Nothing says summer like time spent by the lake. A Lake Tahoe summer vacation is a bucket list destination and trip for anyone who likes both the water and the mountains. To help out with your vacation plans, here are some great tips and recommendations to maximize a visit to North America’s largest mountain lake affectionately dubbed “Big Blue.”
Lake Tahoe Summer Vacation Guide
Tahoe Fun Facts
Lake Tahoe is one of the world’s 20 oldest lakes clocking in at two million years old. It is roughly 72 miles by car or bike around the lake. The deepest point of the blue waters of Lake Tahoe is 1,645 ft. With that kind of depth, even the tip of the Empire State Building wouldn’t crack the lake’s surface. Now, that’s deep!
Acclimating to Elevation Changes
On the first day of a Lake Tahoe summer vacation, it’s a good idea to spend some time acclimating to the higher elevation. At 6,200 ft., the human body takes in less oxygen which could leave you feeling short of breath. One way to acclimate to the elevation change is by taking a leisurely stroll along South Lake Tahoe Boulevard. This mostly paved trail hugs the southerly perimeter of the lake and offers breathtaking views of Mount Tallac as well as the sparkling blue waters of the lake. As the family walks along South Lake Tahoe Boulevard, don’t forget to snap an Instagram-worthy photo of the kids with one foot on each side of the state demarcation line between California and Nevada.
An outdoor lover’s paradise, a Lake Tahoe summer vacation should definitely include time exploring trails and nature. There are plenty of trail options in Lake Tahoe, some more popular than others. In order to get a coveted parking spot near any trailhead, plan to get an early start on the hiking activities.
In the Emerald Bay area of Lake Tahoe, there are lots of scenic hikes with gorgeous vistas and mild-inclines. For views of waterfalls and smaller lakes adjacent to Lake Tahoe, check out Eagle Falls and Cascade Falls. If a flatter terrain interests the group, check out the Rainbow Trail at the Taylor Creek Visitor Center. This is an easy, wheelchair accessible trail with signs describing the ecosystem of the streams that flow into Lake Tahoe.
After viewing Lake Tahoe from the mountains above, a Lake Tahoe summer vacation wouldn’t be complete without some water activities. While it’s a splurge, renting a speedboat is a great way to explore the nooks and crannies of Tahoe’s bays, of which there are many. With a boat, one can explore Emerald Bay and cruise right next to the all-granite Fanette Island. Fanette is the only island in all of Lake Tahoe and it has a miniature castle that sits atop its peak.
Also via boat, make your way to the “Godfather 2 House,” the compound made famous by the Corleone Family in what is regarded as the best sequel in cinematic history. The “Godfather 2 House” is part of a private gated community, so be respectful of the residents in the area. There are a handful of public docks around the lake so when the family is ready for lunch or needs a restroom break, just hop on and off the boat as needed for some good lakeside grub.
Another fun water activity for a Lake Tahoe summer vacation is rafting along the Truckee River. In recent years, rafting has been hit or miss on account of rainfall conditions. But, when the water level is just right, the Truckee River is a two-three hour adventure along a gentle Class I rapid.
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Side Trip Suggestion: Historic Downtown Truckee
A short drive from the Lake Tahoe basin, historic downtown Truckee has loads of old-west mountain charm. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Truckee is known for its logging, ice manufacturing, the Emigrant Trail, and the tragic experience of the 1847 Donner Party expedition. The downtown has lots of restaurants, galleries, and creative workshops and the Truckee Visitor Center offers self-guided, historical walking tours.
From mid-June thru late-August, plan to visit Truckee Thursdays as part of your Lake Tahoe summer vacation. During these events, the main roads of historic downtown Truckee are transformed into a fun and happening street fair. Local and regional artisans, food trucks, and local bands bring a fun vibe to the downtown. Truckee Thursdays is family-friendly and a great way to spend a Thursday night when planning an itinerary for a Lake Tahoe summer vacation.
Side Trip Suggestion: Virginia City, Nevada
With the Lake Tahoe basin as home base, a cool add-on to any Lake Tahoe summer vacation is a side trip to Virginia City, Nevada. Virginia City is a city steeped in gold rush history as silver and gold were once buried deep beneath the city streets. The Comstock Lode, a 19th century mining bonanza, turned Virginia City into the most important industrial town between Denver and San Francisco during the gold rush era.
Today, visitors to Virginia City can take a step back in time and walk the original wooden boardwalks that the 19th century miners once walked. The mile-long downtown has restaurants and shops, as well as tourist attractions such as mine tours, museums, historical buildings, and the 1880’s Pipers Opera House. The Virginia City Tourism Commission hosts events, parades, and walking tours throughout the year. Their website is helpful for planning a visit to Virginia City during a Lake Tahoe summer vacation.
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Family Friendly & Free
A hidden jewel along the North shore of Lake Tahoe, the Tahoe Science Center is a fantastic resource for families. If you are planning a Lake Tahoe summer vacation with kids, this is a great way to learn more about “Big Blue.” The center has interactive exhibits, a 3-D movie about the formation of Lake Tahoe, and occasional lectures about Lake Tahoe’s changing ecosystem. The Tahoe Science Center is located in a wooded area with streams, so it as much fun to explore outside as it is inside. This Lake Tahoe jewel is operated by U.C. Davis, and admission is free.
These are just a few suggestions to “peak” your curiosity and help with planning a Lake Tahoe summer vacation. Lake Tahoe is as much fun in the summer as it is in the winter. With a little advance planning, there’s no shortage of ways to enjoy one of the most popular recreation spots in the Pacific Northwest.
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Inspired to take an active vacation? Check out How to Stay Fit on Vacay.
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