Traveling as a group is much more thrilling in a destination that has it all: relaxation, beauty and plenty of activities for everyone. Lake Tahoe, situated on the California/Nevada border, is one of the most picturesque spots in either state. The 72-mile shoreline offers a scenic drive filled with incredible views—take a quick trip around it or stop and soak up the mountain air at various parks, trails and historical markers.
Aside from the deep blue waters of the massive alpine lake and the evergreen trees that dot the hillsides around it, each side of the lake has something completely different to offer wanderers who are looking for summer vacation ideas.
The north side of the lake, which includes towns like Tahoe Vista, Kings Beach and Incline Village, offers a more relaxing spot for family and friends to get together. There are more locals here than in the south, but that means fewer tourists so the area tends to be more quiet and nature-oriented.
This is the perfect spot to rent a big vacation home or cabin that can fit your whole clan. In addition to having more bedrooms, you can have some sleep on couches or cots to cut down on the costs. It’s always nice to have a kitchen so you can cook your own meals when you are with a large group. Travel through the little towns on your way in to stock up on food and look for a rental that comes full of dishes, utensils and pans.
If your group is staying in this area, you’ll be able to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities. Since it is less busy than other areas of the lake, grab some kayaks and head out on the lake to enjoy the sunshine during the summer. Because the area is situated along the shoreline, it’s also a great place to swim in the lake—but keep in mind that much of the water is snow runoff so it’s pretty icy even during the summer. The North Tahoe Regional Park is another great place to visit, especially if you have little ones tagging along. Aside from expansive playgrounds, enjoy mountain biking trails or laidback games of disc golf.
During wintertime, the regional park is also a great spot for sledding and snowshoeing. There are more than 10 ski resorts scattered north of the lake so this is also a great place to stay for those that want to hit the powdery slopes between December and March. Possibly the best place to ski is nearby Squaw Valley, the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, which also has its own lodge and village filled with shops and restaurants.
Looking to ski or just relax in the summer at Lake Tahoe? Here’s some options for accommodation in Squaw Valley.
If you’re searching for fabulous summer vacation ideas for the whole family, the south side of the lake will probably be your best bet. Towns like South Like Tahoe and Nevada’s Stateline are big tourist spots filled with endless fun for groups. Just like on the northern end, water sports are popular. Take a boat out on the water near Zephyr Cove, go parasailing or see if you can balance atop a paddleboard. This is also a great spot to go horseback riding, mini golfing or flying in a hot air balloon. While the youngsters are adventuring on the lake, the older crowd can spend a day at a golf course or gamble in one of the various casinos.
Here’s some southside hotels in Lake Tahoe to help you plan your trip!
Further south of these towns, you’ll find a variety of scattered lakes. My personal favorite in this area is Fallen Leaf Lake. This is a great place to go when you’re trying to escape the hustle and bustle of the tourist season in South Lake Tahoe. Also nearby is Glen Alpine Falls, a spectacular 75-foot series of waterfalls. The wide expanse features various tiers of falls as well as little pools to splash in and cool off during the summer.
Go sledding, ice skating or snowmobiling during the winter. There is also another ski resort—Heavenly Mountain Resort—that is located right in town so you won’t have to travel far to reach it. They also offer a variety of group discounts on lift tickets and resort dining.
Nature lovers will adore the eastern side of Tahoe. This is the least-developed area of Tahoe so you won’t find the same restaurants, shops and lodges that are scattered around the other sides. What you will find are serene beaches, outstanding viewpoints situated atop soaring cliffs and a couple of smaller lakes—perfect for a day trip.
One great hike located on this side of the lake is the Spooner Lake Loop. The trail is just over two miles long but relatively flat. It winds in and out of the trees as you circle a lake, but the easy path is great for group travel; it’s not too tough for children or elderly hikers.
If you’re looking for a non-crowded spot for a picnic, some sand play and lake swimming, stop by Sand Harbor. There are also some massive boulders that will keep teens and tweens climbing for hours.
The western side of the lake is where we spend a lot of time on our visits because they have a bunch of small communities. The locals here are friendly and small towns like Tahoe City are filled with tiny shops for souvenirs and artsy gifts, plenty of mom-and-pop restaurants and local festivals and events. Winter and summer alike, partake in things like life-size bowling on sleds, outdoor movies, arts festivals, an Independence Day firework show and live concerts.
Another interesting spot in the west is Emerald Bay State Park, with towering cliffs overlooking the sparkling water of the bay. A steep trail will take you down to a 38-room mansion built in the 1920s with plenty of fascinating old-fashioned building techniques. Groups can take tours of the structure every day of the week from May to September. An additional tea house was built on Fannette Island, the lake’s only isle.
When To Go
There is really no bad time to visit Tahoe since there are endless activities for both summer and winter fun. November and March tend to be cheaper when it comes to lodging, but June and July are the biggest tourist months because of the nice weather and summer events. Personally, I love visiting during the 4th of July, when many of the towns along the lake shoot off fireworks for a few nights in a row. Sitting on a dock glancing out at scattered shows, near and far, make for a really exciting event, especially when you’re surrounded by family or friends.