe’s only island, Fannette Island.

Trail Secret Cove Beach Lake Tahoe Rock Formations
Trail to Secret Cove Beach

Secret Cove Beach Lake Tahoe Water Rock Formations Pine Trees
Secret Cove Beach

Secret Cove Beach: Visit Secret Cove Beach to witness its vivid turquoise waters and large rock formations. The 0.9-mile loop trail is stunningly scenic — it lies amidst towering pine trees and offers glimmering lake views along the way.

Sand Harbor Lake Tahoe Rock Formations
Sand Harbor

Sand Harbor: For kayaking and paddleboarding activities, visit Sand Harbor which also features large rock formations and turquoise waters.

Kings Beach North Lake Tahoe
Kings Beach

Kings Beach North Lake Tahoe
Kings Beach

Kings Beach: Kings Beach is a popular lakefront beach in North Lake Tahoe. It’s the perfect place to have lunch while enjoying scenic views as there are several picnic tables available. Kings Beach also features a pier that sits atop ridiculously clear water.

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