Lake Tahoe is the highest alpine lake in the US, and sits in the Sierra Nevada mountains between Northern California and Nevada. It’s most known for it’s abundance of ski resorts and water activities, making winter and summer incredibly busy. People flock to the lake during high season and prices skyrocket. But spring and fall also offer plenty of fun activities — at a cheaper rate and without the crowds! Here are 11 shoulder season activities you can enjoy in North Lake Tahoe!
1. Hike To A Lookout Tower
There are loads of great hiking trails around North Lake Tahoe, but my favorite is probably the Martis Peak Fire Lookout. This short and easy hike leads to a lookout tower that gives you panoramic views of the lake and the snow-capped mountains surrounding it. On clear days you can also get views of Mt. Lassen! Inside the lookout is a sharpied drawing that labels what mountains you’re looking at. Access it by driving the paved Martis Peak Road or by hiking another favorite trail — the Tahoe Rim Trail.
There are plenty of kayaking opportunities around North Lake Tahoe. King’s Beach and Sand Harbor are the most popular areas. Opt for a guided tour to either of these locations with the Tahoe Adventure Company! Open from May to October, they provide not only kayak tours but a plethora of other outdoor adventure tours too (biking, geocaching, SUPing…). You won’t find a better deal, and their guides are incredibly fun and knowledgable.
We were given facts and stories about the lake, the mountains, and what I was most curious about — the lifestyles of Tahoe’s rich and famous. I was surprised with how turquoise and crystal clear the water was! Being shoulder season, we practically had the lake to ourselves. It was so peaceful to paddle along the fall foliage and ritzy empty cabins.
3. Mountain Bike the Flume Trail
The Flume Trail is a moderately difficult 14 mile trail that traverses aspen groves and pristine lakes. Pack a lunch and stop for a break at your favorite jaw-dropping view. Rent a bike from Flume Trail Bikes and take advantage of their shuttle service that drops you off at its starting point. The one-way trail conveniently ends right back at their shop!
4. Snowshoe through the mountains
Snow can be present in the mountains in the off season, so hiking might not always be feasible. Snowshoeing allows you to get into the more rugged terrain while enjoying a fun new activity! A great place to rent snowshoes, boots, and trekking poles is Tahoe Dave’s. Multiple shops are scattered around North Lake Tahoe, and you can pick up and drop off rentals at any of their locations.
5. Sunset Picnic on the beach
The weather in shoulder season can have a slight chill, but the beach is always a good idea — ammarite? Especially when it comes to sunset picnics. Northern California is known for its wine. So grab a bottle, get some cheese, and pack a few deli sandwiches. You’ll especially love the lack of crowds for this activity. King’s Beach (pictured), Sand Harbor, Lake Forest Beach, and Secret Cove are all insanely gorgeous spots to throw down a beachside blanket and watch the sky turn to fairy floss.
6. Shop and Eat In Truckee
Truckee is one of the cutest towns I’ve ever seen. Local artists, historic walking tours, live music, and charming boutiques fill this quaint railroad town. My favorite shop is Bespoke, containing quirky displays and trendy gifts. Another great shop is Atelier, a hip art supply shop that also hosts workshops like cheese making and smartphone photography. If its edible gifts you’re looking for, head to Sweet’s Handmade Candies, the Truckee Sourdough Company, or Tahoe Oil & Spice.
Truckee is also a foodie’s haven! For the best brunch, don’t miss the Squeeze In, with its hospitality awards and hippy vibe. It was also featured on Food Network’s “Throwdown with Bobby Flay.” Drunken Monkey Sushi is another favorite, offering delicious Japanese plates and a long list of sake, beer, and wine. For comfort food, visit JAX at the Tracks, an old school diner with an upscale gourmet twist. It was also seen on Food Network’s show “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.”
7. Feast at the Autumn Food & Wine Festival
Typically in early September, the Autumn Food and Wine Festival is one of Tahoe’s premier gourmet events. Enjoy an entire weekend filled with cooking demonstrations, wine tastings, competitions, culinary seminars, live music, and more! Sample exquisite food and beverage from some of the finest chefs in the Tahoe and Reno areas. All while being surrounded by the gorgeous Sierra Nevada’s.
8. Hit up the Ale Trail
Like the outdoors and craft beer? You’ll love the Ale Trail! North Lake Tahoe has a series of trails that lead to bars, restaurants, and grille’s with an excellent craft beer scene! Hike, bike, kayak, or SUP to a “watering hole” on this Ale Trail map. Share a photo of you and your drink and get a Tahoe Ale Trail sticker!
9. Drive Around the Lake and Photograph the Scenic Vistas
Situated along the lake are breathtaking overlooks and scenic vistas. A great way to see more of the lake and its novel towns is to road trip around it — camera in hand! And if you wanted to go beyond just North Lake Tahoe, you could circle the entire lake! At 72 miles roundtrip it’d take around a couple hours, though with all the photo stops along the way you could make it a day trip.
10. Stay in a Ski Resort for half the price
Low season in Tahoe means that those expensive hotels can be up to half off! Always wanted to stay in a fancy ski resort? Lounging by the fireplace and soaking in the hot tub isn’t so far outta reach! Treat yourself and book at least a one night’s stay at The Village at Squaw Valley. It was voted this year as “Best Ski Resort in North America” by USA Today! Just over 10 minutes to the lake and 20 minutes to Truckee, it’s location couldn’t be better. Not to mention the restaurants, shops, a spa, a yoga studio, an Olympic museum, and more are all found right onsite!
11. Airbnb a cozy cabin
The ideal Lake Tahoe lodging is to stay in a cozy cabin. From cute and rustic to high-end luxury, Airbnb offers plenty of options to make all your cabin dreams come true! Read previous guests reviews before booking and find a cabin that’s central to any activities you hope to do! Sign up for Airbnb here to get $35 off your first stay!
Additional Ideas That Are Just Outside of North Lake Tahoe :
If you’ve got some extra time and you’d like to experience even more of the North Lake Tahoe area, head 45 minutes north to the Sierra Hot Springs. At least one person in your party needs a membership — but a 1 month membership is only $5, so it should be pretty cheap and easy to get in once that’s purchased. An additional fee to soak in the pools is required. They’re clothing optional and open 24 hours. Camping/RVing, a lodge, a hotel, and a café are all onsite as well.
Another unique activity just outside of North Lake Tahoe is hiking the Donner Pass Tunnels. Walking through this abandoned railroad tunnel filled with graffiti is a great opportunity for epic Instagram shots — or ya know, encountering your first zombie. Seriously, consider taking a friend as it can feel a little creepy. And don’t forget your headlamp or flashlight.
So which activity would you enjoy the most?
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