5 Best Things To Do In Lake Tahoe In Summer

Updated: December 19, 2021 | Has affiliate links

Lake Tahoe's Fannette Island seen from the Rubicon TrailLake Tahoe has always been one of the most popular attractions in California, especially in the summer. As the largest alpine lake in the USA, Lake Tahoe offers a lot of activities from hiking, boating and simply relaxing on the beach. Come along with me as we explore my favorite things to do in Lake Tahoe in summer.

Everyone knows about the amazing winter resorts in Lake Tahoe, but what is there to do in Lake Tahoe in the summer? The short answer is that there are plenty of things to do in Lake Tahoe in summer. So, come along with me as we explore the best things to do in Lake Tahoe in the summer.

1. Hike To Emerald Bay

Emerald Bay Beach is the best Lake Tahoe beach for scenery
Beautiful view of Emerald Bay in the summer seen from the trail leading down to Vikingsholm
See my photos from Emerald Bay

Hiking is a popular activity for Lake Tahoe visitors and one of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe in summer is hiking to Emerald Bay. Emerald Bay offers some of the best scenic views of Lake Tahoe’s blue waters, with forests on either side of the lake and the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the background.

The best known Emerald Bay hiking trail is the Rubicon Trail. The Rubicon Trail follows along Emerald Bay’s shoreline, providing spectacular views of Lake Tahoe. You can connect with the Rubicon Trail from the Vikingsholm parking lot trail. The trail passes underneath the site of the Rubicon Lighthouse, which guided boats in Lake Tahoe during the early 20th century. Hiking around Emerald Bay and taking in the amazing vistas is one of my favorite free things to do in Lake Tahoe in summer.

Emerald Bay Hiking Tips: The Rubicon Trail is accessible from both D.L. Bliss and Emerald Bay State Parks. Both parks are open daily from sunrise to sunset. To avoid crowds, get an early start as the trail can be crowded as early as 10 AM.

Best things to do at Emerald Bay

2. Camping At Emerald Bay

Beautiful scenery seen from the Rubicon Trail
Beautiful Fannette Island and Emerald Bay seen from the Rubicon Trail
See my photos from Emerald Bay

With access to Lake Tahoe’s recreational activities, camping at Emerald Bay is one of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe in summer. Emerald Bay State Park has two camping areas, Eagle Point Campground and a separate boat-in campground.

Campers can participate in activities that are among the best things to do in Lake Tahoe in summer: swimming, trout and salmon fishing, kayaking, and hiking the Rubicon Trail. Certified scuba divers will enjoy exploring Lake Tahoe’s maritime heritage underwater preserve, filled with early 20th century cargo barges and shipwrecked boats.

Emerald Bay State Park Camping Tips: Reservations may be made six months in advance. All food, beverages, ice chests, toiletries, and trash must be stored in the campsite’s bear locker. Bear proof coolers must be locked and secured to a non-movable object. Lake Tahoe boat inspection tags are required on all boats except for kayaks and canoes.

Iconic California camping spots

3. Visit Vikingsholm

Visiting Vikingsholm at Emerald Bay is one of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe in summer
Visiting Vikingsholm at Emerald Bay is one of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe in summer
See my photos from Vikingsholm

Considered the finest example of Scandinavian architecture in the United States, visiting the Vikingsholm mansion at Emerald Bay State Park, is one of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe in summer. Vikingsholm was designed by Lennart Palme in 1928 as the summer home of Lora Josephine Knight, with construction completed in 1929.

Vikingsholm’s design includes mortar-embedded granite boulders, hand hewn timbers, church entrance-like hand carvings, roof ridge carvings with dragon heads crossing at roof peaks, and a sod roof. The interior features wall and ceiling paintings, Nordic fireplaces, and carved dragon beams. The furnishings include Scandinavian antiques and intricate Norwegian and Swedish museum piece reproductions.

Vikingsholm Visitor Tips: Guided tours are available during the summer. Access to Vikingsholm is via a steep trail from the parking lot or the Eagle Point Campground. Visitors can swim in Lake Tahoe, kayak to Fannette Island, enjoy a picnic, or hike to Lower Eagle Falls.

4. Enjoy The Beach at Kings Beach

People relaxing on the fine sand at Kings Beach.
People relaxing on the fine sand at Kings Beach
See my photos from Kings Beach

Kings Beach, located one mile from the California/Nevada state line, is one of North Lake Tahoe’s major communities. Centrally located, The Kings Beach State Recreation Area is the largest beach on Tahoe’s North Shore, and one of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe in summer.

The Kings Beach State Recreation Area consists of nearly 1,000 feet of lake frontage, with a white, sandy beach. As the beach faces south towards Lake Tahoe, the water temperature is warmer than other Tahoe beaches. The beach is family-friendly, with a playground, volleyball courts, a basketball court, and a tree shaded picnic area.

Kings Beach State Recreation Area Visitor Tips: A parking fee is levied. Kayak and paddleboard rentals are available, A concessionaire offers afternoon parasailing rides. A California or Nevada license is required to fish at Kings Beach. No dogs, charcoal grills, or alcoholic beverages are allowed.

5. Swim at Sand Harbor

Sandy coves dot Lake Tahoe's shore at Sand Harbor
Sandy coves dot Lake Tahoe’s shore at Sand Harbor
See my photos from Sand Harbor

Sand Harbor State Park, located on Lake Tahoe’s eastern shore, is a popular destination. The lake’s crystal clear water, the park’s gently sloping beaches, and the beautiful beachfront rock formations extending to the water make swimming at Sand Harbor State Park one of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe in summer.

Activities like swimming, boating, kayaking, paddle boarding, and scuba diving draw visitors to Sand Harbor. The park also attracts hikers who traverse the park’s three trails. Sand Harbor hosts the annual Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, which is one of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe in summer.

Sand Harbor State Park Visitor Tips: Arrive early, as park officials close the gates when capacity is reached. Lake Tahoe boat inspection tags are required on all boats except for kayaks and canoes. Charcoal grills are banned. The park has a concession stand. Kayak and paddleboard rentals are available.

Sand Harbor things to do

6. Visit Downtown Truckee

The historic Truckee Hotel
The historic Truckee Hotel

Truckee, established during the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, is the gateway to North Lake Tahoe. Truckee’s downtown area is known for its historic Old West architecture. The history, shops, restaurants, and galleries make a visit to Truckee’s downtown one of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe in summer.

Truckee’s Commercial Row has buildings dating back to 1871. The buildings originally housed shops, saloons, and businesses patronized by railroad workers. Today, the buildings contain locally-owned shops, restaurants, craft galleries, and bars. One block from Commercial Row, the Old Truckee Jail, built in 1875, serves as the town’s historical museum.

Downtown Truckee Visitor Tips: Metered parking is available on Donner Pass Road. A paid parking lot is located next to the train depot. Walking tour maps are available at the Welcome Center in the train depot. A weekly street fair with live music takes place on summer Thursdays.

Is Lake Tahoe Worth Visiting in Summer?

Absolutely yes! We loved our trip to Lake Tahoe and wished we would have taken more days to explore this beautiful area. Our favorite spot was Emerald Bay for sure, but our children enjoyed the beautiful and relaxing beach days the most.

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