Lake Tahoe is one of the most surreal places I have ever visited. Here is what to do in Lake Tahoe if your adventurous heart has the opportunity to visit this magical place during the summer.
About Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe sits over the state line between California and Nevada. It is a beautiful body of freshwater with the prettiest hues of blues and surrounded by stunning mountain views and tall pine trees.
The closest commercial airport is the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. The drive from the airport to North Lake Tahoe is about 45 minutes, which is not too shabby, eh? And the drive from the airport to South Lake Tahoe is about an hour and fifteen minutes, which is still a short drive.
Whether it’s wintertime, summertime, or any other season in-between, Lake Tahoe has something for every wanderer.
What to do in Lake Tahoe: Summer Adventures
Based on when you decide to visit, there are plenty of activities to choose from. For example, during the winter, you can ski, snowboard, ice skate, snowmobile, you name it. But if you decide to visit during the summer, just like I did a few weeks ago, there is also a lot to do and see. Below is a list of the top things to do during the summer.
Memorial Point Scenic Overlook
If you’re a fan of picturesque pit stops, I highly recommend to add the Memorial Point Scenic Overlook to your itinerary. The Memorial Point Scenic Overlook is perfect for breathtaking panoramic views of Lake Tahoe. It is conveniently located off of Highway 28, which is the scenic route to South Lake Tahoe, between Incline Village and Sand Harbor. Parking is free and there’s a short trail that will take you to the shore.
If you’re looking for an adventure here, you can fish, have a picnic, or go bouldering, which means to climb on the boulders. The term bouldering wasn’t in my vocabulary before going on this trip – the more you travel, the more you learn, ya know?
Tahoe East Shore Trail
Dubbed as “America’s Most Beautiful Bikeway”, Tahoe East Shore Trail was completed in 2019. It is a 10-foot wide paved sidewalk that extends three miles long, making it perfect for walking, biking, or running. There are a few ways to access the trail and here is a really good resource explaining what you need to know before you go. We didn’t actually bike the three mile stretch but I would love to next time.
Sand Harbor Beach
We visited Sand Harbor Beach for our paddle board excursion. In fact, you can boat, kayak, hike, swim, scuba dive, sunbathe, or simply hang out by the beach. This beach is incredibly beautiful and cannot recommend it enough. The water is insanely crystal clear with the prettiest hues of blues. It is close to North Lake Tahoe but if you’re driving from South Lake Tahoe, the drive is approximately 35 minutes.
The beach opens at 7 a.m. until one hour after sunset, 365 days a year. The entrance fee is $10 for Nevada residents and $15 for non-Nevada vehicles. The biggest tip I can give you is to ARRIVE EARLY because the parking lot gets full pretty quickly after it opens. Once the parking lot is full, it closes to the public.
For information on renting a kayak, or standup paddle board (SUP), check out Sand Harbor Rentals’ website here. If you scroll to the bottom, you’ll see a section for reservations. By the way, it is totally possible to rent equipment without a reservation. As long as you arrive early, you should be fine. We showed up without a reservation and managed to rent two paddle boards without an issue. Oh, and they only accept card payments.
Emerald Bay State Park
Emerald Bay State Park is located on the California side of Lake Tahoe, about 20 minutes away from South Lake Tahoe. In 1969, it was considered a National Natural Landmark by the federal Department of Interior. It features a beautiful castle (known as Vikingsholm), Fannette Island, and Eagle Falls.
Just like every other landmark at Lake Tahoe, the parking lot tends to get full pretty quickly. So if you’re planning to drive to Emerald Bay State Park, arrive early or be prepared to wait a while to find a parking spot.
Once you park, you’ll see the Emerald Bay State Park Lookout, which is a perfect location to observe and take in the beauty this majestic place has to offer. After taking a few panoramic photos, if your adventurous heart yearns for more, I highly encourage you to hike down the Vikingsholm Trail, which is about 1 mile (or 18 minutes) to the Vikingsholm Castle. Once you see the Vikingsholm Castle, you’ll see Emerald Bay Beach. (If you’re not used to the high elevation, take your time on the hike. It’s pretty flat for the most part but I could definitely feel the incline going up.)
- Vikingsholm Castle
- Built in 1929, this is a 38-room Scandinavian mansion on the shore of Emerald Bay and on the National Register of Historic Places. It was a summer hideaway for Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight. To learn more about this historic mansion, and to book a tour, head over to this website.
- Fannette Island
- This is Lake Tahoe’s only island and it is located right in the middle of Emerald Bay. It’s also known as the Tea House, where Mrs. Knight would sit back and enjoy her afternoon tea. The popular way to visit is by kayak or standup paddle board (SUP).
- Eagle Falls
- Eagle Falls is a set of waterfalls that eventually cascade down into the creek that runs into Emerald Bay and can be seen during the spring melt. It’s a 2-minute drive from the Emerald Bay State Park Lookout.
Edgewood Tahoe Resort
Edgewood Tahoe was hands down one of my favorite places to visit because of the views, lounge area, and overall aesthetic. Hopefully one day I can go back and stay at the resort. Also, it is Tahoe’s only lakefront golf resort and home to the American Century Celebrity Championship. Pretty cool, huh?
If you can book your stay at the resort, great! If you rather visit, I would go for either breakfast, lunch, dinner, or cocktails. Just be sure to book a reservation and you’re all set! They have a beautiful indoor space with a fireplace that’s ideal to enjoy a glass of cabernet. If you prefer the outdoors, hang out on their beautiful patio surrounded by a gorgeous landscape area and tall pine trees that offer the perfect amount of shade during the summer. At night, when it tends to get chilly, you can sip your glass of wine by the fire pit.
I noticed South Lake Tahoe was a popular spot for bachelor and bachelorette parties and now I know why. People who love the great outdoors, and want to experience the casino nightlife, South Lake Tahoe has the best of both worlds. And to be totally transparent, the nightlife caught me off guard because who would have thought?!?
With four popular casinos to choose from, you will definitely be entertained. They are all walking distance from each other making it super convenient for those night owls.
- Harveys Lake Tahoe
- Harveys has undergone a number of upgrades and remodels over the years. It is currently owned and operated by Caesars Entertainment. The Sage Room steak house, on the 19th floor, has gorgeous views of Lake Tahoe. If you visit in the summer, Harveys hosts the Summer Concert Series in their outdoor amphitheater.
- Harrah’s Lake Tahoe
- Harrah’s is directly across Highway 50 from Harveys. In addition to the table games such as roulette, craps, and baccarat, you’ll find a variety of dining options, the PEEK nightclub, and the Cliché Lounge. If I were you, I would book a reservation at Friday’s Station, which is located on the top floor, which means it features beautiful views from every table.
- MontBleu Resort, Casino & Spa
- Founded in 2006, MontBleu is known for hosting live entertainment from music to comedy on weekends. It offers a wide variety of restaurants from a steakhouse, casual dining, craft beer, and an assortment of adult gaming options. There’s also the Opal Ultra Lounge, which is perfect to dance the night away.
- Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
- This casino originally opened as Del Webb’s Sahara Tahoe in 1965. Did you know Elvis Presley was the opening act and the featured act from 1971-1975?!? Also, his penthouse was available to guests when he wasn’t in-house. Although ownership has changed over the years, the focus has always been to preserve its musical legacy. To this day, Hard Rock is known for live music on the weekends and its after-hours club, Vinyl.
Whether you are craving blue majestic waters, or a fun night out in the town, South Lake Tahoe has something for everyone. The only thing to consider is the wildfire season, which tends to peak between July and November.
I hope this blog post is helpful but if you still have questions, please email email@example.com or send a DM on Instagram. I would be happy to help! Oh, and one last thing, if you decide to explore Reno, here is a guide on what to do and where to eat. All of the recommendations came from my friend, who is a local in the area.
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