Lake Tahoe is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise, no matter what time of year you chose to visit. Though any season in this amazing destination is a great time to visit, winter is a particularly marvelous season in Tahoe. Many thousands of visitors make their way to the Tahoe region each year, enjoying a variety of winter activities at one over ten different ski resorts in the area. In addition, you can see sweeping scenic views from just about anywhere in town. When it comes time to pick a Tahoe area rental, check out our rental guide for awesome tips. If it’s your first time visiting this ski area nestled on the border of California and Nevada, you’re going to be amazed at all there is to do!
Skiing & Snowboarding
Lake Tahoe is California’s top ski destination. Although Tahoe sits on the border of California and Nevada, which runs north/south, its two main communities are split from east to west, across the crystal blue body of water. A handful of resorts exist in both these areas, each with their own unique offerings, so you may want to check out a couple of them during your stay instead of staying in one place.
One of the most popular resorts in North Lake Tahoe is Northstar. There, you’ll find the Burton Academy, the only official Burton snowboarding school. If you’re in need of some liquid courage on the mountain, you can ride down to Tōst and cheers with fellow riders over a free glass of bubbly, served at 2:00 PM daily. Because the champagne is complimentary, drinks are distributed on a first come-first serve basis.
South Lake Tahoe also hosts some incredible ski mountains. You can enjoy a complete day of winter fun at Heavenly Resort. Aside from shredding down Heavenly’s slopes, if you’re visiting in December, make sure to check out Heavenly Holidays, a full month of holiday celebrations including a tree lighting, fireworks, live music, and more.
Take a scenic drive
California upholds a reputation for stunning and iconic views. As you drive through the area, you will realize Lake Tahoe is no exception. Take a drive up the scenic highway 89 toward Tahoe City to see the most incredible views of the lake or cruise highways 28 to appreciate the views of the skyline backdrop of Stateline, NV. As the highway takes you up north, try stopping at Squaw Valley, the ski resort which served as the site for the 1960 Winter Olympics. While visiting, tour the Olympic Museum, ice skate, ski, snowboard, or take an aerial tram ride to catch amazing views of Lake Tahoe’s area’s breathtaking landscape.
Continuing north, you’ll probably end up in an old, historic, railroad town called Truckee. Here you can take a break and do some shopping at local boutiques. Swing though Bespoke for a variety of locally made artisan products. You’ll have no trouble finding a great gift for your friends or family back home.
A visit to Lake Tahoe wouldn’t be complete without actually seeing the lake up close. On the way down from Truckee, find your way to Crystal Bay, NV which boasts the deepest point in the lake, measuring a depth of 1,645 feet. This area has a lot going on, including a casino to test your luck and gamble a little, you are in Nevada after all. If you’re not the gambling type, grab a bite right along the water at Lone Eagle Grille, and watch the sunset over Lake Tahoe as you enjoy a great meal.
Explore a state park
If it’s not too cold out, visit some of the high overlooks that offer incredible views of Lake Tahoe. Emerald Bay Overlook gives an expansive view of the Emerald Bay. This iconic view is said to be one of the most photographed places in the world. As long as the weather permits, Emerald Bay during sunrise is an incredible sight to see. A nearby trail leads to Vikingsholm Castle, a hidden gem built in the late 1920s. Have a camera ready so you can take a few snapshots of this historic mansion.
The state parks around Lake Tahoe also host some incredible picturesque scenery. D. L. Bliss State Park and the Donner Memorial State Park are more popular during the summer, but if you visit during the tail end of winter, you could witness the vibrant colors of the lake that contrast with the snow as shown in the picture below.
Plan accordingly for the weather
Driving is the most convenient way to get around the Lake Tahoe area, but it’s easy to get lost. To keep yourself from driving around in circles, plan your activities and routes in advance, and double check addresses on a map. Most importantly, write it down somewhere in case you lose service. In the winter, look up local road conditions before you set off. The area of course gets a ton of snow, making winter road closures very common. The Waze App is a great way to get live updates on road closures while navigating where you need to go.
Pro tip: Even if your route is clear, packing a set of tire chains is highly recommended. Tire chains are normally more expensive in Tahoe. If you’re visiting during the winter from a different city such as San Francisco, purchase chains before you get to the area. Alternatively, you can also save yourself the hassle and rent an all-wheel-drive vehicle.
Opt For a Home Cooked Meal
Don’t get us wrong, there are some incredible restaurants in Tahoe, and there is nothing wrong with eating out. But if you ask us, enjoying a home-cooked meal in your Tahoe vacation rental adds to the cozy winter experience. Plus, there are actually many advantages to going grocery shopping instead of splurging at restaurants.
Stocking up on food means you’ll be ready if you get snowed in. During the winter months, anything is possible, and it’s better to be prepared rather than stuck at the cabin with no food. Cooking your own meals will also save you some money, which can help with the budget of other exciting things to do. Being stocked up on food also allows you to enjoy spending more time relaxing in your vacation rental.
Hit the grocery store and think of the best comfort food you can make for you and all your travel companions! Cooking may even turn into a fun activity for your entire Tahoe vacation crew.
Where to Stay in the Area
The many exciting activities in this area may have you wondering where to stay while you’re here. Lucky for you, choosing a vacation cabin rental couldn’t be easier! The greater Tahoe area offers many hotel, renal, or camping options that all share this incredible free amenity… Lake Tahoe! Whether you’re looking for a cozy lakeside cabin rental, or a luxury casino hotel room, Lake Tahoe has it all.
Get Ready for Your Next Vacation
Ready to pack your bags for your next trip this winter? Lake Tahoe is waiting for you! Whether you’re looking for a day on the mountain, or want to explore the many shops and establishments Tahoe has to offer. Our list of exciting Lake Tahoe activities will have prepared you for your winter expeditions. Your impending Tahoe travels are going to be spectacular!