Top 5 Summer Outdoor Adventures in Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe features some of the clearest waters in the United States, is the second deepest lake in the country and, at 22 miles long and 12 miles wide, the largest alpine lake in North America.

South Lake Tahoe.
Photo credit: @c.by.eva.

Longing to spend some time on a crystalline, cobalt-blue lake ringed by snow-capped peaks, hike forest trails that lead to rushing waterfalls and lounge on a serene beach? This may seem like an utter fantasy, but the Lake Tahoe area, located on the border between California and Nevada, delivers all this and more.

Lake Tahoe features some of the clearest waters in the United States, is the second deepest lake in the country and, at 22 miles long and 12 miles wide, the largest alpine lake in North America. With a 72-mile shoreline that is 6,225 feet above sea level and surrounded by the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Lake Tahoe is an extremely popular ski destination during the winter and a haven for outdoor adventure in summer. 

Whether you bike or hike the mountain trails; cruise, fish, paddle or swim in the lake; soak up some rays along the shores; or raft the white waters of a nearby river, Lake Tahoe will give you a summer trip that will stay with you for life.

If you’re traveling to the Lake Tahoe area in the warm months, be sure to include these experiences.


Emerald Bay State Park

The most photographed spot in Lake Tahoe, this park provides a good overview of the area’s wow factors. Hike to the various overlooks and, from the various perspectives they offer, take in jaw-dropping views of Emerald Bay’s green-blue waters, the surrounding Sierra Nevada peaks, Fannette Island in the Bay with its famed tea house and Eagle Falls. Follow the trail down to Vikingsholm Castle (a 38-room Scandinavian-style mansion built as a summer home in 1929), walk along a sandy beach and explore the coves, and kayak out to Fannette Island to explore. Parking is a challenge, so it’s best to visit early in the morning. Boat tours of the bay are also available here.

Baldwin Beach

Though lacking shade, this long, expansive beach, located about 3 miles south of Emerald Bay, is less crowded than others and offers two nearby parking lots ($10 to park) and picnic tables. Expect a calm atmosphere and coarse sand with a rich yellowish tone that makes for a perfect visual foil to the amazing clear blue water. This is one of those rare places where you’ll be able to swim and see snow at the same time. Baldwin also makes for an ideal launch point for kayaks (rentals are available) headed to Emerald Bay—a truly unforgettable experience given the beautiful vistas.

Eagle Falls Trail to Eagle Falls and Eagle Lake

Eagle Falls Trail South Lake Tahoe.
Photo credit: @lewildexplorer.

Steep natural stone steps take you much of the way up Eagle Falls Trail. Along the way, you’ll see magnificent Emerald Bay in all its glory, as well as surrounding mountains—you’ll want to stop frequently to take pictures. To avoid crowds, go very early and catch the sunrise over the East side of Tahoe as it streams into Emerald Bay—the views are simply breathtaking and the sound of the rushing falls, which you’ll hear throughout the hike, are a perfect aural complement. Fit hikers will want to continue past the bridge and falls to see Eagle Lake at the top of the trail—though the hike gets much more difficult after the falls, many visitors feel the stunning lake is entirely worth the effort. Stay up there for a bit to catch your breath and enjoy the peace.

Truckee River Bike Trail

This well-paved, mostly flat 12-mile trail in the Tahoe area is great for walking, running and biking, whatever your age. Hugging the Truckee River from Tahoe City to the entrance of the Squaw Valley ski resort, the trail provides a smooth ride and beautiful views of towering trees, mountains and both calm waters and rapids. There are plenty of places alongside the river to hop off the trail and rest in the shade, picnic and watch rafters and kayakers glide by. Bike rentals are available at the bike shop.

Mount Judah Loop on Donner Summit

Up and over the hill from Lake Tahoe’s north shore, Truckee is a good base for an adventure-filled outing and this 5.5-mile-round-trip hike is one you won’t want to miss, despite its moderate difficulty. The well-marked trail up to the summit of Mt. Judah and back will take you through forests and fields of wildflowers and provide incredible views of Donner Lake. Once on the summit, you’ll see beautiful rock formations and get breathtaking views of Anderson Peak and Tinker’s Knob to the south, and Castle Peak and Sierra Buttes to the north.