Lake Tahoe's weather has more extremes than the rest of California, with pleasant summers and snowy winters, but there are a few things to do at Lake Tahoe no matter when you're there. While Tahoe is famous for skiing in winter and early spring, summer and fall offer a host of unique activities, too. Here's our list of 10 fun things to do at America's largest alpine lake.
Try a Water Sport
Summer is the time for water sports on Lake Tahoe. And luckily, you can rent almost any kind of watercraft from businesses along the lakeshore. Tahoe Sports, the lake's largest rental company, has 10 different locations and offers rentals of everything from jet skis to powerboats to kayaks.
Hike (or Bike) the Tahoe Rim Trail
Hiking and mountain biking are among the most popular things to do at Lake Tahoe in warm weather, especially on the Tahoe Rim Trail. The 165-mile trail forms a loop around the lake basin, but there are plenty of day hikes too. Motorized vehicles are prohibited on the trail, but it is also open to equestrian use.
Seems like a no-brainer, right? Lake Tahoe winters mean snow, and hundreds of inches of the white stuff pile up around it every year—or at least the ski resorts hope it does. The bigger ski resorts usually open by Thanksgiving, even if they have to manufacture snow to do it. In the snowiest years, the season may last into April. Skiing is by far the most popular of all things to do at Lake Tahoe in winter, and luckily, there are tons of great resorts to choose from. Families usually flock to the laidback Northstar California Resort, while the high-energy Heavenly has incredible views and fun parties. If you're serious about hitting the slopes, The Lodge at Kirkwood Mountain Resort is ski-in, ski-out, with reasonably alpine-style lofts available for rental.
Ice Skate at NorthStar (and Eat S'mores Afterward!)
Tahoe's family-friendly Northstar resort is also home to the area's biggest ice-skating rink, clocking in at 9,000 square feet. The rink is free and open to all. Adults can cozy up by the fire pits with a cocktail, or pack a s'mores kit for the little ones to have some fun.
Fish for Your Dinner at the Tahoe Trout Farm
A Lake Tahoe tradition, the Tahoe Trout Farm has been open for more than 70 years. Admission is free at the Tahoe Trout Farm, and you can get bait and tackle on the spot, before dropping your line in and hoping you catch a big one! It's an easy way to entertain kids (and adults) of all ages. You'll only pay for what you catch, and the farm will even share a few of their favorite recipes with you.
Take a Rafting Trip on the Truckee River
The self-propelled rafting trips on the Truckee River just at Tahoe City are one of the most fun things to do at Lake Tahoe, especially if the kids are old enough to help paddle. Truckee River Raft Rentals rents out equipment for a leisurely five-mile float down the river and will also help you get back to your car at the end of the trip.
Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride Over the Lake
Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in North America, looks even more spectacular from the air—and one of the best ways to experience it is on a hot air balloon. Lake Tahoe Balloons launches and lands from the deck of a boat, making your morning balloon ride a particularly memorable one.
Eat a Scenic Lunch with a View
Take the aerial tram up to Squaw Valley where, at 8,200-feet, you can enjoy a meal at the Granite Bistro Cafe, overlooking High Camp's pool and hot tub. Afterward, have a soak in the hot tub, taking in the views of Squaw Valley's legendary granite peaks. Day passes are available that cover both the tram cost and admittance to the pools and hot tub.
Take a Day Trip to Virginia City
If you want to relive life in the Old West, kids will love taking a day trip to Virginia City, a town southeast of Reno. The town is full of Victorian buildings from the 19th-century mining boom. You can also visit The Way It Was Museum, home to mining artifacts, or the Fourth Ward School Museum, where you can see a well-preserved 1876 classroom. Depending on where you're staying at the lake, it's about a 45-minute drive.