Lake Tahoe in California isn’t just any lake. It’s one of the world’s clearest, bluest, deepest lakes, nestled in the snowy Sierra Nevada Mountains. It’s also one of the most laid back and popular vacation destinations on the West Coast. Here are top ideas on how to enjoy yourself when staying at Lake Tahoe vacation rentals.

  1. Emerald Bay State Park

    A visit to Emerald Bay State Park (a national natural landmark) is a must-do when vacationing on Lake Tahoe. Located 12 miles north of South Lake Tahoe, this park allows you to experience the new underwater “trail” of features below Emerald Bay, camp in your RV, stay at a floating camp by boat and just enjoy the scenery of alpine peaks and ancient, thick glaciers.

  2. Eldorado National Forest

    West of Lake Tahoe is a wilderness area that you can visit to experience the habitats of black bears. The mountainous landscape called Desolation Wilderness is a breathtaking sea of granite that’s accessible to hikers and overnight campers on trips that you’ll need to reserve with the park ranger’s office months in advance. Since the area includes extreme wilderness, the rangers and the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit need to keep track of each person who enters the area. You will certainly want to visit Mount Tallac, an elevated mountain peak with trails and views.

  3. Vikingsholm Castle

    Emerald Bay is the home of Vikingsholm, Lake Tahoe’s hidden castle that is available to tour. Built in the late 1960s as a summer home, it’s a magnificent piece of Scandinavian architecture in a spectacular setting. Tours are open from May through September.

  4. Fallen Leaf Lake

    For breathtaking views, take a hike along the hidden Fallen Leaf Lake located on the south shore of Lake Tahoe, which is less than a mile away. The lake has an eight-mile loop for hikes and a large campground that includes yurts. Though close to Lake Tahoe, Fallen Leaf Lake is less crowded because it’s less famous than its popular neighbor.

  5. D. L. Bliss State Park

    Yet another pristine park, D. L. Bliss State Park is located on the western shore of Lake Tahoe, north of Emerald Bay State Park. Take the Balancing Rock Nature Trail, a self-guided tour of this natural attraction, which is an enormous piece of granite resting on a slender stone base.

  6. Fannette Island

    The only island in Lake Tahoe, Fannette Island is on the California side of the lake, and is reachable only by kayak. Take a hike through a rocky landscape to get to an abandoned stone cottage that is still standing on the island, and that was once a teahouse. The historic structure has rock walls and is missing its roof, but the views from the structure are heavenly.

  7. Eagle Lake

    As the name suggests, this lake is home to osprey and bald eagles. Trout fishing is popular on Eagle Lake, which is California’s second largest natural lake. The lake is located on a back trail near South Lake Tahoe. You won’t want to miss hiking by the waterfalls and underneath the soaring granite peaks. For a rugged challenge, trek the trail by snowshoe in winter.

  8. Skiing

    Lake Tahoe is a major skiing destination, and The Village at Squaw Valley was even the site of the Olympics in 1960. For history and skiing, check out the ski terrain at the top of Donner Summit.

  9. Casinos and Nightlife

    If you want to mix some civilization and nightlife into your Lake Tahoe trip, consider visiting the surrounding casinos and resorts, some of which come complete with spas (essential after hours of hiking). There are numerous mountain havens hidden along Lake Tahoe’s shores.

  10. Unique Beaches

    From quaint family beaches to secret nude beaches, there’s a sunning spot for everyone. Try Sand Harbor Beach on the north shore, Pope Beach or Baldwin Beach in South Lake Tahoe, Hidden Beach in North Lake Tahoe, Commons Beach in Tahoe City or the more scandalous Secret Cove on the East Shore for summer fun. Each beach has its own unique amenities (or lack thereof), but all offer picturesque views.