A summer day at Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, California. Pleasure boats cruise the calm turquoise blue waters.

Lake Tahoe Travel Guide

Lake Tahoe, located in the Sierra Nevadas in northeastern California, is the largest alpine lake in North America. The deep blue water, mountains, pine-scented air, rocky shoreline, and clear skies, all located 6,225 feet above sea level, make Lake Tahoe a prime year-round destination. In winter, snow sports attract visitors to ski resorts, and in summer, an abundance of outdoor activities, including swimming, boating, hiking, camping, biking, and nature walks, call to active travelers.

Two states share Lake Tahoe. A north to south vertical line divides the lake, with the eastern third in Nevada and the western side in California. In addition to the state line, an imaginary east-west boundary creates North Lake Tahoe and Tahoe South, a distinction to help travelers when planning a visit. The gateway for most visitors arriving by air is Reno-Tahoe International Airport, located about 60 miles northeast of Lake Tahoe. The Reno-Tahoe Territory and Reno, Nevada are destinations in themselves.

Time Zone 

Pacific Standard Time Zone (adjusted seasonally to Daylight Savings Time)

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Best Time to Go

Skier in Fresh Snow Above Alpine Lake Tahoe
Credit: jimveilleux/Getty Images

Lake Tahoe is a popular vacation destination throughout the year, with skiing and snowboarding in winter, beaches and boating in summer, and crisp, clear weather in spring and fall. From about the end of November through late March, ski resorts welcome snow sports fans who undoubtedly believe that winter is the best time at Lake Tahoe. Summer visitors who head to the shore, marinas, resort pools, golf courses, and campsites come for the warm weather, sunshine, and clear waters of the lake. Spring and fall are ideal for hiking, biking, and scenic drives around the lake.

Things to Know

Curved road high above the mountains in Lake Tahoe
Credit: Cheri Gagne/Getty Images

Lake Tahoe comprises three main areas; South Lake Tahoe, North Lake Tahoe, and Reno-Tahoe. Here is what you need to know about each destination. 

South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe (also referred to as Tahoe South) includes the city of South Lake Tahoe on the California side, which is the largest city around the lake. Downtown features shopping, restaurants, bars, and pedestrian-friendly Heavenly Village. On the Nevada side of Tahoe South, there's nightlife, dining, entertainment, and four casino resorts.

North Lake Tahoe

With its stunning granite boulder coastline, the north shore includes small cities and towns in both California and Nevada. Described as a quieter, nature-focused area, North Lake Tahoe offers casinos, entertainment, and a wide range of places to stay. 

Reno-Tahoe

The area, also referred to as the Reno-Tahoe Territory, encompasses mountains, meadows, urban cities, old-west style towns, casinos, and outdoor activities. The city of Reno, "The Biggest Little City in the World," offers casinos, restaurants, nightlife, museums, and year-round events.

Need more? Here are a few fun facts about Lake Tahoe:

  • The scenic drive around the entire lake covers 72 miles. 
  • Lake Tahoe's tap water has been named the best tasting water in the country. 
  • The 1960 Winter Olympics were held in Lake Tahoe at Squaw Valley, now called Palisades Tahoe, out of respect for Native American women. 
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How to Get Around

Reno-Tahoe International Airport: From the airport, North Lake Tahoe Express provides year-round scheduled service to the North Lake Tahoe-Truckee region with local connections. South Tahoe Airporter offers door-to-door transportation to South Lake Tahoe hotels and residences. RTC 's bus service goes to downtown Reno and Carson City, where travelers can connect to buses for other destinations. 

Tahoe Truckee area Regional Transport provides bus service in the North Lake Tahoe region. Tahoe Transportation System manages several bus routes in the South Lake Tahoe area. 

Most major resorts offer free shuttles to and from the slopes during ski season. Check with your accommodations for schedule and availability.

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Best Hotels

South Lake Tahoe

Interior of the dining room at Edgewood Restaurant
Credit: Thomas Hart Shelby/Courtesy of Edgewood Tahoe

Edgewood Tahoe

Address: 180 Lake Parkway
Stateline, Nevada 89449
Phone: 888 881-8659
Website

This five-star shorefront resort features a world-class spa, stunning lake views, sandy beach, upscale and casual dining, heated outdoor pool, and a championship golf course and is home to the annual American Century Celebrity Golf Championship. During snow season, onsite ski butlers deliver snowboarding and ski equipment to guest accommodations, and the ski shuttle takes skiers to nearby Heavenly Mountain.

The Suite View from The Landing Lake Tahoe Resort & Spa
Credit: Courtesy of The Landing Lake Tahoe Resort & Spa

The Landing Lake Tahoe Resort & Spa

Address: 4104 Lakeshore Boulevard
South Lake Tahoe, California 96150
Phone: 530 541-5263
Website

With a lakeside location, spa, heated outdoor pool, and semi-private beach, The Landing is ideal for year-round visitors. The Landing is just minutes from Heavenly Village for skiing in winter and sightseeing Gondola rides in summer. Guests can dine on California cuisine at Jimmy's restaurant in private dining alcoves, some of which come with their own fireplaces.

Zalanta Resort at the Village

Address: 4101 Lake Tahoe Boulevard
South Lake Tahoe, California 96150
Phone: 866 331-6944
Website

Luxurious two, three, and four-bedroom residences feature gourmet kitchens, spacious living areas, private balconies, fitness center, pool, and hot tub. Just steps from the Heavenly Gondola, Zalanta is also conveniently located for shopping, restaurants, ice rink, mini-golf, movie theater, live music, and Stateline casinos.

Basecamp South Lake Tahoe

Address: 4143 Cedar Avenue
South Lake Tahoe, California 96150
Phone: 530 208-0180
Website

Located in the heart of South Lake Tahoe, a five-minute walk to the lake and the Heavenly Gondola, Basecamp is a boutique hotel with 73 rooms, including a mountain view suite and family room that accommodates up to eight guests. There's a Courtyard, Picnic Deck, and Beer Garden with cornhole, table tennis, and fire pits for roasting s'mores.

Harrah's Lake Tahoe

Address: 15 Highway 50
Stateline, Nevada 89449
Phone: 800 427-7247
Website

The 18-story, 512-room hotel offers two full floors of luxury suites in addition to deluxe standard guest rooms with soundproof walls, blackout curtains, and lake or mountain views. There's plenty to do with an indoor pool, spa, and 24-hour casino with table games, slots, video poker, and more.

North Lake Tahoe

The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe

Address: 13031 Ritz-Carlton Highlands Court
Truckee, California 96161
Phone: 530 562-3000
Website

This luxury resort, located about 15 minutes from the lake, offers guest rooms and suites, and slopeside residences as large as three and four bedrooms. The ski-in/ski-out family-friendly destination includes fine dining, a casual café, bars, and Highlands Spa, for relaxing treatments — perfect after a day of skiing or hiking. In summer, guests can shuttle to the exclusive Lake Club for boating and water activities.

Northstar California Resort

Address: 100 Northstar Drive
Truckee, California 96161
Phone: 800 466-6784
Website

This family destination sits on more than 3,000 acres, with 19 lifts, a cross-country center, ice skating, fat tire biking, and a 2,280 ft. vertical drop of alpine terrain for winter sports. In summer, it's a perfect place to enjoy the outdoors with swimming, golf, hiking, and more. The resort also offers a variety of places to stay, including private homes, condos, and lodges in a range of prices for every budget.

Aerial view of Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino
Credit: Courtesy of Hilton

Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino

Address: 111 Country Club Drive
Incline Village, Nevada 89451
Phone: 775 832-1234
Website

Set among tall pine trees and the Sierra Nevadas, this waterfront resort features spacious guest rooms, suites, and private waterfront cottages. The resort offers a casino, spa, sandy beach, year-round lagoon-style pool, and various restaurants and lounges, including beachfront dining in summer.

PlumpJack Inn

Address: 1920 Squaw Valley Road
Olympic Valley, California 96146
Phone: 800 323-7666
Website

This pet-friendly lodge-style resort near the north shore features 55 guest rooms and suites, upscale and casual dining, and is steps away from the Palisades Tahoe Aerial Tram with ski-in/ski-out access in winter. The onsite Inn Shop offers convenient ski and snowboard equipment rentals. In summer, there's an outdoor swimming pool and complimentary cruiser bike rentals, as well as nearby trails for hiking and mountain biking.

Mourelatos Lakeshore Resort seen from a kayak on the water
Credit: Courtesy of Mourelatos Lakeshore Resort

Mourelatos Lakeshore Resort

Address: 6834 North Lake Boulevard
Tahoe Vista, California 96148
Phone: 530 546-9500
Website

Views of the lake, patios, plush furnishings and spacious suites equipped with conveniences like refrigerators, microwaves, and coffeemakers make this lakefront boutique resort a popular family escape. One-bedroom forest-side cabins with private decks are also available. A stay at the resort includes access to hydro-bikes, paddle Boards, kayaks, fire pits, BBQ grills, hot tubs, and hiking trails.

Reno-Tahoe

Atlantis Casino Resort Spa

Address: 3800 S. Virginia Street
Reno, Nevada 89502
Phone: 775 825-4700
Website

This luxury resort is set in the heart of south Reno's entertainment district. It has various rooms and suites featuring city views, a casino, spa, salon, fitness center, a year-round indoor pool, and a seasonal outdoor pool with cabanas. The Atlantis Fun Center offers arcade games, music, and prizes. Dining venues include a steakhouse, sushi bar, deli, cocktail lounges, and casual spots.

Peppermill Resort Spa Casino

Address: 2707 S. Virginia Street
Reno, Nevada 89502
Phone: 866 821-9996
Website

Guests can find a variety of accommodations at this accommodation, including the Peppermill Tower Suites, Spa Suites, and Tuscany Tower rooms with mountain and city views, private foyers, and hand-painted Italian art. Dining venues include Bimini Steakhouse, seafood at Oceano, cocktail lounges, and casual cafés. The plush casino has classic games and Sports Book, and there's nightly live music for entertainment.

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Best Restaurants

South Lake Tahoe

Edgewood Restaurant

Address: 180 Lake Parkway
Stateline, Nevada 89449
Phone: 855 681-0119
Website

Stunning lake views are the backdrop for luxury dining with an extensive wine list and entrees from prime beef to Smoked Elk Loin and Pan-seared Branzino. The service is excellent, and the elegant room is gorgeous at sunset.

Cafe Fiore

Address: 1169 Ski Run Boulevard
South Lake Tahoe, California 96150
Phone: 530 541-2908
Website

This intimate restaurant serves generous portions of classic and modern Italian entrees. The menu includes creative pastas like Fettuccine alla Calabrese, with artichokes, pine nuts, olives, and broccoli, along with seafood and traditional Bistecca alla Fiorentina.

Dining room at Ciera Steak and Chophouse
Credit: Courtesy of Bally’s Lake Tahoe Casino Resort

Ciera Steak and Chophouse

Address: 55 US-50
Stateline, Nevada 89449
Phone: 775 588-3515
Website

Steaks, chops, seafood, and vegetarian entrées are served in an elegant atmosphere along with an extensive selection of wines and champagnes. The restaurant offers Prix Fixe options in addition to menu items like lobster tails, Alaskan king crab, and Filet Oscar.

North Lake Tahoe

Christy Hill

Address: 115 Grove Street
Tahoe City, California 96145
Phone: 530 583-8551
Website

Set just 100 feet above the shoreline with spectacular views of Lake Tahoe from every table, Christy Hill serves Modern American cuisine with Mediterranean influences. Diners can start with shared plates of house-marinated olives or Country Pork and Pistachio Paté and go on to enjoy entrées that include California Black Cod and Moroccan Spiced Lamb Loin.

The Lone Eagle Grille at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino
Credit: Vance Fox/Courtesy of Hyatt

Lone Eagle Grille

Address: 111 Country Club Drive
Incline Village, Nevada 89451
Phone: 775 886-6899
Website

Seasonal high-Sierra cuisine is served with views of Lake Tahoe in a setting that includes panoramic windows, wood beams, stone fireplace, and lodge-style decor, with al fresco dining during warmer months. Menu items include Linguini Bolognese, Bone-in Niman Ranch Pork Chop, and Angus Beef Short Rib, with excellent dessert and wine choices.

Cottonwood Restaurant & Bar

Address: 10142 Rue Hilltop Road
Truckee, California 
Phone: 530 587-5711
Website

Set in a historic 1928 ski lodge, Cottonwood serves atmosphere and delicious farm-fresh food for dinner and weekend brunch. Small plates, salads, sandwiches, burgers, and entrées like New Zealand lamb, Braised Pork Shank, and Vegan Meatloaf are on the menu, along with Kids' menu favorites.

Reno-Tahoe

Fourk Kitchen

Address: 4991 S. Virginia Street, Suite B
Reno, Nevada 89502
Phone: 775 870-1000
Website

The concept created by owner Paul Jansen is unique: four nights a week, Wednesday through Saturday, there's one 24-person seating for a four-course dinner. Happy Hour starts at 5:30, dinner at 6:15, and the cost is $49. The menu changes monthly with items like Porcini Mushroom Ravioli with Roasted Garlic Pesto, Roasted Chicken Breast, and Tres Leches Chocolate Espresso Mousse.

The Grill at Quail Corners

Address: 6520 S. McCarran Boulevard
Reno, Nevada 89509
Phone: 775 827-6262
Website

Open for lunch, dinner, and happy hour, this family-owned spot offers a wide array of appetizers, salads, pizza, seafood, and traditional entrees like Steak Frites, Cedar Plank Salmon, and Cioppino.

Exterior of people eating at Von Bismarck
Credit: Matthew McIver/Courtesy of Von Bismarck

Von Bismarck

Address: 805 South Wells Avenue
Reno, Nevada 89502
Phone: 775 622-3687
Website

German and Eastern European dishes are the focus of the menu that includes Schnitzels, Berliner Curry Fries, and house fermented sauerkraut. There's a wide selection of German beers and wines from Germany and Austria.

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Things to do

Camping at Lake Tahoe
Credit: abbywilcox/Getty Images

Winter sports — skiing, snowboarding, sledding, cross-country skiing, ice skating, snowmobiling, and fat-tire biking — bring in visitors from November through April. Ski resorts for all skill levels and budgets are located in North Lake Tahoe and Tahoe South.

For summer visitors, dozens of beaches line the shores of Lake Tahoe, including Pope Beach, Sand Harbor, Baldwin Beach, El Dorado Beach & Boat Ramp, and Kiva Beach, to name a few. Several are dog-friendly, and guidelines are listed. 

Scenic view of beach against sky in Lake Tahoe
Credit: Brandon B/Getty Images

Hiking: Hiking trails for a wide variety of fitness levels attract visitors and locals to Tahoe South and North Lake Tahoe or look for day hiking ideas at Tahoe Rim Trail

Camping: Campgrounds are available in North Lake Tahoe and Tahoe South. State Parks with campgrounds in the Lake Tahoe area include Emerald Bay State Park, Washoe Meadows State Park, Lake Valley State Recreation Area

Golf: In summer, visitors have their choice of courses in North Lake Tahoe, Tahoe South, and Reno.

Sand Harbor State Park offers picnicking, boating, kayaking, paddleboarding, hiking, swimming in summer. The park also hosts the annual Shakespeare Festival

Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harvey's features world-class entertainment in a beautiful landscape from about July - September. 

Casino Gambling and Entertainment: Gambling is legal n the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe and in Reno. Casinos are located in North Lake Tahoe, Tahoe South, and Reno.

Explore Lake Tahoe History at local museums and exhibits, many open only during summer months:

  • Gatekeepers Museum, once the home of the Watermaster of Fanny Bridge in the early 1900s. Watson Cabin Museum, built in 1908, and the Marion Steinbach Basket Museum, featuring handmade Native American baskets.
  • Vikingsholm, now located in Emerald Bay State Park, was one of the first summer homes at Lake Tahoe, built in the 1860s. The building is open from June - September.
  • Lake Tahoe Historical Museum houses artifacts from pioneers, trappers, traders, miners, pioneers, and the Washoe, the area's first inhabitants. 
  • The Tallac Historic Site offers guided tours of a 1920s home.
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Best Shopping

Nighttime at The Shops at Heavenly Village
Credit: Shining Light Family Photography/Courtesy of The Shops at Heavenly Village

The Shops at Heavenly Village

Address: 1001 Heavenly Village Way
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
Website

More than 40 shops in an outdoor setting offer clothing, accessories, jewelry, art, winter sports equipment, gifts, toys, and candy. There's an ice rink, 8-plex cinema, live theater, and dining spots featuring pizza, burgers, sushi, desserts, ice cream, and more.

Boatworks at Lake Tahoe

Address: 760 N. Lake Boulevard
Tahoe City, CA 96145
Phone: 530 288-4999
Website

Accessible by land and water, Boatworks features a variety of shops offering clothing, accessories, jewelry, wine, home furnishings, candy, souvenirs, and toys. There's a stunning view of the lake from the shopping area and from two waterfront restaurants.

Chateau at the Village

Address: 4125 Lake Tahoe Boulevard
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
Website

Shop for clothing, souvenirs, Lake Tahoe gifts, toys, metal art, and resort wear. Old West-style gear and cowboy-themed footwear and accessories are featured at Bonanza Boot & Leather, and several restaurant options include Ace High Saloon and McP's Taphouse Grill.

Baskets of flowers and fountains at The Summit, Reno
Credit: Courtesy of The Summit

The Summit - Reno

Address: 13925 South Virginia Street
Reno, Nevada 89511
Phone: 775 853-7800
Website

This major shopping mall includes a luxury movie theater with stadium seating and plush lounges, several restaurants, boutiques, and major retailers including Apple, Dillard's, Lucky Brand Jeans, Old Navy, and Pottery Barn.

Downtown Truckee in North Lake Tahoe features a wide range of shops for buying and browsing, from clothing and accessories to art, sports equipment, jewelry, gifts, and gourmet foods. Choose from coffee, pizza, burgers, seafood, baked goods, or a brewery stop during your shopping trip.

Neighborhoods to Know

City of Truckee California by river
Credit: albertc111/Getty Images

Incline Village on the north shore in Nevada is home to hotels, restaurants, casinos, lakeside mansions, Lake Tahoe State Park, and Sand Harbor. The large town attracts visitors to beaches in summer and ski areas in winter.

Truckee is a mountain town about 30 minutes from Lake Tahoe's north shore. Its western history and culture are still on display, and its downtown is a popular shopping area. In town, the Donner Monument commemorates the famous Donner Party pioneers.

Tahoe City on the lake's west shore features restaurants, bars, beaches, and access to the Truckee River and Lake Tahoe Dam. 

Kings Beach is located on the north shore with shops, hotels, restaurants, Kings Beach State Recreation Area, and popular beaches for summer water sports.

Sunrise overlooking Lake Tahoe's Emerald Bay in the background, with the upper portion of Lower Eagle Falls in the foreground
Credit: Ken Brown/PictureLake/Getty Images

On the south shore in Nevada, Stateline is noted for its entertainment and casinos, with the state's legal gambling attracting visitors for many decades. Hotels featuring nightclubs, world-class performers, amenities, and restaurants are located in the Stateline area. On the California side, South Lake Tahoe is home to Emerald Bay State Park and Heavenly Ski resort.

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Weather

Fallen Leaf Lake in Autumn
Credit: Steve Dunleavy Photography/Getty Images

The climate ranges from cold, snowy winters to sunny, clear summers. Snow falls as early as October and continues through April, with December, January, and February receiving the largest amounts, receiving at least 12 inches each month, according to WeatherSpark. Summers are dry with minimal rainfall, and even on warm days, the temperature is significantly cooler at night.

Average low and high temperatures, all reported from the Lake Tahoe Airport:

January: 18°F to 42°F
February: 21°F to 43°F
March: 24°F to 48°F
April: 29°F to 54°F
May: 33°F to 62°F
June: 37,°F to 71°F
July: 41°F to 79°F
August: 40°F to 78°F
September: 36°F to 72°F
October: 29°F to 61°F
November: 25°F to 49°F
December: 19°F to 42°F

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Apps to Download

A woman meditating on a surf board in front of a phone with the Tahoe South Planning App
Credit: Courtesy of Tahoe South

Tahoe South Planning App: for hotels, restaurants, shopping, activities
iOs | Android

TART Connect: Tahoe/Truckee Transit (TART) offers information on bus service and reserving curb-to-curb transportation. 
iOs | Android

Uber: Request a ride in the Lake Tahoe area
iOs | Android

Lyft: Request a ride in the Lake Tahoe area
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