Things to do in Lake Tahoe.
Home » Northern California » 18 BEST Things to Do in Lake Tahoe in Summer

18 BEST Things to Do in Lake Tahoe in Summer

Sharing is caring!

As the largest alpine lake in North America, you can bet there are plenty of things to do in Lake Tahoe!

Known for its stunning cobalt blue waters and epic mountainous surroundings, it is not surprising it brings visitors from far and wide.

After road tripping here numerous times over the years, these are our top things to do in Lake Tahoe in summer!

1. Paddle to Fannette Island Tea House

One of the most unique and magical things to do in Lake Tahoe is kayaking to Fannette Island Tea House.

Red and yellow kayaks on a small beach on Fannette Island in the middle of Lake Tahoe with trees and bushes everywhere.
Kayakers “moored” up on Fannette Island.

The small island sits surrounded by the beautiful blue waters of the lake, calling for people to grace its shores. Sitting atop the island is an old tea house, now just an abandoned structure.

You can hire a kayak here, so you don’t have to worry about bringing your own, and then it is time to set off! The island is just a short paddle away, and your surroundings are spectacular.

A mother and son in a yellow kayak on Lake Tahoe with trees and mountains in the distance.
The views while kayaking are incredible!

When you reach the island, take a short, 10-minute uphill walk to the teahouse. The views from the summit are stunning, and you can get some great shots from the windows.

2. Road Trip Around the Shore

If you are short on time but still want to see the lake from all angles and better understand its history and geology, take this self-guided driving tour.

White campervan parked in a public car park with a view of Cave Rock beside Lake Tahoe.
Take a road trip around the lake!

Download the app, and it will be your tour guide as you traverse the 88 miles around the lake, stopping at some of the best spots.

As you drive, you’ll be able to view impressive homes inspired by Viking longhouses, Emerald Bay and its scenic magic, beautiful Eagle Falls, and hear the history behind the supposedly haunted Fannette Island.

Many tourists crossing the bridge over the top of Eagle Falls in Northern California.
Crossing the bridge at Eagle Falls.

Visit scenic bays like Carnelian and Meeks, and stop for a picnic at Kings Beach. There is so much more in this tour, and the beauty of it being self-guided means you can stop for as long or as little as you want.

3. Take in the Best Viewpoints

Views, views, and more views! We couldn’t get enough of them, and we bet you won’t be able to either!

Nina in a purple top posing along the Emerald Bay lookout trail with a view of boats sailing on the lake.
Along the Emerald Bay Lookout Trail.

Lake Tahoe is incredibly beautiful everywhere you look, full of bright blues and greens, no matter the time of year. Yet there are some specific spots where the views will take your breath away.

Here are just a few of our favorites:

  • Take in views of Emerald Bay and the wider Lake Tahoe from above at the Emerald Bay State Park Lookout.
  • Straddling the state line, the Historic Stateline Trail once had a fire lookout tower, but now it has panoramic views of the lake at the top!
  • On the east side of the lake, you can reach Monkey Rock via a 2.5-mile hike with a rock formation that supposedly looks like a monkey (shocker!), backed by incredible lake views.
  • The Memorial Point Scenic Overlook offers one of the best views of the lake with little effort.
A view over the blue water around a rocky area of Lake Tahoe as seen from Memorial Point Scenic Lookout.
Memorial Point Scenic Lookout.

READ MORE: 12 BEST Views of Lake Tahoe

4. Spot Wildlife

Humans are not the only creatures enjoying the beauty and diversity of the Lake Tahoe Basin; many animals also call it their home, and there is a good chance you could spot some during your visit.

A black bear resting his paws on a tree in a lake.
Keep an eye out for black bears!

The first creature we must mention is the black bear, which can be seen around the lake all year round. You have to keep your wits about you, as we had a bear at our campsite at Emerald Bay during dinner time!

Overall, bear sightings are pretty rare, though. You are much more likely to see coyotes, squirrels, raccoons, chipmunks, groundhogs, martens, beavers, and mink—even porcupines or Golden Eagles if you are really lucky.

A chipmunk sitting on a rock and eating a nut.
How adorable are chipmunks!

Although wildlife can be found all over the lake basin, there are a few spots where your wildlife sightings might be a little more likely, such as the Mt. Rose Wilderness, Desolation Wilderness, Luther Park Campground, and Granite Chief Wilderness, to name a few.

5. Go For a Swim—Coolest Thing to Do in Lake Tahoe in Summer

You can’t visit Lake Tahoe without taking a dip in its inviting waters. (Unless it’s winter, of course, then you’re forgiven)

However, as it is the second deepest lake in the US, the waters are always cold, even on a hot day! Many places around the shores are perfect for taking a tip, but here are some of the best spots in Lake Tahoe:

Tourists swimming in Lake Tahoe at Sand Harbor Beach with boats and kayak while standing on rocks in the water.
Sand Harbor Beach on a busy day!
  • Sand Harbor is probably the most popular swimming beach around the lake. It consists of two crescents of sand, boulders to bathe on, and easy access to the water. All the facilities you could need for a day of swimming, including restrooms and parking, are here.
  • Sugar Pine Point has a beautiful sandy beach and relatively calm waters, making it the perfect place for a dip.
  • Kings Beach in the north is another excellent spot for a swim, as it’s the largest public beach and apparently even has some of the warmest waters!

6. Learn About the History of the Lake at Gatekeepers Museum and Tahoe Dam

For a unique way to explore the area’s history, visit the quaint Gatekeepers Museum. The museum is home to a complete replica of the house built during the time the dam was manned, as well as the old dam and bridge.

A family cycling past the bridge that sits over Tahoe Dam with trees all around.
Cycling past Tahoe Dam.

You can walk across this architectural masterpiece and take in the dam before heading into the museum to learn more about the area’s history while also learning more about Native American baskets and bears!

7. Tackle the Rubicon Trail

Distance: 16.4 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 2,339 feet

Other important info:

  • No dogs allowed
  • There is a day use parking fee required for this trail
  • Roads leading to the trailhead are subject to seasonal closure

The Rubicon Trail is one of the best and most iconic hikes around Lake Tahoe and our personal favorite.

It is a long one, just over 16 miles, stretching from D.L.Bliss State Park to the Vikingsholm Estate, but you don’t have to tackle it all in one go. If you do, there are campsites at either end.

The stone Vikingsholm mansion build in the middle of the forest with a backdrop of mountains.
Vikingsholm Castle.

The trail takes you up to viewpoints and down to the shores of Emerald Bay, along cliffs, through forests, up switchbacks, and diverse terrain, with a stunning backdrop of the snow-dusted mountains; it is one of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe.

TIP: It is worth taking a short detour to the old wooden lighthouse, which creates a great photo overlooking the lake.

A small wooden antique lighthouse perched on the cliffs along the Rubicon Trail surrounded by trees and the lake.
The old wooden lighthouse in question!

READ MORE: Rubicon Trail—Lake Tahoe’s Most Worth It Hike!

8. Go to the Beach—Best Thing to Do in Lake Tahoe in Summer!

When planning things to do in Lake Tahoe in summer what’s better than going to the beach!? The water will still be cold but on a nice summer day, you can’t go wrong! Here are a few of our favorite beaches to bask on:

Tourists paddling in the turquoise waters of Secret Cove Beach along the shoreline of Lake Tahoe.
Secret Cove Beach.
  • Pope Beach – This huge beach stretches for three-quarters of a mile and is perfect for swimming and picnicking on the South Shore, with plenty of shade from the surrounding pines and a boat launch to get out on the water.
  • Lester Beach – This is a beautiful stretch of beach with an almost lagoon-like swimming area located in D.L. Bliss State Park.
  • Sand Harbor – Sand Harbor is a stunning beach for swimming and sunbathing with great facilities. There is also a boat launch and a popular area for scuba diving is nearby.
  • Kings Beach – One of the largest public access sandy beaches around the lake, with a huge expanse of white sand, picnic benches, places to hire a kayak and other watercraft, BBQs and a gentle slope down into the water.
  • Secret Harbor Beaches – A cluster of beaches, Secret Cove Beach being the most popular, that is absolutely stunning on the lake’s northeastern end. You have to hike to get to these, but they are so worth it! Personally, we think these are the best beaches in Lake Tahoe!
Kayaker, paddle boarders and tourists enjoying a sunny day on Kings Beach beside Lake Tahoe.
Kings Beach.

9. Drive Through a Mountain at Cave Rock

It’s not very often you get to drive directly through a massive rock on the side of a mountain next to a vast lake, but Cave Rock allows you to do just that.

Driving down a highway beside Lake Tahoe and heading through a tunnel that leads through the giant Cave Rock on a sunny day.
Heading towards Cave Rock tunnel!

In addition to this incredible rock formation, there is a day-use area and a hike here, so you can easily make a day of it.

You can get out on the water for swimming, boating, and fishing, and while you are doing so, don’t forget to look back at the rock and see if you can see the woman’s face.

An empty picnic bench in the Cave Rock day use area with a view of Cave Rock beside Lake Tahoe in the distance.
Cave Rock day use area.

There are picnic tables and BBQ pits for a leisurely lunch, and if you are up for stretching your legs, take the Cave Rock hike along the shores to the base of the formation.

10. Take a Kayak Out on the Lake

The blue waters of Lake Tahoe are incredibly inviting, and what better way to experience the glassy waters than on a kayak, one of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe in summer?

There are around 20 public launch sites and 72 miles of shoreline, so picking a spot can be tricky, but in our opinion, some spots are better than others.

Two kayaks on Lake Tahoe near Emerald Bay with a forest in the backdrop.
Scenic kayaking at Emerald Bay!
  • Emerald Bay State Park is one of the most spectacular places to kayak, with its stunning waters and incredible coastline.
  • Sand Harbor is nice and easy, and the views are beautiful. You can stay in the calmer waters of the northern beach or access more open water at the southern beach.
  • Zephyr Cove can be fun because of the protected coastline and large granite boulders that stick out of the water.
  • El Dorado Beach is another good launch site, as there are plenty of facilities and a boat ramp.
Kayaks lined up on El Dorado Beach with two jetties on Lake Tahoe and a mountain view in the distance.
El Dorado Beach.

Check out this guided kayak tour for a deeper intro to Lake Tahoe.

11. Relax on a Sightseeing Cruise—Chillest Thing to Do in Lake Tahoe

One of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe is to get out on the lake!

While you can hire boats and kayaks, why not let someone else do your hard work? This scenic sunset cruise takes you to some of the most scenic parts of the lake, such as the beautiful Emerald Bay.

Enjoy a range of snacks and sip on a glass of something cold and bubbling as you cruise and watch the sun go down.

A white cruise boat on Lake Tahoe sailing past a tree-covered Fannette Island.
Cruising past Fannette Island!

Your vantage point puts you in a prime position to see the snow-capped mountains surrounding you, as well as glimpses of Fannette Island and Vikingsholm Castle.

There are places to sit both inside and outside, so the cruise can be enjoyed even on a cold day while you listen to some humorous commentary by the captain. Book a Lake Tahoe cruise here.

12. Chase a Waterfall

If the incredible blue waters of Lake Tahoe are not enough, the surrounding area is home to some spectacular waterfalls.

Glen Alpine Falls is vast; you can get up close and personal with the gushing water. The lower falls are powerful at 30 feet, but they push on upwards to the upper falls for 60 feet and tumble over the rocks.

A long exposure of the Lower Glen Alpine Falls at sunset with trees around.
Lower Glen Alpine Falls at sunset.

Eagle Falls is another must-see. It’s only a half-mile round trip to this double-pludge waterfall. If you don’t want to hike, one portion of the falls is really close to the road.

Nina in hiking gear standing beside Eagle Falls surrounded by rocks and trees.
Enjoying the view at Eagle Falls!

Kings Canyon waterfall is a short drive from the lake, but when you reach the trailhead, you will only have to walk 0.25 miles to reach the falls and it is well worth the excursion.

13. Go on a Hike—Our Fav Thing to Do in Lake Tahoe!

Hiking is one of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe in summer. There are so many to choose from, but these are some of the best.

A group of hikers standing at the peak of Monkey Rock with a brilliant view over Lake Tahoe and mountains in the distance.
The view from Monkey Rock!
  • Eagle Lake Trail – This incredible trail not only takes you to a stunning alpine lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains but also to a beautiful waterfall and lofty views of Lake Tahoe.
  • Skunk Harbor – Follow the winding forest paths of the Skunk Harbor Trail to a hidden beach on the lake’s shores, away from the crowds.
  • Monkey Rock – This is a fun hike that follows the East Shore Trail for a while before climbing up to Monkey Rock, where the panoramic views of the lake will take your breath away.
  • Balancing Rock – The Balancing Rock Trail takes you somewhere a little different. You’ll be taken to the geological wonder that is Balancing Rock, with some lovely Lake Tahoe views thrown in as a bonus.
  • Rubicon Trail – We already mentioned this one above, but it’s one of the best around the lake. Don’t forget you can hike portions of it if you don’t have time for the whole thing.
Balanced Rock in the middle of the forests of DL Bliss State Park on a sunny day.
Balancing Rock Trail.

14. Attend a Free Concert

Every year, Lake Tahoe hosts an incredible music concert series right on the lake’s shores, and all for free.

Throughout June and August, you could spend your Thursday evening listening to incredible artists on the beach of Lakeview Commons in South Lake Tahoe. It’s one of the most popular things to do in Lake Tahoe in summer.

A crowd of people with their hands in the air at a concert shining yellow and purple lights.
These concerts are always lively!

The amphitheater-style seating ensures everyone gets a good view. For a different kind of view, head to the beer garden right on the shores and enjoy a pint next to the water. There are also plenty of delicious food vendors if you are feeling peckish.

15. Go to Town

There are two main towns around the lake, South Lake and Incline Village, and both make a good stop as a base or if you are craving a bit of town life.

South Lake is on the state line, and a big chunk of the town is set up for tourism. We don’t mean that in a bad way. If you are on the hunt for gift shops, cafes, and restaurants, you won’t be short of them in South Lake.

Customers inside South Lake Brewing Company sitting at the bar and on tables with decorative barrels around.
Inside of South Lake Brewing Company.

There are plenty of places to stay, art galleries, and museums. There are plenty of events throughout the year, including farmers markets, concerts, and sporting events, so check the calendar before you arrive.

Incline Village is the quieter option, but plenty of lodging options exist, from hotels to B&Bs. We have heard the town described as one big country club, and we see what they mean.

The exterior of Tahoe Bike company seen from the road with trees behind it on a sunny day in South Lake.
Bike rentals in South Lake.

It is distinctly upscale, and there are plenty of activities to choose from, including tennis, skiing, golfing, mountain biking, water sports, and more. There are also plenty of shops to stock up on adventuring supplies and pick up a few souvenirs.

16. Cycle the Tahoe East Shore Trail

Distance: 5.2 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Gain: 344 feet

Other important info:

  • Leashed dogs are welcome
  • No fee is required for this trail (depending on where you park)
  • This is an accessible trail

Take the trails by bike to cover more ground. A great cycling route is the Tahoe East Shore Trail. The trail has been named one of America’s most beautiful bikeways and provides access to lovely private beaches and coves.

Two girls cycling along the paved pathway of the Tahoe East Shore Trail with a view of the blue water of the lake and trees along the trail.
East Shore Trail is a great place to cycle!

The trail lies just below the road that borders the east shore, so you are pretty much as close to the lake as you can be. It is paved for a comfortable riding experience.

At three miles in length, you can go from Incline Village all the way to Sand Harbor State Park, with 11 beach access points. So don’t forget to bring a towel and a change of clothes.

Aerial view overlooking the Tahoe East Shore Trail as people walk along the paved pathway between trees with a view of Lake Tahoe to the left.
It’s also a great place for a stroll!

There are also 13 vista points along the route, so plan to spend much longer on the trail than you might expect. If you don’t have a bike to bring, there are a few places to rent a bike for the day or just walk it!

17. Spend the Day at Emerald Bay—An Iconic Thing to Do in Lake Tahoe

Emerald Bay State Park is arguably one of the most beautiful parts of Lake Tahoe and should be on your list of things to do in Lake Tahoe. If you only have time for one small area, choose Emerald Bay.

Tourists on a beach in Emerald Bay beside a giant lakeside tree and lots of other trees around.
Enjoy the beaches of Emerald Bay.

The area is so incredibly scenic that it has been named a National Natural Landmark and an Underwater State Park. It features striking green and blue waters, dark green pines, and a mountainous backdrop.

One of the main things to do at Emerald Bay is taking a tour of Vikingsholm Castle, a mansion with a staggering 38 rooms featuring Scandinavian architecture.

Nina crossing a small wooden bridge along the Rubicon Trail besides the lake of Emerald Bay.
One of the many stunning trails along Emerald Bay.

There are also many trails in and around the park, beautiful beaches to relax on, and places to put in a kayak and get up close to the crystalline waters.

Just don’t forget to check out Inspiration Point and Emerald Bay State Park Lookout for awesome views from above.

A view over the lake, forests and mountains of Emerald Bay State Park from the lookout.
The view over Emerald Bay from the lookout!

TIP: We found the parking to be pretty bad, it’s busy here! So, if you find a spot, we advise that you stay there for the day and use the trails to move from one area to the next.

18. Spend the Summer at a Ski Resort

There are a few incredible places to ski around the lake, and although they come to life with ski runs and a lively atmosphere in winter, they don’t just shut down over summer—far from it.

Heavenly Ski Resort has a whole summer program. You can take a sightseeing ride up the gondola for views without a hike, go panning for gemstones, and even go tubing in the middle of summer.

View over Lake Tahoe and the surrounding area as seen from the gondola.
Lake Tahoe from a gondola in the summer!

While there, you could also check out the shops and cafes for a full day out. It even has a free summer concert series.

Northstar California Resort is another great option. It is home to the Northstar Bike Park, where you can get an adrenaline rush heading down slopes, exchanging skis for wheels.

Alternatively, you can simply use the chairlift to reach scenic seclusion and some prime picnic spots.  

Where to Stay in Lake Tahoe

If you’re camping, we loved staying at the Eagle Point Campground. It’s located at Emerald Bay, so it doesn’t get much better!

If camping isn’t your thing, you’ll want to base around Incline Village in the north or South Lake Tahoe. Check out the most recommended for both areas:

👉 Accommodation in Incline Village

👉 Accommodation in South Lake Tahoe

Read more of our guides to Lake Tahoe:

We hope this helped you choose the best things to do in Lake Tahoe in summer for your trip!

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *