Weather and Climate
If you're thinking about going to Lake Tahoe, knowing what the typical weather is like all year round may help you pick the best season for you. It can also help you know whether to pack your Uggs or your flip-flops.
Lake Tahoe gets an average of 250 to 300 sunny days a year. Humidity is very low, especially in summer. Water temperatures range from 32-degrees in winter to 68-degrees in the summer. As you probably know, it also gets a lot of snow in the winter, which is what makes it a busy ski resort area.
What's not shown on the graph are how busy Lake Tahoe is and what the hotel prices are. Expect both to be at a peak in June and July. After that, February is winter's busiest (and most expensive) month.
Lake Tahoe's elevation is more than 6,000 feet. No matter when you go to Tahoe, always expect colder temperatures as the elevation increases. If it's winter and it's raining where you are at sea level, it is (or will be) snowing at Tahoe and there will be more snow at higher elevations.
Winter storms are common. It's easy to get caught unprepared when clear skies give way to fast-approaching blizzards. From September through June, winter storms are possible at Lake Tahoe, and drivers should know the rules about snow chains to avoid costly traffic tickets.
It's about 30 miles from South Lake Tahoe to Incline Village, but on some days, there can be as much as a 15-degree temperature difference between the two places.
Averages are based on a range of conditions experienced over many years. They can give you an idea of what to expect, but the exact conditions during your visit could be very different. Check the short-range forecast before you go and don't be a jerk and take it out on the local businesses if the weather isn't what you expected.
The highest recorded temperature at Lake Tahoe was 99-degrees in 1988. South Lake Tahoe's record low was 14 below zero in 2013.
At lake level, snowfall averages 125 inches. The ski resorts get 300 to 500 inches of snow per year.
In December 1990 a cold east wind coated the lake's west shore in ice.
What to Wear and What to Pack
You know how to match the temperature to your wardrobe selections, so this list focuses more on style and practical considerations you might not think of.
- No matter when you go, Tahoe is a casual place.
- Few restaurants have dress codes. If you want to get dressed up a little, men can get by with a nice shirt and trousers and women can wear a nice dress and shoes.
- Pack another extra layer if you plan to take a gondola ride to the mountaintop.
- The sun is harder on your skin at high elevation. Hats with brims are a good idea.
- Sturdy shoes with thick soles and good traction are a must if you plan to go hiking.
What to Pack
These are a few things that can be helpful to have along when going to Lake Tahoe:
- The air in the mountains can be very dry, especially in winter. To avoid an emergency trip to the local store, take lots of lotion, moisturizer and eye drops.
- If your nose tends to dry out quickly, add a bottle of saline nose spray your bag to keep it moister and avoid nosebleeds.
- Take sunscreen with a higher SPF than you might use at home.
- If your hair tends to fall flat in dry weather, bring additional products to keep it fluffed up, especially in winter. If you have curls, smile. They will be more manageable in the lower humidity.
- In winter, you might need an umbrella or raincoat, or a pair of snowshoes. Check the forecast before you go.
- You may not need rain gear in summer, but you may want to take things for getting wet, either in the river or at your hotel.