The Best of Lake Tahoe in 24 Hours (All the Must See Spots!)
Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful places in the world and can be enjoyed year round and even in a short amount of time. During the cold months you’ll find a gorgeous winter wonderland and in the summer you’ll find the most stunning blue waters you’ve ever seen (it’s unreal!). In this blog post, I will tell you all the best things to do in Lake Tahoe in a weekend to maximize your time.
Lake Tahoe is one of my favorite getaways in California (it actually borders between California and Nevada) and I am so excited to share with you all the most beautiful must see spots and places to grab food and drinks in a short amount of time. So read ahead to find out! And if you have any questions about Lake Tahoe please feel free to reach out to me on Instagram!
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Fun Facts about Lake Tahoe
- Lake Tahoe is deeper than the Empire State Building is tall. At 1,645 ft it is the second deepest lake in the US (next to Crater Lake in Oregon) and 16th deepest in the world.
- Lake Tahoe is estimated to be about 2 million years old! It is among the 20 oldest lakes in the world.
- The water in Lake Tahoe is 99.994% pure which is almost as pure at drinking water (at 99.998%) making it one of the purest lakes in the world.
- The water in Lake Tahoe is always cold! Temps range from in the 40 degrees F in the winter and warm up to 65 degrees F in the summer.
- The circumference of Lake Tahoe is 72 miles and can be easily driven around in one day (check out this self guided driving tour!)
Pack it In, Pack it Out
Do your part to take care of Tahoe by always picking up your trash and personal belongings before you leave.
Stay in South Lake Tahoe
South Lake Tahoe is the most popular area to stay in when visiting Lake Tahoe. It is centrally located and has the most things to do. I recommend staying at The Basecamp Hotel in South Lake Tahoe. The hotel is very modern and family-friendly. There is an onsite brewery called North of South and outside seating area that has games like corn hole and ping pong and offers fire pits and live music in the evenings. And in the mornings you’ll find a coffee shop in the lobby called Trail Folk with delicious breakfast options.
Kayak or Paddleboard on Lake Tahoe
Kayaking on Lake Tahoe is one of the most popular activities to do in Lake Tahoe as you may imagine on such a beautiful body of water! The water is so clear and there are so many places to explore. I would definitely recommend renting a kayak for a few hours and paddling around or booking a tour to guide you to unique locations as well as learn interesting facts about the lake. I highly recommend checking out a tour with Clearly Tahoe in Incline Village and gliding around the lake in clear kayaks which make enjoying the gorgeous blue water just that much better. You can also rent clear kayaks (or regular kayaks) by the hour and explore the lake yourself. I recommend Kayaking around the North Shore for all the unique places you can explore! The drive to Incline Village from South Lake is about 40 minutes.
Kayaking North Shore
Bike the East Shore
Another favorite thing to do in Lake Tahoe is explore the East Shore by bike. Rent a bike and bike the East Shore Trail which is a 3 mile paved portion of the Tahoe Trail (which will eventually extend around the whole lake) and considered an easy to moderate trail. Bring a towel with you as you can find access to 11 beaches along the trail. I have not gotten to bike this trail yet but I plan on it the next time I’m in Tahoe and I will update this post when I do.
Emerald Bay State Park
Emerald Bay State Park is a beautiful and popular state parks in California that you can’t miss on your trip to Tahoe! The park is home to Eagle Falls, Vikingsholm Castle, and Emerald Bay. Eagle Falls is a must-see when visiting the park and can be accessed by a short hike from the Lower Eagle Falls Trailhead. Vikingsholm Castle is a 38-room mansion that was built in 1929 and is now a museum. These hikes are very popular and parking lot will be full during peak season so arrive early! Emerald Bay is the centerpiece of the park and is one of the most photographed places in California.
Hike Cave Rock
Cave Rock is a popular hiking spot on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe. The hike to the top of Cave Rock is short (about 10-15 minutes) and mildly strenuous and offers incredible views of the lake. Once you reach the top, you can enjoy panoramic views of Lake Tahoe as well as see into Nevada. This is a really easy hike to do if you only have a short amount of time!
How to get to Cave Rock:
Drive up Hwy 50 from South Lake Tahoe for about 6.5 miles towards Nevada and turn right onto Cave Rock Rd. right before the tunnel. If you drive through the tunnel you’ve gone too far. Then you’ll drive up the road about a quarter mile til you hit a sharp bend with a tiny parking lot. There you will see the trail. Only a few cars can park here so I recommend going as early as possible. I did the hike about an hour after sunrise and we were the first car there!
Sand Harbor Beach
Sand Harbor Beach is one of the most popular beaches on Lake Tahoe and you’ll see why when you visit. The beach has crystal clear water, a large sandy beach area, and plenty of activities to keep you busy. There are also a ton of different places to eat and drink nearby. I would definitely recommend spending a few hours at Sand Harbor Beach if you are visiting Lake Tahoe.
Parking fees: $10 for NV vehicles and $15 for non NV vehicles
Bonzai Rock is another one of the most popular photo spots in Lake Tahoe. The rock is located on the East Shore of Lake Tahoe and can be accessed by a short hike from the parking lot or by boat or kayak from Sand Harbor Beach. Once you reach the top of the rock, you will be rewarded with stunning views of Lake Tahoe. I visited this areas on a Clear Kayak Tour and our tour guide was kind enough to take this stunning picture of my husband and I.
Secret Cove is one of the most beautiful and secluded beaches on Lake Tahoe (hence it’s name “Secret Cove”. It is about 2.6 miles south of Sand Harbor right off Hwy 28. You can reach the cove by boat or kayak or park along designated parking spots along the Hwy and hike down to the beach. If you are visiting during the peak season arrive very early to snag a parking spot. And you should find marked signs leading you down to the beach. Be warned this is one of Lake Tahoe’s nude beaches so don’t be surprised if you see people without swimsuits!
Sugar Pine State Park
Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park is another of the most popular state parks in California. There is a $10 fee to access the park. There are also a number of different hiking trails you can take depending on what you are looking for. I recommend parking and walking around the grounds of the Hellman-Ehrman Mansion grounds (and take a tour if you like). Sugar Pine is about 15 minutes North of D.L. Bliss which is another popular state park to visit. D.L. Bliss parking fills up quickly so Sugar Pine is a great alternative since there’s plenty of parking and is rarely full.
If you are looking for some fun and excitement, then you should definitely check out one of the many casinos in Lake Tahoe. Some of the most popular casinos include Montbleu Resort Casino & Spa, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe, and Harrah’s Lake Tahoe. There are also a ton of different restaurants and bars located in the casinos so you can definitely find something to your liking.
Where to Eat and Drink in Lake Tahoe
South Lake Tahoe
- The Hangar– A taproom and bottle shop with a great outdoor space to hang out and a stage for live music.
- Basecamp South Lake– this is the hotel I mentioned at the beginning of this post- but even if you don’t stay there you should definitely check out their onsite brewery, North of South, and great outdoor space with fire pits, games and live music!
- The Burger Lounge– Don’t miss this litte gem with a huge selection of a variety of burgers and shakes!
- Heidi’s Pancake House– Great spot for breakfast, and you can’t miss the bright yellow Swiss chalet building!
- Driftwood– Another great spot for breakfast located in Heavenly Village, it gets pretty busy so go early!
- Cuppa Tahoe– this is such a unique coffee shop that is also a book store! And there are little coves of seating within the bookshelves.
- Inclined Burger– Small burger shop with a limited menu- it’s where the locals recommend! My favorite was the garlic fries with full cloves of garlic.
- Alibi– Local brewery with a variety of food to eat- tried the ceviche and it was enjoyable!
- Drink Coffee Do Stuff– Great place to grab a coffee!
Tours to Take in Lake Tahoe
I hope this post about the best things to do in Lake Tahoe in a weekend was helpful in planning your visit to Lake Tahoe. It’s truly a beautiful place and there is so much to do, you could easily spend much more than a weekend discovering it all. If you have any questions or other recommendations, feel free to leave them in the comments below or message me on Instagram where I share more travel content!