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Lake Tahoe locals often say, “You come for the winters, and stay for the summers.” So very true. Even winter sports enthusiasts like myself can’t deny that much of Tahoe’s magic is found in the sunnier months. As much as I love the snowy peaks around the lake, the summer in Lake Tahoe is what stole my heart.
It will steal your heart, too. This place isn’t called the “Caribbean of the Mountains” for nothing.
Get in the Water
With over 72 miles of shoreline, it won’t be difficult to find a Lake Tahoe beach. With so many to choose from, it may be tricky for someone new to the area to find the real gems. Sand Harbor is perhaps the most popular of all the beaches on the lake, but you should try one of these other options if you want a less crowded experience.
Rent a clear kayak and explore the blue shallows near Kings Beach. You can find a crystal-clear kayak at Wild Society, right near the beach parking lot. They rent single or double kayaks and give guided tours. If you would rather just have a beach day, the shallow waters are warm and great for swimming.
My personal favorite place to post an umbrella for the day is Nevada Beach. They have a popular campground right on the water, but the beach is also open for day use. This is the best view of the lake for a summer sunset, so lay down a blanket and enjoy the show! Wakeboarding, paddle boarding, kayaking… Bring any and all of your gear and hit the water. Dogs love it here, too. There is a designated area for pets next to a wooded trail on one side of the beach: let your doggo off the lead and play fetch in the sand.
Free beaches can often be found at the end of hiking trails. Park along Rte. 28 on the east side of the lake (in a safe and legal spot!) and hike down with your supplies. This area is near Sand Harbor, so you get all the views and serenity of the east side of the lake without the horrible crowds. Remember to be responsible and clean up after yourself… Tahoe deserves better than litterbugs.
Hit the Trails
Because it sits high in the mountains, Lake Tahoe doesn’t get intensely hot. Usually sunny with a nice breeze, it has the perfect weather for hiking. When you’re ready to hit the trails, check out these awesome day hikes.
If you have kids, take them to Monkey Rock. After a 1 mile walk up a gentle incline, they can explore the trails and see a view of Lake Tahoe. The trail gets its name from the giant monkey carved from a boulder at the top. The kids will have to search to see it, but once they find it you’ll have a great family photo to take!
A good medium-length day trip is Castle Rock. At around 3 miles, it’s quick but a great workout. The brave can climb up the final cliff for an amazing view of Stateline, NV, and Lake Tahoe. The trail is well-suited for mountain biking, and rock climbers often boulder along the top of the mountain.
A popular summer hike is a trail down to Vikingsholm, a small castle in Emerald Bay. Yes- it’s a castle! The hike is short at only 1.7 miles, but it’s a steep climb back uphill. If you plan to spend a day at the beach at the bottom, make sure you are hydrated and prepared to make the trip back up to the parking lot. Trust me, though, you will want to bring a picnic basket and set up for the day. Emerald Bay is the jewel of Lake Tahoe. You can scuba-dive and see an old shipwreck, or rent kayaks and paddleboards on the beach to visit the island in the center of the bay.
Mt. Tallac is the pinnacle of day hikes around Lake Tahoe. At a steep 10.5 miles, it should only be attempted by experienced and prepared hikers. Once you reach the summit, you’ll be rewarded with the highest view of Emerald Bay and the Desolation Wilderness. If you’re an early riser, get on the trail an hour or two before sunrise to catch a colorful display over the lake from halfway up the mountain. Bring plenty of water: the day will be hot by the time you get back to the parking lot. Pro tip: jump in the nearby Fallen Leaf Lake to cool off when you finish!
It doesn’t get more “Tahoe” than sipping a cocktail on the beach and having some fried fish. There are so many beachside restaurants around the lake, you’ll usually find one within walking distance of the popular areas. For one example, Kokanee Bar and Grill at Sand Harbor beach has cheap but yummy food and a full bar.
For a fine dining experience that really brings out the summer, visit Kalani’s. A high-class Hawaiian restaurant, Kalani’s serves everything from chef-crafted sushi rolls to fresh seafood to perfectly cooked steaks. They have the BEST mahi-mahi you will ever try! Just leave some room for their hula pie dessert… you’ll thank me later.
For my fellow brewery-lovers, visit the South of North Brewing Company. Fantastic brews and satisfying food options are only part of the deal. They also have a large outdoor seating area with twinkling lights and live music almost every night. Check out the open mic hours on Tuesdays to hear the local talent (and try it yourself!).
When the sun goes down, try your luck in one of the many South Lake Tahoe casinos or visit one of the dance clubs. Lake Tahoe Aleworx turns from a restaurant to a small dance hall after dark. Though small, it is very popular: you will want to get in line at the right time or risk a long wait. Opal Ultra Lounge is the place to go if you’re looking for a party. Inside the Mont Bleu Casino, it’s the best in town for larger groups because of the intense setting and large dancefloor.
Spend Your Summer Trip in Tahoe
With so much to see and do, Lake Tahoe is the perfect summer destination. For singles, couples, families, or groups of friends, there is something for everyone. Start planning your trip now!