Tahoe is one of the most beautiful cities in California; although some of it actually crosses into Nevada territory. Imagine a beautiful blue lake that is surrounded by the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It’s known for water activities in summer and ski resorts in the winter. Even if neither of those are really your thing, the beauty of Tahoe has something to offer everyone.
Having been to Tahoe both in the summer and winter, I 100% recommend going in the fall/winter months. Tahoe in the summer is not like the photos you see–beaches are packed with wall to wall people and parking is an absolute nightmare. While yes winter months will likely be too cold to enjoy activities on the water, I thought it was worth it because of how few people there were. Keep reading for the most picturesque spots in Tahoe!
The view of Emerald Bay is one of the most photographed spots in Tahoe. Emerald Bay is a National Natural Landmark featuring a bay that connects to larger Lake Tahoe with a small island in the middle. There’s a few different spots to view Emerald Bay! If you’re visiting in the summer I recommend viewing the bay from Maggies Peak Trailhead. About .25 miles into the hike there’s a beautiful viewpoint on the right. To date that’s the best viewpoint I’ve seen. In the winter months I recommend driving past Emerald Bay Viewpoint and pulling off to the right side of the road. The viewpoint is a pretty lousy view, there are entirely too many trees in the way.
Sand Harbor is one of the most beautiful spots in Tahoe. It’s actually my favorite spot and I can’t believe it’s the first time I’ve visited. It features a beach, with boulders popping through crystal clear water. I want to go back to Tahoe solely to visit this area again. The crystal clear water you see when you look at images of Tahoe are likely taken at this exact spot. This place during the summer is a Zoo, but in December there were only about a handful of others enjoying the coves. There is a $10 entrance fee to enter, but it’s totally worth it. This is a great place to take your paddle board!
MS Dixie II Cruise
If you want to get out on the water during winter time, taking a cruise around Lake Tahoe is a great way to do it. This is a fairly expensive activity, it was about $70/person and took about 2.5 hours. I felt it was a bit long of an activity, but you get to see a different perspective of Lake Tahoe being on the water. Sailing by the Vikingsholm Castle was so cool, I had no idea this place even existed. Next visit to Tahoe I want to take a tour of the castle.
If you’re visiting in the summer, I’d much prefer to rent a paddle board or kayak to be on the lake, but because it was a solid 50 degrees when we visited, I thought the cruise was a more enjoyable option.
Hikes with the BEST views in Tahoe
Maggies Peaks–3.6 miles, 1,761ft elevation
This is a GREAT hike in Tahoe. It’s short and sweet, but fairly uphill the entire way. It’s rated hard on All Trails due to the elevation gain. The hike features a beautiful lake and the top overlooks Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, and Desolation Wilderness. This hike is best done in late spring through the fall. Unless you’re an experienced hiker, I wouldn’t do this in the snow. We did it in June for sunset and it was incredible. Beware of the mosquitos by Granite Lake, I got eaten alive.
I have heard that Granite lake, which is 1 mile into the hike, freezes over in the winter and people actually ice skate on the lake. How dreamy is that?!
Monkey Rock–2.6 miles, 498 ft elevation gain
Monkey Rock is a great entry level hike with incredible views over lake tahoe! The hike got its name from a big boulder that looks exactly like a monkey. The views are beautiful almost the entire way. I love that you can see the shores of tahoe from this hike because you can see just how clear the water is.
Cave Rock–.08 miles
This isn’t much of a hike, but you have to climb up quite a bit of boulders to reach the top, I’d say most able bodied people would be able to do this and it leads to one of the BEST views in Tahoe. If you want to catch an epic sunset, this is the spot for you.
Tahoe East Shore Trail–2.6 miles, 144ft elevation
If you want a leisurely walk along the water, this is the one for you. You can reach a lot of great secluded beaches along this trail. It’s a nice paved path so a great spot to ride a bike, roller board, or jog.
What to Pack:
- Sunblock–No matter the time of year you’re visiting this is an essential! <<Check out Supergoop>>
- Hiking Boots–I recommend investing in a good pair of boots that’ll last you. I LOVE my danners. <<Shop Here>>
- If I’m not doing much of a hike and more so walking, I love these nikes. I’ve walked quite a bit of miles in them. <<Check out walking shoes here>>
- Merino Wool Base Layers–Winter months in Tahoe are a bit chillier–I loved having a base layer to keep me warm during the day. <<Check out Merino Wool here>>
- Jacket–Bringing a jacket is essential, even if it’s just for evenings when the temperatures drop. <<Shop my jacket here>>
- Day Pack–Even if you’re not hiking, its convenient to have everything located in a day pack. I love the osprey brand. <<Check out my day pack>>
- First Aid Kit–I always have this in my hiking bag in case of emergency. It’s always good to carry one. <<Check out first aid kit here>>
- Camera— This place is so easy to capture because of how beautiful it is. <<Shop my camera here>>
- Lens–Great lens for landscape photography. <<Shop Tamron Lens Here>>
- Water Bottle–Highly recommend bringing a water bottle to avoid plastic waste. Hydro Flasks are worth the price. <<Shop hydro flasks here>>
- Snacks–Hear me out, yes these may be eaten primarily by children, BUT I love these. I always throw a couple of these in my backpack because they’re perfect when you need a quick snack. <<Check out smoothie packs here>>
I’ve explored a lot of places the last few years and Tahoe will always be one of my favorites. I cannot recommend this city enough, but a lot of people feel the same way so it gets crowded. Consider visiting in the shoulder months so you can enjoy the popular spots without the waves of people.