The Tahoe 10: Where to go for sun and snow

December 02, 2015                 4m read time
Nicole Wiegand


Looking for world-class outdoor adventures? You’ve come to the right place. We’ve rounded up the elements of the ultimate Tahoe experience.

Tahoe may be best known for its legendary skiing, but this area has plenty to do all year long. Swap your skis for a snowboard or sled, or try a backcountry snowshoe trip. During the summer, you won’t even miss the snow when you can hike, mountain bike, or enjoy the crystal-blue waters of the lake. No matter what the season, we’ve got the inside scoop on the coolest things to do in Tahoe.

1. Snowboard at Northstar

Snowboarder at Northstar in California at Lake Tahoe Northstar California

Snowboarder at Northstar in California at Lake Tahoe

Northstar California

 

Northstar is a great year-round destination: It has skiing and snowboarding in the winter, and hiking and biking in the summer. The resort’s seven terrain parks make it an ideal spot for snowboarding. In fact, you’ll often spot the pros taking on some of the massive jumps at the Straits. Just getting started with snowboarding? Northstar offers classes for beginners, as well as intermediate and advanced classes that help fine-tune your skills.

2. Check out the Apres-ski Scene

View from the dock at Gar Woods Grill and Pier Gar Woods Grill and Pier

View from the dock at Gar Woods Grill and Pier

Gar Woods Grill and Pier

 

After a day of skiing or hiking, what could be better than winding down at one of Tahoe’s bars and restaurants? Check out the Gar Woods Grill & Pier in Carnelian Bay. Sailors can pull right up to the dock in their boat and landlubbers are welcome to dine on their back patio as well. Try their infamous house cocktail, the Rock Hard Woody, rumored to be Lake Tahoe’s most potent drink. For safety’s sake you’re only allowed to order two.

3. Ascend Mt. Tallac

View over Lake Tahoe from Mt. Tallac jcookfisher

View over Lake Tahoe from Mt. Tallac

jcookfisher

 

The trailhead for Mt. Tallac is located about three miles off Highway 89 in South Lake Tahoe. Follow the trail to the 9.735-foot summit, and you’ll pass alpine lakes, cross flower-filled meadows, and hike through lush forests. You’ll gain about 3,500 feet in elevation during this hike, which takes about six hours round-trip. Will your quads be burning? Probably. Will the views from the summit be worth it? Absolutely.

4. Play in the snow

Located on Echo Summit, Adventure Mountain Lake Tahoe’s 15 machine groomed sledding runs make it the perfect spot to sled or tube down a hillside. At 7,350 feet above sea level, it’s the highest sledding resort in the area; it also gets the most snowfall. If you don’t feel like zooming down hills, rent a pair of snowshoes and hit the trails. Be sure to warm up with a steaming hot chocolate at the Mountainside Café when you’re done.

5. Mountain bike the Tahoe Rim Trail

Mountain biker at Tahoe Rim Trail in Lake Tahoe dh Reno

Mountain biker at Tahoe Rim Trail in Lake Tahoe

dh Reno

 

The Tahoe Rim Trail spans 165 miles and forms a loop around Lake Tahoe. You can enjoy spectacular views of the mountains and lake as you hike or bike. Some of the best biking sections of the trail run from Tahoe City to Brockway Summit, and from Kingsbury South to Big Meadow. If you’re hitting the trail in the summer, keep your eyes peeled for McLeod the Marmot: a furry local mascot who makes special appearances throughout the season.

6. Take a backcountry snowshoe trip

Snowshoer at South Lake Tahoe brookpeterson

Snowshoer at South Lake Tahoe

brookpeterson

 

Ready to conquer the backcountry? Master the essentials for handling winter in the wild with a snowshoeing and cold weather wilderness course. You’ll learn how to read the weather and how to create a fire like a pro, and you’ll go over the basics of cold weather survival training and avalanche safety. While you’re picking up all these skills, you’ll also cover three miles of gorgeous Sierra Nevada snowshoe trails and view scenic overlooks along the way.

7. Explore Heavenly Resort in the summer

Heavenly Resort is famous for its skiing and snowboarding, but it offers some awesome adventures for summer visitors as well. Test your limits on a treetop ropes challenge, conquer the 25-foot climbing wall or scream along one of Heavenly’s zip line courses. For a less adrenaline-fueled activity, take the Scenic Gondola up to the top of Heavenly Mountain where you can explore some great hiking trails and check out the breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe.

8. Kayak and hike Emerald Bay State Park

Hiking spot near Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe Dave Schumaker

Hiking spot near Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe

Dave Schumaker

 

Emerald Bay State Park, located on the western shore of the lake, is home to Fannette Island: the lake’s only island. Follow the scenic Rubicon Trail that wraps around the bay, or take a kayak over to Fannette Island. Once you’re ashore, you can hike the trail that leads to the Tea House, the ruins of a stone structure that resembles a miniature castle. On a warm day, you can jump off the rocks into the clear waters of Emerald Bay for a swim.

9. Ski or hike at Squaw Valley

Skier at Squaw Valley in Tahoe Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

Skier at Squaw Valley in Tahoe

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

 

It’s no surprise that Squaw Valley, in North Lake Tahoe, is world-renowned for skiing. It’s one of the largest ski areas in the country, with more than 270 trails and an average of 450 inches of snow each year. The resort also has one of the area’s only mountaintop beginner areas and some unbelievable steeps for the experts. Love to hike? Scale Granite Peak, Squaw Valley’s highest point at 9,000 feet, or explore the wide-open terrain of Hidden Bowl.

10. Go horseback riding at Zephyr Cove

Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the Sierra Nevadas by horse. Just a few miles from the casinos of South Lake Tahoe, Zephyr Cove offers guided trail rides as well as breakfast, lunch, and dinner rides. You’ll get a new perspective on the high wilderness as you trot through the woods and around cliffs on your horse. Your guide will also give you the scoop on the area’s history and fill you in on some wilderness facts.

Nicole Wiegand

Nicole Wiegand is a native New Yorker who writes about everything from travel to technology. She loves exploring the city, hiking with her family, knitting, and cooking.

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